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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Adapted Screenplay Ideas of the 1980s

Each year, there are two Academy Awards given out for screenplays.  One is for the best original screenplay, which is a screenplay that is not based upon previously published material.  The other is for the best adapted screenplay, which is a screenplay that interprets another source.  This can be a novel, short story, a play, a television show or sometimes even another film.

Learning to write your own screenplay takes a good amount of research, practice and repetition.  Watching movies and studying successful screenplays and writers are some things that you can do to help yourself learn.  The following are some of the best adapted screenplay ideas of the 1980s that are worth checking out.

In 1989, Driving Miss Daisy won the Academy Award for the Best Adapted Screenplay. The film, adapted by Alred Uhry from his play of the same name, is a comedy-drama that follows Mrs. Daisy Werthan, a 72-year-old widow at the beginning of the story. After a driving mishap where her automobile is wrecked, her son, Boolie finds a chauffeur for her by the name of Hoke Colburn. At first Daisy refuses to be driven, but gradually she accepts Hoke and comes to respect him. When she finds out that he is illiterate, Daisy, a retired schoolteacher, educates him, and develops an understanding of how Hoke’s race affects how others treat him in the society of 1940s and 1950s Georgia. When her maid dies, Miss Daisy takes it upon herself to care for her own house. She develops an appreciation for the civil rights movement and attends a dinner at with Dr. Martin Luther King gives a speech. Eventually, Daisy is unable to take care of herself anymore and is moved into a retirement home. Hoke visits Daisy, at this point 97 years old, and ends up feeding her some of her uneaten pumpkin pie when she finds it too difficult to move the fork.  Driving Miss Daisy is the only film based on an off Broadway production to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture, and Jessica Tandy, at age 81, became the oldest winner ever in the history of the Best Actress category.

In addition to the Academy Awards, the film won three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture. It also won awards at the British Academy Film Awards. The film earned over $145 million at the box office total.

Another adapted screenplay to win an Academy Award in the 1980s was Terms of Endearment. The film was produced, directed, and adapted by James L. Brooks from the novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry, and covers thirty years of the relationship between Aurora Greenway and her daughter Emma. In the beginning of the film, Aurora is portrayed as difficult but caring, going so far as to almost climb into Emma’s crib to ensure her daughter is still breathing. Later, Emma gets marries immediately after graduating high school, while her friend continues on to college, becoming successful and rich in New York City. Emma’s marriage to college professor Flap Horton becomes strained after years of struggle to support themselves and their children in Iowa, particularly when Flap begins to philander. Emma finds comfort and love in small-town, older banker Sam Burns, eventually having an affair with him. At the same time, Aurora cultivates the attention of several gentlemen in the area, eventually forming a tenuous relationship with the philandering retired astronaut, Garrett Breedlove. Emma leaves her husband after discovering his affair, though she eventually goes back to Flap, even deciding to end the affair when Flap accepts a teaching position in Nebraska. She realizes, however, that Flap accepted the position to follow his mistress, and while at the doctor’s office for a flu shot, the doctor discovers lumps which prove to be cancer. When it becomes clear that Emma is not responding to treatment, she makes plans for her children to be raised by her mother. Garrett and Aurora reconcile, and after Emma’s funeral, Garrett shows love toward each of Emma’s children.

The film was generally well regarded by critics, and was a box office success, grossing over $108 million in the United States. It remained #1 at the box office for four weeks straight, after alternating weekends in the #1 and #2 positions. On the film’s 11th weekend, it arrived at #1 for the sixth and final time.  In addition to the Academy Award wins, the film won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and has been honored by the American Film Institute in several of its 100 best lists.

Do you have a screenplay idea that you think would make a great movie or TV show? If you would like to take action and pursue your screenplay idea, New Show Studios can help.

New Show Studios is a company that’s designed specifically for everyday people with ideas for screens big and small.  It 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. 

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.

Screenplay Ideas That Won 9 Oscars

Each year, there are two Academy Awards given out for screenplays.  One is for the best original screenplay, and the other is for the best adapted screenplay. 

Learning to write your own screenplay takes a good amount of research, practice and repetition.  Watching movies and studying the most successful screenplays are some things that you can do to help yourself learn.  The following films have each won 9 Oscars.

The most recent film with the distinction of winning 9 Oscars is The English Patient from 1996. The film is told in a series of flashbacks that chronicle the backstory of a critically burned man, who is at first only known as “the English patient” due to his accent. In reality, he is a Hungarian cartographer and Count who was making a map of the Sahara Desert and began an affair with the wife of his benefactor, Katherine Clifton, which ultimately results in his injuries. The Count tries to get assistance for the injured Katherine, but is unable to reach her in time, and when he tries to leave the area with her body, his plane is shot down. Now an invalid patient, wholly dependent on morphine, he asks for an overdose. The film earned two Golden Globe Awards, and has the distinction of being only one of three Best Picture winners to never enter the weekend box office top 5.

