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March 16, 2022

Best Screenwriting Quotes To Inspire Your Screenwriting

What's the best way to improve your screenwriting skills? You could attend screenwriting classes, get some feedback from experts in the industry, or even listen to some advice from the masters. Here are some great screenwriting quotes from esteemed screenwriters throughout history. 

Best screenwriting quotes

You never know; their wisdom might help you figure out that plot twist or character arc you've been stuck on for the past few months. 

Sir Alfred Hitchcock 

Sir Alfred Hitchsock was an English filmmaker. As one of the most influential figures in the history of cinema, his career spanned six decades in which he directed over 50 feature films. Popular films include Psycho and The Birds.

On making a great film

"To make a great film, you need three things - the script and the script."

On fear

"Fear isn't so difficult to understand. After all, weren't we all frightened as children? Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It's just a different wolf. This fright complex is rooted in every individual."

On creating suspense in your script 

"There is a distinct difference between 'suspense' and 'surprise,' yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I'll explain what I mean. 

We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let's suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, 'Boom!' There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: 'You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!'

In the first case, we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible, the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story."

On the relationship between writing and directing 

"Once the screenplay is finished, I'd just as soon not make the film at all ... I have a strongly visual mind. I visualize a picture right down to the final cuts. I write all this out in the greatest detail in the script, and then I don't look at the script while I'm shooting. I know it off by heart, just as an orchestra conductor needs not to look at the score ... When you finish the script, the film is perfect. But in shooting it you lose perhaps 40 percent of your original conception."

Quentin Tarantino 

Quentin Tarantino is an American filmmaker. His films are characterized by ensemble casts, references to pop culture, and nonlinear storylines. Popular films include Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and many more.

On whether to get formal qualifications

​​"When people ask me if I went to film school, I tell them, 'No, I went to films.'"

"Trying to make a feature film yourself with no money is the best film school you can do."

On writing something timeless 

"In the '50s, audiences accepted a level of artifice that the audiences in 1966 would chuckle at. And the audiences of 1978 would chuckle at what the audience of 1966 said was okay, too. The trick is to try to be way ahead of that curve, so they're not chuckling at your movies 20 years down the line."

On his writing process 

"I always write these movies that are far too big for any paying customer to sit down and watch from beginning to end, and so I always have this big novel that I have to adapt into a movie as I go."

"Whatever's going on with me at the time of writing is going to find its way into the piece. If that doesn't happen, then what the hell am I doing? So if I'm writing Inglourious Basterds, and I'm in love with a girl and we break up, that's going to find its way into the piece."

"As a writer, I demand the right to write any character in the world that I want to write. I demand the right to be them, I demand the right to think them, and I demand the right to tell the truth as I see they are."

"I am a writer. That's what I do. It's a writer's job not just to write about himself but to look at the rest of humanity and explore it — other people's way of talking, the phrases they use. And my head is a sponge. I listen to what everyone says, I watch little idiosyncratic behavior; people tell me a joke, and I remember it. People tell me an interesting story in their life, and I remember it."

George Lucas (Star Wars)

"I haven't met anybody at the Academy or anywhere else that hasn't been able to describe years and years of very difficult struggle… there's no way around that. The secret is to not give up hope."

Chris Colombus (Harry Potter)

"I've raised four children, so I have amassed 20 years of dinner conversations, fights, kids snapping at each other, and the intense love they have for each other. I am just writing based on my own experience as a father."

Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)

"...when you're reading a book, a piece of a novel, you get immersed, you get lost in those pages, but you're not bound by time. And what I find is that, the sense of time binds us with the now. When we are experiencing a film we are in one hand lost in that universe, in that experience, but by the same token, we are breathing that experience for as long as it lasts. You know a book can last, you can read a book in two days or in four weeks; a film you end up watching just the length of it. And I think that that's something that is so important in the process of screenwriting, is that sense of the experience that we're going to have in real-time."

"As in everything, the most important thing about studying film is being aware of the world around you and human experience."

"It takes a while before I sit and write. It first takes a lot of research. This can take months, and that's combined with phone calls to experts or visits to them."

Pedro Almodóvar (Law of Desire)

"I don't want to imitate life in movies; I want to represent it. And in that representation, you use the colors you feel, and sometimes they are fake colors. But always it's to show one emotion."

"It's very difficult to explain the origins of everything in a film because it's very mysterious and many things happen by chance. You have to be writing all the time and in my case I make notes all the time. l am always working on four or five ideas, and there comes a time when I decide to just write on."

Spike Lee (Malcom X)

“All directors are storytellers, so the motivation was to tell the story I wanted to tell. That's what I love.”

Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

"Movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision, and change the way we see things. They take us to other places, they open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our lifetime, we need to keep them alive."

Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing)

"Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright."

"Any time you get two people in a room who disagree about anything, the time of day, there is a scene to be written. That's what I look for."

"As long as you keep one foot in the real world while the other foot's in a fairy tale, that fairy tale is going to seem kind of attainable."

"I consider plot a necessary intrusion on what I really want to do, which is write snappy dialogue."

"First scenes are super-important to me. I'll spend months and months pacing and climbing the walls trying to come up with the first scene. I drive for hours on the freeway."

"Heroes in drama are people who try hard to reach a virtuous ideal. And whether they succeed or fail really doesn't matter - it's the trying that counts."

"I've never written anything that I haven't wanted to write again. I want to, and still am, writing 'A Few Good Men' again. I didn't know what I was doing then, and I'm still trying to get it right. I would write 'The Social Network' again if they would let me, I'd write 'Moneyball' again. I would write 'The West Wing' again.'"

Read more advice from Aaron Sorkin in our interview with him for the Arc Studio blog.

Getting advice from industry experts can help you get unstuck

If you are stuck or having a bad writing day, hopefully, these quotes from some of the most famous and prestigious writers throughout history give you some inspiration. 

The key theme running through them is that there is no right answer; every writer has their habits and methodology that works for them. Once you understand this, you can be free of any expectations and get to work on a screenplay that's a runaway box-office success. 


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Best Screenwriting Quotes To Inspire Your Screenwriting
Harry Cunningham

Harry is a professional writer. His first novel The Talk Show was published in the U.S and the U.K by Bloodhound Books in 2021 and he is currently working on adapting it for screen. He's also written for Media Magazine - a UK magazine for students of A-level Film, Media and Television Studies. In addition, he was a senior ghostwriter at Story Terrace from 2015- 2021, the private memoir firm.

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