A useful how-to guide for writing meat-and-potatoes Hollywood scripts.

Beating Hollywood


Scribes will stand a better chance of joining, if not beating, Hollywood with the help of this shrewd screenwriting manual.

Cuden (Beating Broadway, 2013), a screenwriter with many television scripts and the Broadway musical Jekyll & Hyde to his name, devotes the first part of this guide to basic principles of good storytelling. They include letting compelling, active heroes with a clear goal drive the narrative, opposed by charismatic antagonists with equally strong motives; building every scene around moments of conflict and shifts in power; putting the protagonist through hell at the hands of an invincible villain; writing only what audiences can see and hear, including lively action and punchy, terse dialogue; and sending viewers home with stunning catharses. He throws in useful tips on the mechanics and formatting of treatments and scripts, and on surviving the Hollywood shark tank; for example, he says that when a producer gives boneheaded notes on a character, one should get used to “bending a little bit” to “the people with the money.” Cuden’s 150 tips are brief, lucid, and entertaining, and are sure to give budding writers valuable insights. From them, he distills a storytelling system influenced by Joseph Campbell’s mythopoetic quest theory. It features an eight-chapter plot-point structure that moves from a “Rules of the Road” chapter, which establishes the fictive world, to the revelation of a “Grand Goal” that propels the hero through a “One-Way Door” to “Great Discoveries” and a midpoint reversal from which “Destiny Beckons”; then it proceeds to a “Rabbit Hole” of despair from which the hero must “Claw Back” to reach “A New Home” and “A New Normal.” The last part of Cuden’s book tries to illustrate his ideas by breaking down 40 famous movie scripts into scene-by-scene synopses of “beats”—integrated moments of action and meaning—and fitting them to the eight-chapter frame. The result, unfortunately, is a series of lengthy but dry plot summaries with little interpretive context. Although the eight-chapter structure comports well with genre films and melodramas such as Star Wars and Rocky, it feels awkward when applied to less-formulaic fare, such as The Godfather, Being There, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. (For example, does Thelma & Louise’s death ride into the Grand Canyon constitute “the New Normal”?) Still, Cuden’s system does offer a workmanlike blueprint for writers seeking to hone their craft.

A useful how-to guide for writing meat-and-potatoes Hollywood scripts.

Pub Date: Dec. 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5152-3029-8

Page Count: 484

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2016

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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