Where there are people with dreams, there are people with instructional books. In Los Angeles, the number of people with workshops, classes and consulting services for aspiring screenwriters might rival the number of screenwriters themselves.
These are a few of the screenwriting gurus who have become institutions:
Robert McKee -- McKee, dubbed "The Evangelist" in Vanity Fair's March Hollywood issue, has long held sway in the industry, but Charlie Kaufman's script for "Adaptation" made him known to filmgoers as well. In the movie, Nicolas Cage (playing Charlie Kaufman) attends a seminar taught by McKee (played by actor Brian Cox) and has a mano a mano with him. In real life, McKee often offers three-day, 30-hour seminars based on his 466-page manifesto, "Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting." His message? "Story is supreme" and "structure is character."
Syd Field -- In the early 1980s, if you went to your local bookstore in search of a guide to writing for the movies, the only title you were likely to find was Field's "Screenwriting," which is still a solid seller among novices. Field is credited (or accused -- see John Truby, below) with making three-act structure and plot points mandatory parts of the screenwriting lexicon. He has since produced five more books and a video workshop and his wisdom is available through Final Draft screenwriting software.
John Truby -- Truby, utilizing the Truby Method, dumps the traditional three-act model for what he calls "deep structure," which "tracks the hero's moral and emotional growth." He very pointedly calls three-act structure the "biggest, most destructive myth ever foisted on writers." Truby forgoes books, opting instead for live ($295), online ($649) and audio ($189) courses, plus writing software ($295 for Truby's Blockbuster) via his website. Truby recently wrote and directed his first feature, "All-American Boy."
David S. Freeman -- Freeman eschews theory entirely in his "Beyond Structure" workshops, preferring to offer writers more than 200 development techniques, allowing them to "create riveting 3-dimensional characters" and "write luminous dialogue." Freeman also offers script consultations and help in designing video games (his book, "Creating Emotion in Games," includes something called "Emotioneering").
Viki King -- The title of King's popular "How to Write a Movie in 21 Days: The Inner Movie Method" screams expediency, but it's really about writing from the heart and unleashing the blockbuster within. As King's book acknowledges, her theories play nicely with Field's -- she dubs him the father of structure, while writing that her students call her the mother of content. On her website, King also promises to help you "Stop dieting and still lose weight. No will power required!" and "Turn your grief to joy. Comfort your heart and expand your world."