Steve Cuden, a local talent whose work has shone on the brightest stages, has published a new book, “Beating Hollywood: Tips for Creating Unforgettable Screenplays — 40 Classic Movies Analyzed.” The 459-page monograph has value for diverse readers.
“Anybody who’s interested in writing screenplays will find great value [with] what’s in the book,” he said.
With 150 extensive “tips,” including those on writing, method and mechanics, “Beating Hollywood” offers insights and advice from a seasoned master.
“For up-and-coming writers, as well as professionals looking for reference, [it’s] a great value for anyone looking how to structure their stories,” said Cuden, who is a veteran screenwriter with more than 90 teleplays on his resume. He has written for shows including “The Batman,” “X-Men,” “Iron Man,” “Xiaolin Showdown,” “The Pink Panther” and “The Mask.” Since 2011, Cuden has served as assistant professor of screenwriting at Point Park University.
Much of “Beating Hollywood” reflects Cuden’s scholarly guidance. With its 150 tips, the first half of the book is a “virtual compendium of everything I teach,” he said. The second half allows Cuden to showcase his expertise by analyzing 40 popular movies. “[It’s for] writers who need a source of structural reference.”
Included among Cuden’s 40 deconstructed films are “Chinatown” (1974), “Blazing Saddles” (1974) and “Die Hard” (1988).
Those familiar with Cuden know this book is not the author’s first rodeo. In 2013, he published “Beating Broadway: How to Create Stories for Musicals That Get Standing Ovations.”
Long before Cuden began dissecting films and plays professionally, he did so as a fan.
“For a long time I didn’t understand how movies were structured. I would stop and start them and write down everything that happened in the story,” he said. “By doing that, I was able to see how they were constructed.”
Years later, after attending UCLA for a master’s in screenwriting, Cuden learned about “plot points” and other technical aspects of screenwriting. He then combined that with his own analyses and developed the “Beating Broadway” and “Beating Hollywood” books.
These days, Cuden says that like most busy professionals he finds it hard to keep up with all of the great options available for viewing. “I think we’re in a golden age of television,” he said.
“Shows such as ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘Veep’ and ‘Downton Abbey’ — this is some of the best writing we have going on right now.”
Cuden is quick to admit that despite his critical eye, he ingests films and shows like most consumers.
“When I watch a movie I’m like anybody else — I just watch the movie,” he said. “If I’m interested, I’ll watch it a second time.”
However, if the movie is “not well produced or the writing or acting is bad” Cuden said he will try to determine “how the scenes break down.”
“Watching a movie with me is fine, unless you’re in my classroom,” he said.
There, Cuden talks over scenes, leaves the lights on and admits that he “ruins” the movies for his students.
For those unable to attend Cuden’s class, “Breaking Hollywood” provides professorial insight into the screenwriting craft.
“The book focuses on structure so that screenwriters can find a way to take their story and communicate it in a way that producers want to produce it and audiences will want to enjoy it,” he said.
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.