35 Screenwriting Quotes from the Masters

by ScreenCraft - updated on June 27, 2016

From Brooks to Beaufoy, here are 35 quotes about screenwriting from exemplary Hollywood screenwriters:

“Audiences are harder to please if you’re just giving them effects, but they’re easy to please if it’s a good story.” — Steven Spielberg


“To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script, and the script.” — Alfred Hitchcock


“Film’s thought of as a director’s medium because the director creates the end product that appears on the screen. It’s that stupid auteur theory again, that the director is the author of the film. But what does the director shoot—the telephone book? Writers became much more important when sound came in, but they’ve had to put up a valiant fight to get the credit they deserve.” — Billy Wilder (excerpt from James Linville's interview with Wilder in The Paris Review)


“Everything starts with writing. And then to support your vision, your ideas, your philosophy, your jokes, whatever, you’ve gotta perform them and/or direct them, or sometimes just produce them.” — Mel Brooks


“Scripts are what matter. If you get the foundations right and then you get the right ingredients on top, you stand a shot… but if you get those foundations wrong, then you absolutely don’t stand a shot. It’s very rare–almost never–that a good film gets made from a bad screenplay.” — Tim Bevan


“[Making movies is] 80% script and 20% getting great actors. There’s nothing else to it.” — William Wyler


“I don't think screenwriting is therapeutic. It's actually really, really hard for me. It's not an enjoyable process.” — Charlie Kaufman


“If the script’s good, everything you need is in there. I just try and feel it, and do it honestly.” — Olivia Coleman


“What has always been at the heart of film making was the value of a script. It was really the writer who could make or break a film.” — Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.


“For any role, I pretty much always go to the script, first and foremost.” — Jessica Raine


“The script is what you’ve dreamed up–this is what it should be. The film is what you end up with.” — George Lucas


“There is no point in having sharp images when you’ve fuzzy ideas.” — Jean-Luc Godard


“Screenwriting is like ironing. You move forward a little bit and go back and smooth things out.” — Paul Thomas Anderson


“It’s possible for me to make a bad movie out of a good script, but I can’t make a good movie from a bad script.” — George Clooney


“If you put someone in a room with no script to direct, they’re just going to sit there. Writing scripts is the execution for a show. Then the director takes that and hires people. It’s like trying to build a house without any bricks. You need a great script.” — John Patrick Shanley


“You can dress it up, but it comes down to the fact that a movie is only as good as its script.” — Curtis Hanson


“Ensure that your script is watertight. If it’s not on the page, it will never magically appear on the screen.” — Richard E. Grant


“Give me a good script, and I’ll be a hundred times better as a director.” — George Cukor


“The key is – don’t monkey around with the script. Then everything usually goes pretty well.” — Steven Soderbergh


“You can’t fix a bad script after you start shooting. The problems on the page only get bigger as they move to the big screen.” — Howard Hawks


“I see screenwriting as a bit like a math equation which I have to solve.” — Asghar Farhadi


“Big budget movies can have big budget perks, and small budget movies have no perks, but what the driving force is, of course, is the script.” — Morgan Freeman


“There’s nothing more important in making movies than the screenplay.” — Richard Attenborough


“I’m first and foremost interested in the story, the characters.” — David Lean


“The script, I always believe, is the foundation of everything.” — Ewan McGregor


“I have always credited the writer of the original material above the title: Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or John Grisham’s The Rainmaker. I felt that I didn’t have the right to Francis Coppola’s anything unless I had written the story and the screenplay.” — Francis Ford Coppola


“I feel I do my best work when it’s all there on the page, and I feel that the character is very vivid as I read the script and I’m not having to create stuff and trying to cobble together something. If I have to do that, then I don’t entirely trust what I’m doing.” — Guy Pearce


“There’s no question that a great script is absolutely essential, maybe the essential thing for a movie to succeed.” — Sydney Pollack


“There are three things that are important for a film. Number one is story, number two is story, number three is story. Good actors can save a bad script and make it bearable, but good actors can’t make a bad script good – they can just make it bearable.” — Mark Strickson


“It’s always the story that interests me.” — Vincente Minnelli


“If you have someone on set for the hair, why would you not have someone for the words?” — Louis Malle


“The challenge of screenwriting is to say much in little and then take half of that little out and still preserve an effect of leisure and natural movement.” — Raymond Chandler


“Once you crack the script, everything else follows.” — Ridley Scott


“I'm very lucky. I actually like screenwriting. I rarely feel a sense of doom going to my desk.” — Simon Beaufoy


“Screenwriting is the most prized of all the cinematic arts. Actually, it isn’t, but it should be.” — Hugh Laurie


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