A Review of Screenteen Writers by Christina Hamlett
By the end of this book, readers should have a nicely paced, ready for submission screenplay, along which a much better understanding of what it takes to produce, and sell a screenplay. The style will inspire any teenager writer to begin thinking about this option for their work, and taking their aspirations towards becoming a professional screenwriter more seriously.
Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
How young screenwriter can find success
by Christina Hamlett
Paperback: 239 pages ; Meriwether Pub; ISBN: 1566080789; (April 2002)
There are many books on the market for aspiring screenwriters, some of which address craft, and some of which address marketing your work. Christina Hamlett’s Screenteen Writers is, as far a I’m aware, the only book which specifically advises the teenaged writer. This is important, as it really helps the screenwriting career if you start early, and teenagers often have more of an insight into film than their adult counterparts, at least the teenagers I know. The book is written in a clear, informal, and snappy style which will appeal to the young writer with a heart set on working on film. The book is very thorough, and provides a detailed look at every aspect of the film writing process, from how to come up with ideas, to what genre you shoudl write in, setting, creating plot structure, titles, creating snappy loglines, treatments, terminology, formatting a script, writing dialogue, characterisation, creating good endings, timing, point of view, selling a completed script, obtaining copyright, collaborating, rewriting, entering contents, and a lot more. At the end of each chapter is an interview with an experienced screenwriter, generally someone who has been working since the teen years, and who can provide unique insights into how to make the most of new technologies, intern opportunities, traits, and practicalities, as well as the importance of attending film school.
There are assignments in each section which guide readers through some serious pieces of writing, including the creation of an actual synopsis, scenes, cover letters for submissions, pieces of dialogue, characters, and a 3 act structure. At the end of each chapter are “topics to think and talk about”, which serve as a good chapter summary, and help reader work through some of the more complex aspects of screenwriting, pondering what it is that they want to achieve and why.
It is possible to use this book as a full screenwriting course, as it contains enough assignments, and is clear and well set out enough for any creative writing teacher (or homeschooling parent) to work with. One of the best bits of information in this book is Hamlett’s “Template for Timing” which has readers laying out the structure of their plays, including the transitions. I also found the section on characterisation to be very well created, and covering areas like motivation, foreshadowing, and how moving in time affects character development (“the character arc”). By the end of this book, readers should have a nicely paced, ready for submission screenplay, along which a much better understanding of what it takes to produce, and sell a screenplay. The style will inspire any teenager writer to begin thinking about this option for their work, and taking their aspirations towards becoming a professional screenwriter more seriously.
For those of us who have long since left the teenaged years behind, the book is still full of useful information, and plenty of inspiration. Hamlett’s extensive experience, and enthusiasm, along with the many exercises, links, interviews, and encouragement are valuable.