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September 22, 2023

How to Write Like Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig has quickly become one of the most celebrated writer-directors in Hollywood. With acclaimed films like Lady Bird, Little Women and the recent Barbie Gerwig has established a distinctive voice.

In Gerwig's hands, genres like the coming-of-age film and period drama feel refreshing and modern. Her skill at writing dimensional characters, humorous and heartfelt dialogue, and emotionally honest narratives is what makes her one of the standout writers of the last few years. When watching a Greta Gerwig film, you feel like you're hearing the characters speak directly to you.

For screenwriters, Gerwig's scripts provide a masterclass in storytelling. In this blog post, we'll break down the key features of Gerwig's writing and offer tips on how you can emulate her unique style. Follow her lead and develop screenplays with raw emotion, quotidian wit, and compelling inner lives. Writing with the honesty and humanity of Gerwig will allow you to craft stories and characters that resonate deeply.

Let's dive in.

Vulnerability in Lady Bird

A hallmark of Gerwig's writing is her insightful depictions of intimate human relationships, especially between women. Her films dive deep into the nuances and complexities of family dynamics, female friendships, and romantic connections.

In Lady Bird, she explores the turbulent but loving bond between a mother and daughter. An example is this scene in the opening sequence of Lady Bird which shows a lot of vulnerability early on:

A sequence from Lady Bird by Greta Grewig

Just as they have their tender moments so to do mother and daughter's arguments stem from a place of care and familiarity. In Little Women, she examines the close ties between sisters, from rivalry to unconditional support. Her male characters also display emotional availability rare in cinema.

Gerwig's scripts contain relationships that feel organic, layered, and heartfelt. Her characters confide in each other, hurt each other, forgive each other. Through intimate conversations and shared moments, deep bonds emerge on screen. The result is relationship portrayals that resonate as truthful and poignant. Often her characters come of age on screen.

As a writer, focus on exploring the ups and downs of familial, friendly, and romantic relationships in your screenplays. Build intimacy through vulnerability, honesty, and understanding between characters.

Examine how your characters' connections shape them - and how disagreements reveal what they most value. Gerwig's films demonstrate the power of writing human relationships in all their affection, intricacy, and insight.

Humor and levity

Gerwig skillfully balances the poignant emotional moments in her films with humor and levity. She understands the importance of comic relief in drama. The laughs in her scripts arise organically from the characters and their relationships.

In Lady Bird, laugh-out-loud awkward moments between Lady Bird and her teacher provide relief from family drama. In Little Women, humorous sibling banter lightens scenes exploring ambition and loss. Gerwig intersperses the serious and sad with playful jokes and lighthearted interactions.

When writing your own script, look for opportunities to sprinkle in comic moments that feel true to your characters. Capture the funny side of human nature and relationships. Find absurdity and laughs in everyday incidents. Moments of brevity give your audience a break before the next dramatic scene. Like Gerwig, integrate humor organically without undermining the gravity of your story.

Top tips for emulating Greta Grewig's work

Greta Gerwig’s writing style is uniquely insightful, funny, and heartfelt. While developing your own voice, you can apply certain techniques she uses to craft captivating stories. Here are some tips for emulating the Gerwig sensibility in your screenwriting:

Focus on mother-daughter relationships

Complex mother-daughter bonds are integral to Gerwig’s most powerful films. Bring these central relationships to your scripts through moments of both tension and tenderness. Portray multifaceted mothers and daughters learning from each other.

Let your characters talk

Don’t overwork dialogue. Allow conversations to meander naturally so characters reveal themselves. Build improvisational back-and-forths to uncover personality quirks and motivations. Listen to real-world conversations for inspiration.

Find humor in the mundane

Gerwig sees comedy in everyday embarrassment and awkwardness. Sprinkle in laughs by capturing uncomfortable pauses, fumbled remarks, witty comebacks, and lighthearted moments that feel true to life.

Draw from personal experiences

Semi-autobiographical touches give Gerwig’s films their emotional weight. Think of your own adolescence, family dynamics, big dreams, and formative friendships. Translate the feelings into your characters.

Focus on emotional truth

While the dialogue sounds relaxed, it conveys authenticity. Ground even absurd moments in emotional honesty. Let characters expose their genuine hopes, fears, and desires.

Feature female ensemble casts. Gerwig’s films center around multifaceted women with agency driving the story. Craft engaging female characters whose relationships, goals, and choices power the narrative.

Find profundity in the ordinary. Small, relatable moments in Gerwig’s films carry great significance. Build meaning and revelation into everyday experiences.

With these techniques, you can develop a voice as insightful and touching as Gerwig’s. Craft human stories full of heart, humor, and resonant emotion inspired by the celebrated writer-director.

Remember if you want to make a head start on becoming the writer you've always dreamed of then check out Arc Studio which is free to download today.


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How to Write Like Greta Gerwig
Harry Verity

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 using Arc Studio. He's also written for Media Magazine - a UK magazine for students of A-level Film, Media and Television Studies. His journalism has appeared in The Guardian, Readers' Digest and Newsweek, amongst many other publications. He has just finished his second novel for young adults, set in a boarding school. He holds a BA in English from Loughborough University.

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