Sunday, March 28, 2010

Recap of March 25 Meeting with Speaker Brian Johnson

Guild members were fortunate to have Brian Johnson, videographer, screenwriter, director, actor, pianist, writer, bowler and friend—not to mention husband and father--speak to us on the topic “Screenplay Sampler” at our March meeting. Brian’s focus was on movie scripts, but he began his talk by pointing out the differences between books, plays (he’s directed a few locally) and film. “Books are about thinking,” Brian said, “plays are about talking and movies are about doing.” For films, the writer must take the thoughts of the characters as presented in a book or short story, and translate them to doing. The script/screenplay follows the same format as a novel, but is always written in the present tense, with dialogue and very few details about action and emotions that the characters are portraying. Brian used the movie “Big Fish”, based on Daniel Wallace’s debut novel, as an example of adapting a book to a screenplay. Brian provided copies of the script to demonstrate the correct format, and showed the first few minutes of the film, directed by Tim Burton, in which viewers could see how the script followed the same format as the novel.

Brian then presented his film based on O. Henry’s short story “Mammon and the Archer”, in which he did a masterful job adapting an author’s work into a screenplay. When the movie is all done, it will be viewable at

For those interested in writing screenplays, Brian said it is a difficult field to break into, but it can be done. He recommended the website, where aspiring screenwriters can submit their work, have it peer reviewed by others on the site, and possibly garner the attention of movie makers on the lookout for scripts. The site has expanded to short stories, so worth checking out to submit and get feedback in that genre.

Brian recommends the following books on the art of screenwriting: 1) Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field, known as the guru of all screenwriters,; 2) Making a Good Script Great and Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seger; and 3) How Not to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flinn.

We thank Brian for a most interesting and informative presentation, and wish him the best in his latest directorial venture, “She Stoops to Conquer” by Oliver Goldsmith, which opens April 9 at the Cascade Theater in Bend. To keep updated on Brian’s activities, check out his blogs: and

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