In today’s world, screenwriters everywhere craft their version of Citizen Kane using fancy software like Final Draft that allows them to master the complicated format of screenplays (it’s even available for your iPad…), but there was a time when screenplays were typed on typewriters – and sometimes even written by hand.
We’re not sure why handwritten screenplay drafts of classic films fill us with such a sense of wonder and awe – but if we had to guess it’s because the (hand) writing on a notebook page looks and feels so distinctive. Screenplays all use the same font and follow the same format and style conventions. One printed script is practically indistinguishable from another. If you placed a copy of the screenplay for Bucky Larson next to one for Casablanca and took out the character names, most people couldn’t tell which was which. This isn’t the case with a screenplay scrawled on a legal pad. Those have character.
The Writers’ Guild Foundation Archive has an extensive collection of handwritten screenplay drafts – many with copious cross outs and revision notes – including the original draft of The Empire Strikes Back penned by Lawrence Kasdan. Thanks to the magic of the Interweb, you can now peruse those pages from the comfort of your local Starbucks, where you’re sitting and procrastinating instead of writing your own script.
/Film has some cool excerpts from Empire, including a page that has Luke and Yoda chatting on Dagobah (with a note that says to “figure out a speech pattern for Yoda”) and the famous bickering between Han and Leia. The best part of the Kasdan stuff is seeing his handwritten work and then typed-up pages with notes on them. Screenwriting is all about drafts and revisions – and the notes give us a fascinating glimpse into the creative process.
The exhibit isn’t just for Star Wars, though. If you swing by the WGA site [via Cinephilia & Beyond] you’ll see the barely legible scrawlings of Eric Roth that led to Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The exhibit also features some of the three-by-five index cards and handwritten pages from Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell’s City Slickers. If you love movies and screenwriting, this is a must-see exhibit.
For those interested in more, the Writers Guild Foundation says most of these materials are available to the public by request at the Writers Guild Foundation Archive. So start requesting!