10 Screenwriting Tips From Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder was the Austrian born writer/director behind such classic gems as Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard. As a filmmaker, Wilder knew the importance of writing and was nominated for twelve Academy Awards for screenwriting.

He had a great skill with actors that started with his ability to deliver a tight script with meaty roles. His movies are all marked by an unobtrusive shooting style, tight plotting and memorable dialogue.

 Billy Wilder directing

Here are 10 screenwriting tips from Billy Wilder out of the book Conversations with Wilder by Cameron Crowe.

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

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