For Screenwriters: 10 (Attributed) Pieces of Advice from the Great Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder's grave -

If you don’t know who Billy Wilder is and you are a film lover, you are a walking contradiction.

Anyone who loves movies ought to know and admire a guy like Billy Wilder, may he rest in peace, whose career we should all watch in awe.

Billy Wilder

Suggestion. Feel like getting more acquainted with him, discover him or maybe rediscover him?

Then please watch the following video. It will be a very well used time. At the end of it, you’ll be wiser than when you started. Promised.

Some Like it Hot

The Writer speaks

A great interview made by the Writers Guild. When asked how do you turn a 5-page outline into a script, Wilder replies: “You have to find out if you have a second act”. You should watch this taking notes.

One of my favourite lines from him is “Directors don’t need to know how to write, but they need to know how to read”.

There is a post by Nicole Bianchi named “Billy Wilder on How to Tell Compelling Stories” which she published in The Every Day Novelist. Love screenwriting? Then please read it and learn.

But if you are in doubt or in a hurry, the basic ten pieces of advice from (attributed to) the master are here below:

Billy Wilder’s (attributed) 10 Rules for Powerful Storytelling

  • The audience is fickle.
  • Grab ’em by the throat and never let ’em go.
  • Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
  • Know where you’re going.
  • The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
  • If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
  • A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.
  • In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing.
  • The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
  • The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then — that’s it. Don’t hang around.

If I was to add an extra piece of advice from my own experience, it would be this:

  • Work your ass off. Pablo Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”. 

More on Wilder? Check How Billy Wilder’s SOME LIKE IT HOT Was Written.

Interested in Screenwriting? Check our posts How Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT Was Written, Andrew Kevin Walker on SE7EN and 8MM, Best Screenwriting Books: Dmytryk’s ON SCREENWRITING, Best Screenwriting Books: THE ART OF DRAMATIC WRITING, Best Screenwriting Books: ESSENTIALS OF SCREENWRITING, and many more. Just type Screenwriting in the web searcher.

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