Richard Walter was recently interviewed on Film Budgeteers (a very cool site + service that empowers any filmmaker to generate a budget in minutes). In the interview blog post, author Jeff Orgill shared:

Film Budgeteers was ecstatic to land an interview with veteran screenwriting  professor and master screenwriter, Richard Walter. Walter has taught writing for the cinema for the better part of four decades and serves as the Chairman to the UCLA graduate school of screenwriting. He’s also the author of several fiction and non-fiction books and makes regular tv and media appearances to offer his expert opinion. I asked him a few brief questions about where screenwriting collides with the budget of a film and the process of film budgeting…”

>> Read the full Q&A on Film Budgeteers

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Screenplay Readers Richard Walter Interview: Quick Screenwriting Insights from a Master

In a posting today, Screenplay Readers shared: “I recently did a quick interview with legendary screenwriter and screenwriting educator, Richard Walter. Walter has taught screenwriting for almost 40 years, and serves as Chairman of UCLA’s esteemed screenwriting graduate program. Not to mention, he’s a celebrated author and sought-after studio scribe in his own right, as well as a renowned media and culture critic and pundit.  He also teaches screenwriting privately, via his online workshop. Details and a video about Walter’s program are at the bottom of this interview.”

Continue reading for the full Q&A!

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Last Chance-Online Screenwriting Workshop Less Than One Week + $150 Referral Bonus


Enrollment is about to close for the 6-week online screenwriting program I’ve designed to serve a small cohort of writers who believe in themselves. The first session will take place on Tuesday, 9/19.

Now is the time to act.

Click here now to learn more and register.

UCLA-trained screenwriters have won five best-screenplay Oscar nominations and three Oscars in only the past seven years. They have written eleven movies for Steven Spielberg.

You supply the talent; I’ll provide the training. I will also read your screenplay if you finish it within one month of the class. If you don’t plan to attend the class at this time but know of a friend who may be interested – please share this blog post with them and share this link on social media and contact my class administrator Kathy Berardi at or 678.644.4122. If anyone you refer to the course signs up – we will provide you with a $150 referral bonus.

Go here now to sign up.

Hope to see you in class next week!

– Richard Walter

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I’ve written from time to time of my fifteen minutes of fame – actually about five or ten years – during which I appeared frequently in the media as a pundit, a talking head, on TV and radio political talk shows: over a half dozen Today Show visits, ten or fifteen on (may God forgive me) The O’Reilly Factor, close to two dozen on MSNBC’s Hardball With (he’s mainly into bombast) Chris Matthews, and oodles more.

From time to time I was recognized in public. “Loved the way you socked it to O’Reilly last night,” someone said to me as I made my way down the aisle to my seat on a plane.

More typically, however, people could not remember precisely where they’d seen me. They had a vague sense that they knew me personally, that sometime, somewhere, we had met. “You’re a pulmonologist at Paterson, right?” I was asked at a wedding in New Jersey by a fellow squinting at me, absolutely certain that we were brothers or roommates or tag-team wrestlers.

In such instances I would ask, “Do you watch political talk shows?”

A flood of recognition would fill their faces.

Not only on radio and TV but occasionally also in print I was from time to time referenced or quoted.

My signature issue was Sex and Violence in the Media. Given my retro-hippie look, my progressive affect, my membership in the cultural and intellectual community, that is, a film professor at a world class institution of higher learning, folks might well have expected me to view movie/TV violence as excessive and reprehensible, as sorry evidence of Hollywood’s crass, unconscionable commercialism.
My view, however, was quite the opposite. I argued (and continue to do so) that sex and violence occupy a proper, venerable, honorable place in dramatic narratives.

One day the Los Angeles Times accepted for publication an article I’d written on the subject.

They planned to run the piece on their op-ed page on a particular Friday.

I was due to drive that day to San Francisco to offer a weekend seminar: Screenwriting: The Whole Picture.

My piece would be carried on the op-ed page that same day. The Times was read by hundreds of thousands of souls, among them virtually everybody I knew. I anticipated a torrent of phone messages: congratulations, commentary, and condemnation.

I would love the praise, of course, but the pejorative stuff was okay, too. It made me feel influential. In Hollywood (as in life) the worst pain comes not from being criticized but ignored.

This was still the pre-email, pre-Internet era. Unlike today’s telephone voicemail systems, which can field multiple calls simultaneously, my ancient, analog telephone answering machine, with its twin tape cassettes–one for my greeting, the other for incoming calls–could handle just a single message at a time. Anyone who phoned while the system was recording a message received a busy signal.

