Why Does Screenwriters Cross The Road by Joe Gilford

Ivan Magrin-Chagnolleau

In Why Does Screenwriters Cross The Road, Joe Gilford, a veteran writer, director, and producer, and a screenwriting teacher at NYU, proposes his own take on what good screenwriting is. His main ideas are around what makes a good screenplay work, and he spends the whole book defining what a screenplay that works is.

The book is full of great insights as well as very practical tips. One of the great insights of the book is the realization that film is mostly a performing medium, which means that the characters, and therefore the actors, are at the center of screenwriting. As Joe says, you have to write characters that great actors will absolutely want to portray. And in the book, he tells us how to achieve that goal.

He also insists on the fact that screenplays are not written but built. A screenplay is made of building blocks, and each of these blocks is important and has a role to play. So structure plays a crucial role in what makes a screenplay work. Another central idea is that a good screenplay is built around eight good scenes in average. They are the main bricks of the story.

There is also a part about being stuck and how to keep writing no matter what. Someone said that you are what you do every day. So in order to be a screenwriter, you have to write every day, or at least as often as you can, and if possible, on a regular schedule, whatever your schedule is.

In the beginning of the book, Joe says that if you are serious about screenwriting, then besides writing and reading screenplays, reading as many books as you can about screenwriting is equally important, as there will always be something to learn about screenwriting in each of them, even the not-so-good ones. I totally agree with Joe, and his book is definitely among the great ones to read.

Link to the Michael Wiese Production page of the book

Biography of Ivan Magrin-Chagnolleau