Billy Wilder’s Tips for Writers

42 Comments
Posted by Greg on March 28, 2012 at 9:59 pm
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It was 10 years yesterday that the world lost Billy Wilder. We will be sharing some of his wisdom from Cameron’s book, Conversations With Wilder from time to time. Let’s start with his Tips for Writers.

  1. The audience is fickle.
  2. Grab ‘em by the throat and never let ‘em go.
  3. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
  4. Know where you’re going.
  5. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
  6. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
  7. A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.
  8. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing.
  9. The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
  10. The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then -
  11. - that’s it. Don’t hang around.
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42 Comments

  • On March 28, 2012 at 10:05 pm Michael Fleming via Facebook said

    Cameron Crowe – Roxstar.

    Reply

  • On March 28, 2012 at 10:11 pm Shawn Michael Severud via Facebook said

    Cameron, my friend painted a pair of shoes for my birthday one year with all of my favorite things on them… and you’ll never guess what movie is front and center.

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/563636_10150912230932846_713962845_12939228_1540680880_n.jpg

    Reply

  • GREAT SHARE Cameron, I have a movie poster ” Some like it hot” w/ Marilyn,Jack, Tony on front in drag. Loved Billy direction.

    Reply

  • On March 29, 2012 at 6:40 am filmmayker said

    thank you, sir

    Reply

  • On March 29, 2012 at 7:30 am Patricia Ingalls Cooke said

    I love this book, Cameron.  I refer to it all the time.  Really, it’s on the shelf right next to my tv and other movie reference books.  Billy Wilder is one my favorite writer/directors, and so are you!  Thank you for writing it.  I imagine it must have been like a dream while you were interviewing.  Mr. Wilder left such a legacy.  He is an amazing example to current and future movie makers.  “I wish my co-directors, and my directors who were before me, and directors who are now very successful, I wish them well and I root for them all.  If you can say that when you’re ninety, you know, you’ve had a good life.”  -Conversations With Wilder, p. 6 

    Reply

  • Nobody is perfect … but nobody is Billy Wilder!

    Reply

  • Nobody is perfect … but nobody is Billy Wilder!

    Reply

  • On March 29, 2012 at 7:36 am Janea Waage via Facebook said

    Cameron, I enjoyed reading these tips from Billy, thanks.

    Reply

  • Nobody is perfect … but nobody is Billy Wilder!

    Reply

  • On March 29, 2012 at 9:21 pm Joseph Brunetta said

    It was very sad to lose him ten years ago. Though I was happy to finally catch a screening of “The Apartment” when it was screened at my local art house a couple weeks or so after he died, having only seen it on home video until then.

    His screenwriting advice is aces–I strive and fail to nail most of those tips. His best films truly live up to what he preached. The endings of “The Apartment” and “Some Like It Hot” are masterful. Most movies of their ilk feel like they should end at a point because the scenes themselves seem to have nowhere else to go. What makes the ending of those films such a high isn’t just the note-perfect moments they end on, with priceless dialogue, but because they are just starting to cook. Baxter’s feelings aren’t reciprocated exactly but they aren’t denied, making him excited for a beautiful New Year to come. “Some Like It Hot” has maybe the most famous and remarkable punchline to any comedy yet it’s the combination of the line and the world behind it–of what the Hell is to come–that makes it the perfect ending. Like a great joke it leaves you laughing in wonder beyond the punchline. If Wilder thought the most remarkable thing you can do as a filmmaker was to have an audience talk about your movie for a good ten minutes or so after it ended he made sure to stun them in the final moment, and instill wonder in the audience thanks what the film leaves untold.

    Reply

  • On March 30, 2012 at 7:47 am Randal Gist said

    I read “Conversations With Wilder ” several years ago and remember scribbling down these treasured tips. I need to print them up and have the list pinned up by my desk. That way Billy and his tips will be there as a constant reminder.  Thanks for the tips!

    Reply

  • Thanks for posting this! A master–I love Billy Wilder.

