Exclusive Live Q&A with Author of The Screenwriter's Bible Dave Trottier - Wednesday, February 24th!

in General edited February 24

ScreenCraft is excited to welcome screenwriting icon Dave Trottier to another ScreenCraft Screenplay Forum Q&A Event!

Dave Trottier has sold or optioned ten screenplays (three produced) and helped hundreds of writers break into the writing business. He is an award-winning teacher and in-demand script consultant, and friendly host of He is also the author of The Screenwriter's Bible, one of the most popular, authoritative, and useful books on screenwriting. A standard by which other screenwriting books are measured, it has sold over 200,000 copies in its twenty-year life. Always up-to-date and reliable, it contains everything that both the budding and working screenwriter need under one cover five books in one!

On Wednesday, February 24th, from 7PM-8PM (PST), Dave will join forum members here on this discussion to answer screenwriting and film/television industry related questions you may have.

Guidelines for users:

  • Users should place questions in the Comment field of the discussion thread, starting with @davetrottier so that his profile will be alerted.
  • Please ensure that all questions are short, sweet, and to the point, as well as on topic (screenwriting, film/television industry, The Screenwriter's Bible, etc.). Example: "@davetrottier What brought you to writing The Screenwriter's Bible?"
  • Any off topic questions/comments, disrespectful or inappropriate comments, or self promotion will be promptly deleted by moderators.
  • Understand that depending upon the volume of questions, Dave will only be able to answer questions during the hour long period and may not get to each and every one. Any remaining unanswered questions may be answered by him when and if he becomes available.
  • Have fun!

PLEASE KEEP THIS DISCUSSION FREE OF COMMENTS OR REPLIES UNTIL THE EVENT BEGINS. We'd like to keep comment and reply traffic clear until the event starts. Please refrain from posting your questions until the event starts at 7PM (PST), 9PM (CST), AND 10PM (EST). We will be deleting any comments or replies that aren't specific questions to Dave about screenwriting, movies, his book and services, and the film industry.

@davetrottier, Welcome to the ScreenCraft Screenwriting Forum!

  • What a great opportunity to hear words of wisdom from the writer of a book that's become an industry standard and must own for anyone serious about writing screenplays.

  • edited February 25

    I want to welcome everyone to this exciting event! Please be sure to use your REFRESH button often in order to see recent questions and answers.

    If you're online now, go ahead and start adding your questions in the comments field. Be sure to tag @davetrottier! We welcome Dave who should be back on any minute.


    Ken Miyamoto

  • View all 3 comments
  • edited February 25

    @davetrottier Does it matter that my 10-15 minute short for an actor for the Vancouver Film Festival features mostly male characters? It's tempting to add in all the female characters from the epic version of the novel it's based on just to show that I'm feminist and that my work is generally gender balanced, but I suspect that my ten minute short is really the story of one incident and cross over incidents among a trio of brothers. My instinct is to gut it down to the key characters dealing with one thematic issue for the short.

    Also, one more question: I watched Tales from the Script about writers getting ripped off and exploited and it scared me into adapting my screenplays to novels (a bit of a backwards journey from the norm) to protect my intellectual property. I wonder if this is truly necessary. Do new on the scene screenwriters need to take steps to protect our work? Is it OK to submit a TV series idea without having it out as a book first? Thanks for any thoughts!

    • @davetrottier What's the first thing you should do with a finished feature screenplay? Copy right is done!


    • View all 8 comments
    • What's that? Oh, my wife is calling for me. I think I'm going to have to leave you now, my friends and fellow writers. I certainly wish you the best in writing endeavors. Keep moving forward, and remember to relax and have fun with what you do. Enjoy the process.

      And keep writing,
      Dave Trottier

      • edited February 25

        @davetrottier Say I have two characters in a car having a conversation. One spots something significant outside the car. Should I write Jane SEES something or WE SEE something or Jane's POV? She she's the item before the other character and I want the audience to focus on it too... if that makes sense... Please and thanks for being here!!

        • @CROBSS I'm enjoying it already, although I'm headed for a tapioca pudding break after this response. Just write: Jane sees a gorilla approaching the car. You don't need anything more than that. It's obviously a POV shot. And if Jane sees it, the audience sees it. Keep writing!

        • Oops, I goofed. I just read the instructions. I'm not supposed to comment until the appointed hour. See y'all then.

          • Hi Dave!
            Love the Screenwriter's Bible!

            1. I just revised my story pacing and beat(s) between 2 line maximum scene descriptions.

            2. I hear that "white space" helps the flow and now my [descriptions] "show-my -"shots", "camera", "action" instead having to think too much...I've even broke up the "acts" by "blank paging".

            3. Seeing reads the screenplay. Yet when I see other award winning screenplays they are so fat in scene description and heavy dialogue.