Prior to The English Patient, the previous film to earn nine Oscars was The Last Emperor in 1987. The film is a biographical portrayal of the life of the last Emperor of China, Pu Yi. The story opens with Pu Yi re-entering to newly proclaimed People’s Republic of China as a political prisoner and war criminal, having been captured by the Red Army. When he attempts suicide, he is instead rendered unconscious, and the flashback that follows details the earliest years of his life, following through his exile, his puppet reign of Manchukuo, and finally his capture by the Soviet army. He is subjected to the “Communist re-education program” for political prisoners, and is coerced to formally renounce his collaboration with Imperial Japanese invaders. The film flash-forwards to the cult of Mao, with Puyi having become a simple gardener who lives a proletarian existence. The film did not enter the weekend box office top 10 until its twelfth week, at which point it increased its earnings 168% from the previous week; it peaked at #4 in its 22nd week of theatrical release.

Another film to earn nine Oscars was 1958’s Gigi, a musical romantic comedy based on a 1944 novella of the same name, set in turn of the 20th century Paris. The title character of the film, Gilberte, also known as Gigi, is the daughter of a courtesan who is friends with a wealthy man by the name of Gaston. Gigi begins to learn the skills she must cultivate to follow her mother, but is initially a very poor student. One day, Gigi proposes to Gaston that if she beats him at a game of cards, he must take her and her mother with him on vacation; she happily wins. During their holiday, Gigi and Gaston spend many hours together. Gaston eventually realizes he is in love with Gigi, and offers to make her his mistress, but she refuses. Gaston storms away and Gigi decides that she would rather be miserable with him than without him; prepared to accept her fate, she emerges from her room. Gaston has a change of heart and instead of making her a mistress, the two get married. In addition to the Academy Awards, the film won three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture in the category of Musical or Comedy. At the time it broke the record for the number of Oscars won; in tribute to Gigi’s domination of the Oscars, the MGM switchboard answered calls the following day with “M-Gigi-M.”

Do you have a screenplay idea that you think would make a great movie or TV show? If you would like to take action and pursue your screenplay idea, New Show Studios can help.

New Show Studios is a company that’s designed specifically for everyday people with ideas for screens big and small.  It 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. 

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.

Best Screenplay Ideas of 2011

A screenplay, also called a script, is a written work by screenwriters for a film or television show. Learning how to write a solid screenplay takes a good amount of research, practice and repetition.  Watching movies and television shows and studying successful screenplays and writers are some things that you can do to help yourself learn.  Listed below are two of the best screenplays to come out in 2011 that are worth checking out.

In 2011, The Descendants won the Academy Award for the Best Adapted Screenplay. The screenplay was adapted by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim rash from a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The story follows Matt King, a Honolulu-based lawyer and the sole trustee of a family trust that controls 25,000 acres on the island of Kaua’i. The trust is expiring, however, and the King family has decided to sell the pristine land for development. Just before the family members are ready to endorse the deal, a boating accident renders Matt’s wife, Elizabeth, comatose. Matt learns that his wife will never awaken from her coma, and attempts to come to terms with being the sole parent to his two daughters: ten-year-old Scottie and 17-year-old Alex. He also has to make decisions regarding his wife’s living will, and how to move forward with the family trust. By the end of the film, he has made his peace with his wife, disconnected her in accordance to her wishes, and decided to keep the family’s 25,000 acres, even though one of his cousins threatens that legal action may proceed against him.

Alexander Payne not only helped adapt the book into a screenplay, but also directed the film on-location in Hawaii. The Descendants was released in November of 2011, and featured Hawaiian music as its soundtrack. It received positive reviews upon release, with Roger Ebert giving it a perfect four-star rating. In addition to receiving the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, It was distinguished by the American Film Institute as one of the Movies of the Year, and the screenplay was nominated for the 65th annual British Academy Film Awards.

That same year, Midnight in Paris won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film was written and directed by Woody Allen, and has been lauded as one of his best films in recent years. The screenplay is the story of Gil Pender, a successful Hollywood screenwriter who dreams of becoming a novelist. His fiancée, Inez, are vacationing with Inez’s wealthy parents while Gil struggles to finish his first novel, which Inez dismisses as a romantic daydream. One night, Gil gets drunk and is drawn into a 1920s Peugeot Type 176, which takes him back to the 1920s; Gil becomes acquainted with Josephine Baker, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and even Ernest Hemingway, who later shows his novel to Gertrude Stein.  Gil continues going back in time every evening, meeting the illustrious artists of the day and falling in love with Adriana, who is Pablo Picasso’s mistress. In the present, Gil meets Gabrielle while his fiancée is shopping for furniture, and through her discovers a diary of Adriana’s, disclosing that she is in love with him. Gil and Adriana go back to the 1890s and meet up with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gaugin, and Edgar Degas; Adriana decides to stay, but Gil realizes that in spite of the allure of nostalgia, he must accept the present for what it is, and do what he can to improve his own life.

The film premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and was released in North America in May of the same year.  In addition to the Academy Award, the film won the Golden Globe award for Best Screenplay and was distinguished by the Writers Guild of America, as well as the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

Do you have a screenplay idea that you think would make a great movie or TV show? New Show Studios can help you take action and pursue your screenplay idea. It is a company based in Pittsburgh that’s designed specifically for everyday people with ideas for screens big and small.  New Show Studios 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. 

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.