“Read scripts” is something that I’m sure you’ve heard before; it is the screenwriter’s guru mantra given to anyone who aspires to become a screenwriter. It’s been the common cure for amateur writing for many years, and for good reason. Reading screenplays will give you a standard – it’ll paint you a picture of what a screenplay is supposed to look like. Most gurus and teachers suggest that you start by reading some well-written classic films, and you’ll find these in almost any screenwriting book: Tootsie, When Harry Met Sally, The Social Network, The American president, Glengarry Glenn Ross, etc. However, while I am a big proponent of the practice, I also believe that there’s a missing piece to that puzzle.
I don’t think you should just read well-written scripts (you absolutely should), but I also believe that you should add screenplays of movies that you love to that list. If “reading scripts” paints you a picture of a standard, then “reading scripts of movies that you love” will paint you a picture of your personal standard and your own unique voice. If you want a starting point to find the scripts of movies that you enjoyed start with this article on 10 Great Websites to Download Movie Scripts. Reading screenplays of movies that you love (and other people may hate) will still better serve you than to read scripts for movies that you, personally, may not have enjoyed watching, or movies that don’t speak to you but are on the “must-read” lists. I say that if you love that movie, and you love that script – then that’s your voice, and most likely that will be the kind of script that you consider a masterpiece. Just look at Mike Meyers, he has written many comedic movies such as the Austin Powers series, Waynes World, and The Love Guru. While these movies are definitely not every writer's style, they are absolutely Mike Meyers. As long as you are passionate and develop a clear voice then you're already ahead of the game. So, if you think that Austin Powers is a cinematic masterpiece, that’s the script you should be reading! I recommend making a list of ten movies that you absolutely love! Go online and read them, dissect them, and try to figure out why you love them so much.