            4. Am I doing this right?

            • @Flesh Virtually all scripts you read are shooting scripts, so you're okay with short paragraphs, which, by the way, should not exceed four lines. As a general guideline, allow one paragraph per beat of action or visual image. Don't create white space for acts; don't delineate acts. Avoid camera directions and keep writing.

            • @davetrottier Having just completed my first screenplay, what is the best way to copyright it before shopping it around?

              Thank you :)

            • View all 6 comments
            • edited February 25

              Hello @davetrottier

              How can I format a chat between two people on tweeter? I mean, we see the two people in different locations, typing and we see on screen what they write on the tweets/text messages.



            • @davetrottier I was a quarter finalist in the recent Screen Craft short story competition and believe some of my stories lend themselves to movies or television. Aside from such a competition, how can I get my stories in front of an
              agent or producer?

            • Looking for Solutions...
              Hi Dave, I love your book! Thank you!
              I believe I have 2 great scripts: edgy, timely, political, feminist, noir. I've been told I have a clear voice. Problem is, I live in the middle of the middle of nowhere! How do I get my scripts read by the right people, and the right production companies?

            • View all 4 comments
            • How would you recommend formatting a title sequence into a script? I know that's usually a choice made in post, but in my script, the movie is being presented like a television special. The sequence is supposed to be a collection of clips from fake movies. Any thoughts? Thank you for taking our questions!

            • How much has the screenwriter's bible changed since 4th edition - should I be buying an update?

            • @davetrottier

              Hello! It's an honor to have an opportunity to talk to you!

              Do you find writing similes in screenplays helpful or redundant? For an example "His eyes lock on the screen like an eagle observing his prey."

              How to stay motivated after constant rejection?

              Love your work!
              Thanks! :)

            • View all 8 comments
              • @Marwahghazi794 I use screenwritingU. But you have to go through their classes. I am now taking Master Screenwriting Certification course. And learning a lot.

                • @mlhess
                  That's great! I just got my script evaluation today from screencraft, it scored 82/150 I can't say i am disappointed cuz i appreciate the honest feedback, but at least it was a good try :)

                • @Ken_ScreenCraft
                  Gentlemen, thank you for your wisdom and encouragement -- it means a lot!
                  Best, Michele

                  • @davetrottier Dave, you mentioned to one person on here about developing a Strategic Marketing Plan. Do you have any advice on where to find information on developing one? Is there a book or site that would help with it?

                  • View all 4 comments
                  • @davetrottier These are amazing Dave. Question: What's the first big screenwriting lesson you really learned the HARD way?

                  • View all 4 comments
                  • THANKS DAVE AND KEN....MUCH APPRECIATED!!!

                    FATHER TIME IS ABOUT TO GET US...


                    NEVER GIVE UP


                      • edited February 25


                        With two little monsters running around, 2 & 4 year old... I always do!

                        Any book signing or visits to Canada?

                        Will be buying your books by the end of the week...looking forward to the read!! You mentioned nobody likes to read anymore. I love reading...does that mean people are hiring? I'm looking

                      • Dave:

                        Thanks for posting article on formatting text conversations. Good tool to have.

                      • edited February 25

                        "@davetrottier Say I have two characters in a car having a conversation. One spots something significant outside the car. Should I write Jane SEEs something... we SEE something or Janes POV. She sees this item before the other character and I want the audience to see it solely as well... if that makes sense? Please and thank you for being here!!

                        • @CROBSS Jane sees a gorilla approaching the car. You don't need anything more than that. It's obviously a POV shot. And if Jane sees it, the audience sees it. Keep writing!

                          • @davetrottier A purple gorilla? Funny...that comes in to play later. Thanks. Enjoy the made perfect sense!!! Gracias Sensia.

                          • Worry much less about gender balance and more about what makes the story (short film) work. That will help you more than anything--your story and your execution of the story into a script. Concerning your second question, there is theft in every industry. Protect your work the best you can, but you have to get it out there. Yes, it's okay to submit a script without writing it as a book first. Good luck and keep writing!

                            • Hey ae we live yet?

                            • @davetrottier Hi Dave. If my screenplay is a little longer than the industry standard and it's just because of the scene descriptions (I am writing a sci-fi, and some of the descriptions necessarily have to be detailed) will that be detrimental to selling the script?

                              • @Mark Robyn It's gotta be 120 pages or less. You may find a producer here or reader there willing to read a long script, but since no one in town wants to read these days, I suggest you find a way to tighten up your script so that it's 120 pages or less. Yes, you will see shooting scripts that are longer than that, but not specs that were sold. The original JUNO was 94 pages. Keep writing!

                                • edited February 25

                                  I would love to know the best / most efficient way of presenting text messages in a script.

                                • @davetrottier One more question if you have time, Dave.
                                  What is the best way to do an Intercut scene between two locations? Do I have to put "INT:" and the scene heading each time I switch, or can I just say, "Scene xxx" and then back to "Scene XXX"?

