Billy Wilder Screenwriting Tips
Have you seen Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, or Some Like It Hot lately? Well, they still hold up. Given that all of them are over half-a-century old, that’s saying something. With a career that lasted over 50 feature films, giving us some of the most memorable movies of all time, future screenwriters will be studying Billy Wilder’s films for a long time.
The list below was sourced from an excellent read, Cameron Crowe’s Conversations with Wilder.
10 Screenwriting Tips from Billy Wilder
- The audience is fickle.
- Grab ‘em by the throat and never let ‘em go.
- Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
- Know where you’re going.
- The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
- If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
- A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.
- In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing.
- The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
- The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then—that’s it. Don’t hang around.