How to Write a Screenplay like John Hughes

Do you have an idea that you think would make a great movie, TV show or webisode, but have no idea how to write a screenplay?  It is not uncommon for people to have a screenplay idea, but have no clue where to start.

Like many other skills in life, learning to write a solid screenplay takes a good amount of research, practice and repetition. The following are some things that you can do to help yourself learn:

  • Read screenplays
  • Understand the format of a screenplay
  • Watch television shows and movies
  • Study some of the most successful screenplay writers
  • Come up with an idea for a screenplay
  • Develop screenplay ideas through outlines and storyboards

John Hughes directed or scripted some of the most successful films of the 1980s and 1990s. Born February 18, 1950, Hughes has been called the king of teen movies; he launched the acting careers of Michael Keaton, Bill Paxton, Matthew Broderick and Molly Ringwald among others, along with the group of up-and-coming actors called “The Brat Pack.”

Hughes was born in Lansing, Michigan, though his family later moved to Northbrook Illinois, where the Glenbrook North High School would provide the inspiration for the films that would make his reputation.  He described himself as “kind of quiet” as a kid, and commenting on his early childhood, he said, “I grew up in a neighborhood that was mostly girls and old people. There weren’t any boys my age, so I spent a lot of time by myself, imagining things. And every time we would get established somewhere, we would move. Life just started to get good in seventh grade, and then we moved to Chicago. I ended up in a really big high school, and I didn’t know anybody. But then The Beatles came along (and) changed my whole life. And then Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home came out and really changed me. Thursday I was one person, and Friday I was another. My heroes were Dylan, John Lennon and Picasso, because they each moved their particular medium forward, and when they got to the point where they were comfortable, they always moved on.”

He went to but ultimately dropped out of Arizona State University, afterward making money by selling jokes to established comedians like Rodney Dangerfield. As his reputation developed, he was able to get an entry level job as an advertising copywriter, creating what would become the famous Edge “Credit Card Shaving Test” ad campaign. He wrote his first credited screenplay, Class Reunion, while working at the National Lampoon magazine; the film was distinguished as the second disastrous attempt to duplicate the success of the wildly popular Animal House. His next screenplay, National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983, was the film that finally re-established the flagship’s credibility in film.

Hughes made his directorial debut with the film Sixteen Candles in 1984, followed by The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  After a string of successful teen movies, Hughes attempted to move out of the “teen” pigeonhole with Planes, Trains, and Automobiles in 1987. Hughes’ greatest commercial success was with Home Alone, which was the top grossing film of 1990 and is to date the most successful live-action comedy of all time. The last film that he directed was Curly Sue in 1991. While Hughes stopped directing, he continued writing almost until his passing in 2009, accumulating 34 screenplay credits, with the last one, Drillbit Taylor, written under a pseudonym and released in 2008.

Hughes’ films were characterized by their emphasis on pop songs and music cues, as well as by frequent use of filmic devices like non-linear montages, or scenes in which characters break the fourth wall. He is also known for using a freeze-frame as the closing shot. The majority of Hughes’ films were set in the North Shore suburbs of the Chicago metropolitan area. The dialogue in Hughes’ screenplays is accessible, while often tackling complex issues such as abuse, poverty, and mental illness. The spirit of lighthearted fun was incorporated in Hughes’ work, even when the themes included darker aspects of life.

While John Hughes did not win many awards in the course of his career, only the ShoWest Award in 1991 for Home Alone, he did have a great deal of critical and commercial success. Those of his movies that were not massively popular have become cult classics, for example his later films for National Lampoon and 1993’s Dennis the Menace.

New Show Studios is a company designed specifically for everyday people with ideas for screens big and small (TV shows, movies, webisodes).  The company has all the resources under one roof to develop your screenplay idea into a concept package and present it to an entertainment company through its exclusive licensing agent, SFM Entertainment.  SFM Entertainment has over 40 years of experience in the entertainment industry. 

Don’t be the person kicking yourself because you sat on your idea only to see it in theaters or on television one day, because someone else had a similar idea.  New Show Studios can help you take action and pursue your screenplay idea.

Remember that even with the best presentation materials new entertainment development is high risk and there is very little likelihood that your idea will be successfully licensed or result in profit to you.

If you have an idea for a new TV show, movie, or webisode, click here to submit your idea.

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