Likewise, at any time that I was phoning the machine from a remote location to retrieve my messages, callers would also receive a busy signal.

The day prior to publication, in order to remind myself to attend to a particular chore up north, I left myself the briefest message on my machine. “Be sure to drop by KGO radio to thank Ronn Owens,” I said as quickly as I could, anxious to avoid using too much tape. I wanted to have a maximum amount of time available for the tsunami of messages that, upon the appearance of the column, were sure to flow.

Owens was the most highly rated political talk show host in the Bay Area. He was the sole radio host who consistently whipped Rush Limbaugh in terms of audience size. (If that was going to happen anywhere, wouldn’t you expect it to be San Francisco?)

In the days prior to my San Francisco seminars, Ronn always invited me to appear as a guest on his program. My visits to his show constituted free advertising. May God bless and keep him. At no expense to me, dear Ronn filled my seminar every time.

In this pre-cell phone era, I drove to San Francisco that Friday, making it a point to avoid calling from payphones at highway rest stops along the way to retrieve messages, as I knew that doing so would cut off my answering machine’s ability to take further messages from the hordes of fans who were surely dialing.

At last, from my hotel room on Sutter Street that evening, brimming with anticipation I phoned my answering machine to retrieve the swarm of messages.

The system promptly clicked into action. “You have one message,” it said.

The message rolled.

My own voice say, “Be sure to drop by KGO radio to thank Ronn Owens.”

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REAL VS. REEL – Richard Walter Commentary in The Script Lab

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece Mark Oppenheimer writes (appropriately enough on July 4th) of symbolism run amok: he complains specifically about flag-waving replacing true and thoughtful patriotism. [Full disclosure: At my house on national holidays and—displaced New Yorkers that we are—also on September 11th we proudly fly stars and stripes.]

In the late ‘80s when the Supreme Court declared flag-burning to be expression protected under the First Amendment, self-described patriots went ballistic. 

I heard a veteran’s son remark, “My father died for that flag.”

God bless the soldier for his service and sacrifice. That said, however, it was not a symbol– the flag– for which he died but that for which the symbol stands: the nation.

There’s the problem right there: We’re so inundated with media that people can no longer tell the difference between symbols and what the symbols represent.

Continue reading in The Script Lab

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Screenwriting: One Big Experiment of Trial & Error, Repeat

In this exclusive video interview, screenwriting professor Richard Walter weighs in on how he considers screenwriting to be “One Big Experiment of Trial & Error, Repeat”. Join Richard Walter for an online class held with only 15 students per session – reserve your spot:

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Screenwriting: Not a Visual Kind of Writing

In this exclusive video interview, screenwriting professor Richard Walter talks about how screenwriting is actually not a visual kind of writing at all. Join Richard Walter for an online class held with only 15 students per session – reserve your spot:

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Want to Succeed as a Writer: Spend More Time Writing

In this exclusive video interview, screenwriting professor Richard Walter gives writers the most useful advice they could ever truly hear + follow: “If you want to succeed as a writer – spend more time writing!” Join Richard Walter for an online class held with only 15 students per session – reserve your spot:

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Why Writers Should Write the Personal Movie

In this exclusive video interview, screenwriting professor Richard Walter gives advice on why writers should write what he calls “The Personal Movie”. Join Richard Walter for an online class held with only 15 students per session – reserve your spot:

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Predicting the Unpredictable

A letter arrived recently from Screenwriting Newsletter subscriber Ronald M. Sandgrund, a prominent Colorado attorney, law professor, and writer. (Full disclosure: Ron is also my wife’s brother.)

We had both read Erik Larson’s masterful bestseller Dead Wake, which recounts the history of the sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania by a German submarine during World War I.

Ron wrote: “Having read all your screenwriting books, I’ve come away with the impression that at the heart of all great stories lies conflict. Conflict creates tension. Tension engages the reader until resolution. Before we even start Dead Wake, however, we know the ending. What, then, makes it so riveting?”

I responded that we all know for certain how our lives are going to end: a banquet for maggots, worms, and bacteria, with us as the main course. All the same, we go about our day-to-day activities, both mundane and profound.

Ron continues: “What about seeing a movie for the second, third or fourth time? We know the story; we know what happens to the characters. Why do we still care? Why do we watch? Is it merely to experience once again the cinematography?”

