Friday, 31 October 2008

REVIEWS: (as at 31st October 2008)

Just before the new (3rd) edition hits the book stores, I thought I'd trawl and check out some of the reviews. Well, I was surprised and delighted.

To date, of the 17 customer responses:
10 were 5 star reviews
6 were 4 star reviews
1 was a 2 star review [Cheers!].

So I thought I'd reprint them (all of them) - below.

Enjoy! (I know I did).

REVIEWS: 2nd Edition, 2003 (

By Frederic Woodbridge “Fred”
[November 11th, 2007]
5 Stars

"Teach Yourself Screenwriting" is a compendium of all things screenwriting. Really. This book takes two pages to fully explain what other books would use a chapter for, and considering its topic, that's incredible.

The author subscribes to the three-act structure theory of storytelling, one to which I also subscribe. However, later in the book--and this goes to show just how in-depth this book is--the author covers other theories of structure in a chapter titled "Structural Variations", like `The Hero's Journey' approach and multi-plotting.

I think the secret to "Teach Yourself..." is the use of a lavish amount of diagrams, flow-charts, and tables all of which are dense with information. Every few pages, the author invites the reader to apply what they have learned in small boxed-off sections, such as this one in the `Enhancing Emotion' chapter:

"In Four Weddings And A Funeral, examine the way the David character (Charles's deaf and mute brother) is handled--he has a critical role in the final wedding; we first see him only in passing, standing in the background at the first wedding reception. We next encounter him outside the cinema, and only then do we realize just who he is--and we are already one third into the film. Why was this held back for so long? Now watch Road To Perdition and note the recurring use of Michael Jr's illustrated book of The Lone Ranger ".

I don't know if I would be comfortable suggesting this as the only book on screenwriting for a novice (Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting is an incredible resource) but it brilliantly summarizes many if not all of the concepts of screenwriting.

The only negative I can summon up (and I had to struggle for this one) is with the physical book itself: when I read, I like to mark certain important pages with post-it notes. Considering just how dense this book is, that's quite a number of post-it notes. I discovered with some disappointment that post-its pull up the ink when removed.

I would go so far as to say this book must be in every screenwriter's library. MUST.

By Zetazen “Sunrai”
[June 10th, 2007]
5 Stars

This is one of the easiest screenwriting books I have read. I have read various books on screenwriting like Screenwriting for Dummies, The Screenwriter's Bible, Making a Good Script Great, and How to Build a Great Screenplay to name a few.

The author takes the reader through every nook and cranny about writing screenplays. The reader is introduced to technical (screenplay layout, dialogue, and scene headings) parts of screenplays, thinking creatively, flushing out your characters, and lastly how the industry works.
The book also has a good section on screenplay internet resources. Use the book as a handy companion screenwriting guide.

by V. Todosijevic “A reader frin Belgrade” (Belgrade, Serbia)
[January 3rd, 2007]
4 Stars

This is a very good book. Almost everything about screenwriting is covered. And even more, it has a great pool of information sources pertained to screenwriting.

But, despite its title, it is not a good textbook for a beginning screenwriter, perhaps because it is written in an encyclopaedia style. Although I cannot say it is boring, I cannot say it is easy and fun for reading either.

I don't think you should read it as your first book. I would suggest any of those instead: Writing Screenplays That Sell (Michael Hauge), How to Write a Selling Screenplay (Christopher Keane), Writing Your Screenplay (Cynthia Whitcomb), or Writing the Screenplay (Alan Armer) - which I think is the best of all four.

By De Angelis Paolo (Italy)
[September 29th, 2005]
5 Stars

I have had time to read just a few pages, but you immediately feel this book has got "the right stuff".

I recommend it!

By “Shock Therapy Publishing” (USA)
[October 1st, 2004]
4 Stars

I appreciate this book, as a tool for starting out. I am working on my first script, which is based upon my first book. Thanks for the great reviews, and experience from the other writers. This is like a peer group, smash it or trash it session. Good Luck to all of you.