                                  • @"Mark Robyn" Just like a phone conversation. Establish the two locations and then

                                    INTERCUT - JOE'S BEDROOM/SALLY'S KITCHEN

                                    Joe pulls a gun out of a drawer. Loads it.

                                    Sally throws together a caserole

                                    Or you could use secondary scene headings if the action is complicated.

                                    IN JOE'S BEDROOM

                                    He loads his gun.

                                    And so on.

                                    The main thing is to be clear. Keep writing!

                                    • @davetrottier Great, so you don't really even have to necessarily have headings, as long as it's clear. Thanks for the clarificaiton. : 0

                                    • edited February 25

                                      My writing buddy wants to know the best way to format Flashback headers for time hops.

                                    • View all 3 comments
                                    • I'm having a ton of fun. How about some more questions? My lightning fingers are ready. :-)

                                      • @davetrottier I'll ask you another question if I may be so bold. As far as describing shots in your script, if there is something that is really integral to the shot, like an overhead shot of a scene, or a close up of a person's reaction, is it okay then to describe the shot, or should you just generalize and expect the director to decide what's important?

                                        • @Mark Robyn Bold is good. Overbearing is not. In selling your script, be pleasantly persistent. Now, let me get to your question. LOL. If you have an overriding dramatic purpose for the overhead, then go ahead. Definitely describe a person's reaction; that's necessary. In fact, look for opportunities to characterize your characters. You do that be describing facial expressions, gestures, and actions using specific language. But don't call it a close-up. Don't use camera directions. Let me add one more point.

                                          Most scenes we write as screenwriters won't be shot the way we wrote them. The production manager has to find or build a location and the director has to block the scene (place the actors) given that location. It's unlikely that the scene will be shot exactly how you wrote it, which is why the content of the story is more important than the angles, etc. Having said that, when you have a strong dramatic reason for something like an overhead, then go with it.

                                          Keep writing!

                                          • @davetrottier Great answer, thanks.

                                          • @davetrottier Hi Dave! What are the pinnacle stages that screenwriters reach in their writing as they hone their skills and as their writing evolves?

                                            • @Loki_Baxter It will depend on the path (for example, features or TV, character-driven stories vs action stories). The word "pinnacle" means "top," so that implies an Oscar or Emmy. But one of the milestones that is exciting is when certain skills start becoming natural for you. In particular, your writer's inner voice. For example, when I do script evaluations, I sometimes tell a writer that there is a fine line between intriguing the reader and confusing the reader. Most of the time, it takes a writer's sense derived from experience to know with some sense of certainty. Knowing when something works or doesn't work. Sometimes it's hard to know in your first script.

                                              • @davetrottier Thanks so much. Well said. I guess the better phrasing would have been "the hurdles that screenwriters overcome..." or something to that affect, but you clearly answered that for sure.

                                              • @davetrottier Is there a specific screenplay that you would recommend reading to get an overall grasp on what a strong story looks like? Thanks

                                                • @MrBlutarsky The classics are always worth reading. Even though CASABLANCA might not sell today, what makes it such a great screenplay. Everything works. Anything by Billy Wilder, for example. The WGA put out a top 100 screenplays ever list. Read the first ten or so of those. Shawshank is worth reading. Also read successful specs of the last ten years (as opposed to scripts developed within the system). Read the script for a movie that you absolutely love. Pixar knows the the story is king.

                                                  • @davetrottier Thank you so much for this and your time! You are greatly appreciated!!

                                                  • GMDGMD
                                                    edited February 25

                                                    Hi Dave,

                                                    I just got an opportunity to read scripts for a screenplay contest for a film festival. My first time. The organizers gave me a scoring sheet with guidelines, but I'd love to hear _your _advice on what to look for, pro and con in each script. Thank you! :)

                                                    • @GMD Original characters that speak with their own voices. On the negative side, look for elements that we've seen before in other movies, derivative stories, derivative actions, derivative characters. Reading the scripts of other writers will really help you see what works and what doesn't work. I highly recommend that you read the scripts of other writers.

                                                      • @davetrottier One last question IF there is time!

                                                        What are the movies that you can watch over and over and over without tiring of them, and what do you learn from them from a screenwriting perspective?

                                                        • @Loki_Baxter I've already mentioned Casablanca. Sixth Sense is another that I never tire of. Up is another. Up will be declared a classic some day if it hasn't been already. Keep writing!

                                                        • @davetrottier Where do you put the c in a circle at on the script? Is it on the title page and if so, where do we put it? Thank you in advance.

                                                        • Alright ladies and gentlemen. All good things must come to an end sadly. I'd like to extend my thanks to @davetrottier for taking the time to be a part of this.

                                                          I will be taking these questions and answers and creating a blog post out of the best material (with minor edits). So stay tuned for that. Be sure to follow the ScreenCraft Blog and stay active on this forum. Have fun.

                                                          Thanks Dave for everything! We'll talk to you again soon. Come back to the forum any time when you have some free time.

                                                          Goodnight to all. Go write something.



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