It’s not the cinematography.

I’m reminded of an expression heard in the Broadway musical theater world: “Audiences don’t emerge from the auditorium into the street at the end of the play whistling the scenery.”

More from Ron: “If we know exactly what is to occur, must that not tamp down the stress? Must that not mean there is a fundamental difference between viewing a movie for the first time and the second?”

I say that if a movie is truly great, watching it a second time (and a third and fourth time ad infinitum) is not as engaging as the first time but even more so.

Consider music. Once you’ve heard a song, you know everything about it. Why would you want to hear it again? In fact, however, once you’ve heard a truly arresting tune you want to hear it again and again and again.

Will it sound as strong the second time as the first? It will not. It will sound stronger.

That’s the nature of classics across all platforms: music, painting, sculpture, literature, drama. A true classic, instead of exhausting itself via repetition, sounds new every time.

From time to time I’ve mentioned that my late dad was a musician whose early career was in the radio era: twenty years with the N.B.C. Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini. As a boy I was privileged to attend many of the symphony’s rehearsals. I recall one time hearing the maestro remark on a piece by Bach. “Hundreds of times I perform this score, and every time Johann teaches me something new.

I’ve argued in my books that dramatic narrative structure, first described 2500 years ago by Aristotle in his ragged little pamphlet called ‘Poetics,’ cites the three basic components that constitute narrative: beginning, middle, and end. These parts are not, however, equal to one another. The beginning is short; the end even shorter. The biggest part by far is the middle.

Is that not the model of an idealized, romanticized human life consisting of childhood, adulthood, and then a quick demise?

It’s natural to consider movies to be a voyeuristic experience in which audiences, seated in the dark, peer through the window of the screen into the lives of strangers.

Over the years, however, my view has evolved. I’ve come to consider the movie screen to be not a window but a mirror in which we see reflections not of others but ourselves.

Tony Soprano, for example, is as different from me as it is possible to imagine. Yet in Tony I see a guy who has conflicts from time to time with his kids, with his spouse, with his co-workers. I see him struggling with issues that befuddle not only him but also me. I feel not separate from Tony but connected to him.

Doesn’t everyone from time to time have a dream that seems absolutely real until we waken? The question arises: how do we know that this very moment is not a dream? How do we know we will not soon wake up? If that’s the case, why stop at the red lights? Why be responsible regarding what we eat? Why act morally, decently, and conscionably?

The earliest movie theaters, it seems to me, are the caves at Lascaux and Altamira, where ancient peoples painted on the walls images of antelopes and other prey featuring multiple sets of legs, as if to suggest the creatures are running.

These people’s very survival depended upon slaying such creatures. Success in the hunt was essential to providing themselves and their families with food, clothing, and shelter.

But wouldn’t a hunter, however, confronting a charging antelope, its head down, prongs homing in on his soft underbelly, turn and flee? Wouldn’t that be the normal, natural reaction?

Replicating in a secure environment a facsimile of the hunt, the huntsmen could experience their fear in a safe place. They could rehearse their terror. They could train themselves to stand their ground. Having survived the dread they experienced repeatedly in the cave, in collaboration with their brothers they could now bag their prey.

What are the dangers that confront us today? Not antelopes. The greatest dangers we face are: crime, war, disease. Probably our single most dangerous activity in which we engage is riding in an automobile. When a friend of mine recently expressed to me his worries about an upcoming surgical procedure, I pointed out to him that the most dangerous aspect of the operation was the ride to the hospital.

Is not the most perilous aspect of air travel the taxi to the airport?

What subjects do movies treat? Crime, disease, war. It is significant that so many movies contain spectacular car wrecks. YouTube has thousands upon thousands of real-life (and death) car crashes available for viewing on demand, many of which–the goriest–have been viewed millions upon millions of times.

The movie theater is a safe place to experience without risk those perilous – indeed lethal – aspects of our nature, so that eventually we’ll become inured to the emotions and be able to carry on in life when they occur not for reel but for real.

When I’m defending movie violence in the media, pundits complain that video games, movies, and TV render us numb us, desensitize us to violence in the real world.

Isn’t that its purpose?

We watch the best movies over and over again, even though after the first viewing we know their beginning, middle, and end. We need to experience and re-experience the emotions they provoke. We need to rehearse, to prepare ourselves for the inevitable tragedies that are a central and unavoidable aspect of the human condition.

Our lives depend upon it.

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