I also purchased the "MOVIE MAGIC SCREENWRITING" software. Next books will be: "The Screenwriter's Bible" and "How NOT to Write a Screenplay"

By Barbara :LeMaster “Bibliophile” (Florida, USA)
[April 29th, 2004]
5 Stars

Ray Frensham's guide to screenwriting encompasses everything one needs to know before sitting down in front of the computer or with a pad of paper and a pencil. He explains how to adapt fictional material for a screenplay or how to give life to an original idea. He also includes exercises such as watching films and critiquing them. The difficult subjects of character development and story structure are thoroughly covered.

You put the book down after reading just a chapter and feel as though you could write a screenplay that day. Frensham also includes suggested reading at the end of each chapter and a plethora of websites (some no longer functional, however) for writers to market their work.

By Sandwich (Victoria, Australia)
[February 9th, 2004]
5 Stars

I spent over an hour browsing and skimming through all the highly accredited, big name screenwriting books. I found that this one, above all, was the most informative. Whilst some of the others were more helpful with generally improving your writing skills and story structure, etc, this one covers the fundamentals and is more ideal for those at a beginner level.

Basically, it covers the same ground as the others but narrows it down to basic, comprehensive to-the-point terms and guidelines. Not to say that it is brief or fast-paced. It is very helpful in the sense that it covers most areas extensively with many added points and examples. I found that next to none of the other books went over the actual screenplay layout and overall structure. There was barely anything about the camera or scene direction. They were more about visual thinking, developing your own style and being competitive in the modern industry. This book explains all of that and also encourages you to explore alternative source material.

I recommend this book to all beginners. It will inspire and motivate you and possibly provide you with the sort of answers you start out with. Start with this one, it is definitely shelf-worthy and good to just pick up and read a particular section if you're unsure about something. The most important thing to do in the end is write! Don't just talk about it, do it!

by NTT (California, USA)
[October 8th, 2003]
5 Stars

I've read other books about screenwriting but I was always somewhat disappointed with them. I realized why after I read "Teach Yourself Screenwriting." It's the only book I've seen on the subject that is really complete and comprehensive. All others have too many shortcomings. What I loved most was the way the book provides a detailed analysis of the structure of a good screenplay, clearly outlining the three act structure, the make up of scenes, the use of inciting incidents and turning points, etc. It gives specific examples of all of these elements from great scripts like "Witness."

The only criticism I have is that it is a little vague about subtext and dialogue. Instead of abstract descripions of these elements I would like to see examples. For example, the author could have given several examples of good dialogue side-by-side with examples of bad dialogue, etc. But overall I found the book to be very well-written and extremely helpful. I utilized it extensively while I was writing my first screenplay which is now going through the Screenwriters' Workshop on Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope site and is getting good reviews. I certainly give credit for this to what I learned from this book.

REVIEWS: 1st Edition, 1996 (

by Big Dave (Boise, Idaho)
[December 3rd, 2001]
5 Stars

I read this before reading Syd Field, Christopher Vogler, and the others. This book is almost intimidating in its detail, but for a self-teaching writer I recommend it above the others because:
1. MORE DETAILED STRUCTURE. Frensham breaks down the structure of a script into smaller, tighter detail than simply having three acts, or three plot points. Once you know the material, cliche cliche, you can play with it, but it's revealing to see how the whole thing hangs together.

2. MORE KINDS OF STRUCTURE. Having broken movie structure down by scene and climaxes, Frensham then proceeds to break it down by sequences. Additional analytical tools give you more ways to think about a movie and therefore more ways to diagnose the illnesses of your own writing.

3. EXERCISES. Frensham explains a concept and then gives you homework. Go watch movies A, B, C and D and identify X, Y and Z about them. Great practice, and once you've done it with the films you know, it becomes very easy to do it with new films.

