Way on back when I was in college (UNC-CH Class of '77), or soon thereafter, I saw a copy of Esquire and on the cover was a photo of a monkey at a typewriter, surrounded by stacks of screeplays. The headline was something like "Is anyone out there not writing a screenplay?" At the time, I was trying to write my first screenplay, High Cotton. And that Esquire article made me realize the futility of my efforts, if I expected to get anywhere with it. In fact, I did not get anywhere, and I spend a lot of money sending out copies of it. I wrote another screenplay, Blue Ridge, a teenage Flashdance kind of piece. Then I gave up on screenplays and wrote stageplays for a while.

It is out of my long track record of failure that I am promoting a new approach to screenwriting called "Organic Screenwriting." It is an experiential approach based on my deeply held belief in auteur films.

Flash backwards again to the late 1950s and 1960s and the French New Wave and the filmmakers and critics of Cahiers du cinema who espoused the idea that a filmmaker should be the "author" if his films. These filmmakers were inspired by Chaplin, Hitchcock, Welles and other American filmmakers with strong personal styles but were, in a sense, forced to work within simpler and more natural story frameworks because they had little money, at least when they made their early films.

Organic Screenwriting is the idea that inside every screenwriter there is a filmmaker, or at least the bud of one. Perhaps all you want to do is write screenplays, but imagine who much better equipped you would be as a screenwriter if you actually practiced the craft of filmmaking! As a filmmaker, you begin to write your story with the medium of film. As Syd Field says, a movie is a story told in pictures, so why not learn first-hand how to write with pictures by doing it?

Hey, just for kicks, here's a copy of the script for Barry Lyndon by Stanley Kubrick.

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