Taking a look at the 2011 Oscar screenplays and sharing thoughts on what we think of them. We may not want to/have the time to look at all of them of course, but even if we just discuss a few of them, it should be a fun way to learn some more about writing a screenplay.


You can find the link to the Oscar 2011 Scripts to download by clicking here:





Please use the scripts for strictly educational purposes only.







  • I really loved THE KING'S SPEECH a lot and maybe it is its theatrical origins that really attracted me a lot to this. I love live theater as well as movies but you are right about how things that work on the stage don't necessarily work as well on screen. I would have loved to have seen THE KING'S SPEECH on stage!
  • OK, thanks Stacey. Let's start off looking at action lines (which I prefer to call description lines because 'action' implies ACTION! when it can be writing a mood, an inner conflict or silence)

    We could try having a look at description lines in the Oscar screenplays and see what's there. Maybe we could each choose one scene from a script and discuss the effects of the description lines?

    Students often ask me if they should write in camera angles. I say No. But you can write your action lines in such a way that implies them. And description lines are also for shaping the pace of the story. Here's a short passage of mine about  Writing The Shots:

    Here are a couple of very basic examples from one of my screenplays:

    “She picks up the dagger beside her desk, sees its hilt dripping blood.”
    Implied camera angles:
    MID SHOT as she lifts the dagger.
    CLOSE-UP of her face looks at the blood dripping from the dagger.

    “She looks with alarm towards the door, listening intently.”
    Implied camera angle:

    As well as implying camera angles, writing the shots can suggest pace, contracting and expanding time.

    Here’s another example from the scene above:

    “She springs to her feet like a young gazelle, dagger poised.”
    Implied camera angles:
    MID-SHOT as she springs to her feet.

    “She waits. She listens.”
    Implied camera angles:

    CUT TO LONG-SHOT of Character and the (implied) door.
    PUSH TO CLOSE-UP as she waits.
    MID-SHOT as she listens.

    “She shakes her head.”
    Implied camera angle:
    PUSH to CLOSE-UP as she shakes her head.

    “She’s hearing things again.”
    LOW-ANGLE CLOSE-UP of her face.

    Look how the way these shots are written to convey the pace of the scene - what it’s breathing is like. The short sentences enact how it will play on the screen. “She waits. She listens. She shakes her head - she’s hearing things again.” Say the line out loud. Hear the implied beat between each short sentence.

    Through short sentences, the rhythm, as you read, mimics the suspense - we hold our breath at “She waits.” Then hold our breath again at “She listens”. Then hold our breath again before the tension is released at “She shakes her head - she’s hearing things again”.
    Look how the syntax works.

    Feel the difference if I’d written: “She waits and listens, then shakes her head”.
    No pregnant pauses, no suspense, no tension, and no real sense of release. Nothing to suggest Time expanding or contracting, no sense of how long or short the shots should be.
    With the line as written, it implies how each shot will be held long or short on the screen, simply because a sentence was broken up into discrete ‘breaths’ which shows how it’s to be paced.

    And by adding to a sentence you can suggest how long to hold the shot.
    In the examples above, adding the words: “sees its hilt dripping blood” implies hold the shot. It slows down time, increases the tension of the moment and allows the reader (and audience when it plays on the screen) to register the significance of what they’re seeing.

    Each shot is building the tension. The overall effect of this tiny scene is intended to express the character’s emotions, her fear of assassination. Although her fears turn out to be unfounded here, the reader’s sense of tension is intended to linger, and it is a foreshadowing of events which come later.

    Now, if I had inserted camera angles, they would have shattered the reader’s involvement in the story. As soon as you draw attention to technicals, the spell is broken. The aim is always to take the reader through the experience of what is being put on that page as though it is happening - and moving - before their eyes.

    That’s why flagging up camera angles is a big No-no - it detaches the reader from the story.

    - Take the script you’re working on and write some new action lines focusing purely on how to pace and write your shots.


  • Sounds good, Pauline. As one who has more experience writing "action lines" in the pages of a book rather than a script, this will be especially interesting. Thank you!
  • Hi to all,

    I'm thinking that maybe this thread about Oscar screenplays is too broad to get going on it. So, how about if I jot down some specific topics about how the scripts dealt with the various elements of screenwriting?

    For example, characterisation, narrative spine, dialogue, action lines etc? It could be fun! I'll start a new discussion thread.


  • On the King's Speech - maybe I'll jot down some thoughts again.

    Scene 65: Winston Churchill and all that on-the-nose exposition (which tended to run through a lot of the script).

    It highlights one of the aspects of screenwriting that can be a real headache. The so-called screenwriting 'gurus' call exposition 'plot dumping', but that just encourages writers to do what this King's Speech writer does quite a lot -

    overdelivering information. Why not take a look at all the scenes where the script groans under the weight of on-the-nose exposition? A useful exercise might be to have a go at rewriting a scene to deliver the information more subtly.



  • Pauline, Rocky w/Pearls is brilliant haha!


    I'm guilty of suggesting we start with this one and did so because a few fellow writers wondered why it won the award. I admit I'm puzzled as well after reading it because how I would describe it is quiet and unremarkable. 


    It's taken me a bit to get to it because I'm on a deadline. To chill, I watch a film or two after hours and just saw The Ghostwriter. I'm a longtime Polanski fan and was surprised by how quiet this one was too. Maybe that's the wrong word. Intricate yet simple, the premise relying on a coincidence. 


    What's going on - am I just jaded?

  • Hi to all

    Looks like no-one wants to start talking about the Oscar screenplays. Some of you thought it would be good to kick off with The King's Speech. So maybe I'll jump in.


    The screenplay started out as a stage play and I think that the film does betray its origins and suffers from being more like a 'two men talking' film than cinematic storytelling. It made me think of Hitchcock's famous phrase that I have pinned up near my computer:

    'Film is not photographing people talking'

    I did enjoy the movie, but it didn't make me come away mentally or emotionally stretched. It was certanly entertaining but I wasn't still thinking about it the next day. And maybe part of that is because it followed the Hollywood plot template too neatly. Protagonist, Goal, Antagonist (the stammer), Mentor (Geoffrey Rush character), obstacles to overcome, climax, hero ends triumphant, getting the audience to root for the hero in pretty obvious ways.

    I called it 'Rocky in twin set and pearls'. (Rocky was the movie that changed Hollywood in 1976. It was the classic Hollywood tent-pole script and spawned FIVE sequels.)

    What do you think of it?