4. ALL ABOUT WRITING. Frensham wastes very little time on trying to tell you how to second guess the reader, the producer or the market or whining about pet peeves or sharpening his ax for bloodshed. There is some information about marketing, but mostly this book is what it declares itself to be in its title -- a tool for teaching yourself to write.
Bon appetit.

by avdr (San Diego, California, USA)
[August 21st, 2000]
4 Stars

This book covers pretty much everything about screenwriting. it teaches you everything from structure, dialogue, characters, re-writes, but it makes it kind of difficult for the novice screenwriter. the author talks to much and confuses you. also as you read, there are excercises that you do. apperently the author wants you to be working on a screenplay while reading this book. bad idea. finish any book and then start your screenplay so you wont be confused.

by James Henry (Tokyo)
[August 14th, 2000]
5 Stars

There's a deliciously sweet irony here in that this humble (teach yourself series) little gem of a book is, in my opinion, better organized and more comprehensive and inspiring than other big-name books (including those written by screenwriting titans Robert McKee and Syd Field) I've read on scriptwriting. It's an intelligent, no-nonsense, nuts and bolts instruction manual that is sprinkled with humor, insight, and inspirational comments, suggestions, and encouragement. You won't be disappointed.

By Mark J. Janky (Batavia, Illinois, USA)
[July 11th, 2000]
4 Stars

I've been trying to get my hands on any and every screenwriting book I can find. I have the desire and ideas but I want to make sure I'm following the rules, and Mr. Frensham does a very good job explaining them. There are plenty of exercises to keep you busy for a long time before writing one word of screenplay. The underlying theme of the book is: THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS!

This book could easily take the place of one of the intensive week long writing classes being offered these days. The areas covered are Layout, Originating Your Ideas, Developing the Ideas, Creating Characters, Character Growth, Sequences and Scenes, Emotions, Rewrites, Assembling Portfolios, Copyrighting, Agents, Your Writing Career, The Industry, and finally an excellent Appendix of addresses for various screenwriting related topics.

Out of the 22 chapters included, the shortest one at two pages is entitled THE ACTUAL WRITING, and if you read this book you will realize the actual writing of the screenplay is the least amount of work. A very, very, good book and it fits in my pocket.

by williedynamite (PlanetEarth)
[May 6th, 2000]
4 Stars

I found the teach yourself screenwritng book to be extremely useful in my attempts to write a screen play. This is the first book that really breaks down stories into it's smallles fragments sothat you can understand it. Throughout the book the author uses the movie Witness as a model story. What I appreciated about this book is how it explains each and every part of a story. From the initial idea to the resolution. There is also a handy appendix section that provides info on screenwriting books, magazines, workshops, organizations, seminars and web sites. Very useful

By Mark Brown (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
[April 3rd, 2000]
4 Stars

In this book Frensham assumes that every novice writer is out to make millions from Hollywood. Hollywood scripts have become a formula. A formula that is often very effective but none the less a formula. However this is a great book for new writers who need to learn the rules before they start breaking them.

Most importantly Frensham takes us through a step by step writing process from the generation of ideas through to editing the script. This is an important skill for new writers who are reluctant to do any prewriting.

Buy "Teach Yourself Screenwriting" and learn about character motivation, the 3 act structure, sequences and the 8 basic stories. Whether or not you agree with Frensham’s ideas this book will definitely get you thinking.

by A Customer
[March 7th, 2000]
5 Stars

Awesome, awesome book! I've purchased six books on screenwriting and so far this is the best one I've found!

By N.A.Bhatti (Birmingham, UK)
[February 28th, 2000]
2 Stars

I found this book to be cluttered up with rules and what not. It was more like filling out an application form and checking if you're making the requirements rather than a movie with themes and emotions. I found it disheartening and it nearly made me give up screenwriting One to avoid I urge you.

By A. Customer
[July 29th, 1996]
5 Stars

Mr Frensham knows all the tricks and knows all the pitfalls. Read this book and you will have everything you need to know at a fraction of the price. No need to go to expensive script gurus and listen to their high powered sales talk. No need to read all the others on how to do the thing. Read this and then just write, and write well.

The message of this book is that nothing succeeds better than having something to say and the chutzpah to make sure the right people get to see it. It is a simple lesson and sums up about everything anyone else has to say on the subject.

Mr Frensham is also a little crazy and it is worth reading this just to see how a career in scriptwriting can affect one's psyche. Mr Frensham should be given a lecture tour and paid large sums of money because he is the only person who really understands the sheer idiocy of the system and at the same time has no personal axe to grind. He can also be funny

Saturday, 4 October 2008

So THAT'S what Ray Frensham looks like...

In case you haven't clicked on to any of the links (see below), here are a couple of recent pics of me (well, mid-2008). Not a pretty site, are they?