    Reply

  • On March 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm Veryatheringofice said

    I’ve long tired of seeing “How to Write a Novel” books and “Tips for Writers” checklists, but this list is quite concise and thorough.  Writing’s always been intuitive for me, and I agree with everything on this list.  This is what writers should refer to when asked, “Do you have tips for aspiring writers?”  The only thing I would add is, “Write.  Don’t keep it in your head.”

    Reply

  • On March 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm David Hollingsworth said

    Words of Wisdom from one of Hollywood’s greatest directors of all-time.

    Reply

  • On March 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm Ken K. Chartrand said

    Great advice for screenwriters, but a regular novel writer too would benefit.

    Reply

  • Great post. Thank you. 

    Reply

  • On April 1, 2012 at 1:10 am Austin said

    This is a very cool website! Thank you very much for these tips as I’m sure they will come in handy.

    Reply

  • On April 1, 2012 at 7:18 am shahram asadi said

    thank you Mr. Cameron,and a question,from all the characters that Mr. Wilder has created which one is your favorite?

    Reply

  • On April 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm Joe Lipari ® said

    Very cool.. Thanks ;)

    Reply

  • On April 2, 2012 at 8:25 am Gmendeluk said

    Love the tips. Love Billy. I miss his genius! God bless you Billy
    George

    Reply

  • On April 2, 2012 at 10:32 am Brad Koehn said

    Good tips on a way to live your life too, perhaps.

    Reply

  • On May 3, 2012 at 7:31 am Stephen Paley said

    I want to show you (Cameron C.) the pages of my book with my Audrey Hepburn photos and the comments about her by Billy Wilder. Please get in touch.

    Reply

    • On May 3, 2012 at 7:33 am Greg Mariotti said

      Stephen. That sounds awesome. you share them via the comments section. Cameron is watching and reading your comments.
      Best

      Greg Mariotti
      The Uncool – the official site for everything Cameron Crowe http://www.theuncool.com

      Reply

  • On June 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm Cabbage1979 said

    There’s always someone who is unhappy, and there will always be… Actually Billy Wilder is one of the few filmmakers  who seem to have had humility and could seemingly see when he was wrong, which is a rare quality even more these days… And he made some extremely good movies who are classics…

    Reply

  • On August 2, 2012 at 2:04 am @dwanzi_ said

    Billy Wilder’s Tips for Writers : http://t.co/FBwuFPuP

    Reply

  • On August 22, 2012 at 10:11 pm @reevwrites said

    From Cameron Crowe’s “Conversations w/ Wilder”. Tips for Writers: http://t.co/13ybDGSM #amwriting #author #screenplay #indieauthor

    Reply

  • On October 9, 2012 at 7:11 am @ClemSinOxigeno said

    Billy Wilder’s Tips for Writers – The Uncool – The Official Site for Everything Cameron Crowe http://t.co/0Fztvyy1

    Reply

  • On December 29, 2012 at 11:23 pm @BrantChesser said

    Page 8 – The Uncool – The Official Site for Everything Cameron Crowe http://t.co/2DZ1xOex

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  • On March 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm @lyndseyogle said

    Billy Wilder’s Tips for Writers – The Uncool – The Official Site for Everything Cameron Crowe http://t.co/CKNsWdyvwp

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  • On March 12, 2013 at 1:25 pm @jenhen said

    Billy Wilder’s Tips for Writers – The Uncool – The Official Site for Everything Cameron Crowe http://t.co/Vq4h1yc6Qb

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  • On March 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm @ColetteFreedman said

    Billy Wilder’s Tips for Writers – The Uncool – The Official Site for Everything Cameron Crowe http://t.co/lDfrCKizV6

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  • On March 12, 2013 at 11:10 pm @NotesOnActing said

    Great writing tips from a master. Read, absorb, and learn. http://t.co/tgoqnbnsSz

    Reply

  • On April 27, 2013 at 8:03 am @sebsolberg said

    Billy Wilder’s Tips for Writers: http://t.co/8Bc6AeKLO1 #writing #filmmaking

    Reply

  • On June 11, 2013 at 12:25 pm @YoDannunzio said

    Billy Wilder’s Tips for Writers – The Uncool – The Official Site for Everything Cameron Crowe http://t.co/cxvcOpdZ5O

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