Screenwriting Tips From Billy Wilder

Filmmaker Billy Wilder remains one of the most nominated directors in the history of the Academy Awards. He was a genuine force of nature in Hollywood for much of his prolific, 50 year career, and a voice worth listening to. In the late-1990s, he imparted his wisdom on the subject of filmmaking in the form of this list of tips for screenwriters.
  1. 1.
    The audience is fickle.
  2. 2.
    Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go.
  3. 3.
    Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
  4. 4.
    Know where you're going.
  5. 5.
    The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
  6. 6.
    If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
  7. 7.
    A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They'll love you forever.
  8. 8.
    In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they're seeing.
  9. 9.
    The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
  10. 10.
    The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then — that's it. Don’t hang around.