Multi-produced screenwriter Robert Gosnell brings us his wisdom
from the trenches (err...office) of a working screenwriter.
It's What You Don't Write
If you've attempted to market a screenplay lately, you have no doubt encountered that term. Its meaning is simple. When a Hollywood executive, producer, studio reader or agent fans through the pages of your screenplay, that is what they want to see. White space.
Meaning, nothing. Lots of nothing.
The fewer words required to tell your story, the better. Perhaps, to them, it indicates a writer who is concise, requiring fewer words to express an image. Maybe, it tells them that this writer understands rhythm in the telling of a story. Or, maybe, it's what I've always suspected.
They hate to read.
On the one hand, I get it. These folks are inundated with screenplays, all the time. White space means less to read, and a faster read makes their job easier.
On the other hand, it is their job, isn't it? Are they really going to pass on the next great screenplay, because it doesn't have enough white space?
Did the screenplay for "Gone With The Wind" have a lot of white space? Doubtful. That must have been one hell of a tough read. It's fortunate they didn't know about white space in 1939.
At any rate, every time I hear the term "white space," I think of Robert Riskin. Well, doesn't everyone?
No? Okay, let me explain.
Robert Riskin was a screenwriter, business partner and frequent collaborator with legendary director Frank Capra. In fact, Riskin received five Academy Award nominations for screenplays of Capra directed films, including "It Happened One Night," "Mr. Deeds Goes To Town" and "You Can't Take It With You."
But, their relationship was, at times, rocky. When Life Magazine put Capra on their cover, with the caption, "The Capra Touch," Riskin was insulted, feeling that Frank was taking too much credit for much of what he, Riskin, had done.
As the story goes, it came to a head on the set of "Meet John Doe," when Riskin handed Capra, neatly bound in screenplay form, 120 blank pages.
"Here you go, Frank," Riskin reportedly said, "put your touch on that."
I can only hope Capra was pleased. After all, that's a lot of white space.
"The Blue Collar Screenwriter and The Elements of Screenplay" is currently available at:
Amazon digital and paperback
Amazon digital and paperback
A professional screenwriter for more than thirty years, Robert Gosnell has produced credits in feature films, network television, syndicated television, basic cable and pay cable, and is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West and the Writers Guild of Canada.
Robert began his career writing situation comedy as a staff writer for the ABC series Baby Makes Five. As a freelance writer, he wrote episodes for Too Close for Comfort and the TBS comedies Safe at Home andRocky Road. In cable, he has scripted numerous projects for the Disney Channel, including Just Perfect, a Disney Channel movie featuring Jennie Garth. In 1998, he wrote the Showtime original movie, Escape from Wildcat Canyon, which starred Dennis Weaver and won the national "Parents Choice Award." Robert's feature credits include the Chuck Norris/Louis Gosset Jr. film Firewalker, an uncredited rewrite on the motion picture Number One With A Bullet starring Robert Carradine and Billy Dee Williams, and the sale of his original screenplay Kick And Kick Back to Cannon Films. Robert was also selected as a judge for the 1990 Cable Ace Awards, in the Comedy Special category.
In 1990, Robert left Hollywood for Denver, where he became active in the local independent film community. His screenplay Tiger Street was produced by the Pagoda Group of Denver and premiered on Showtime Extreme in August of 2003. In 1999, Denver’s Inferno Films produced the action film Dragon and the Hawk from his script. In 2001, Robert co-wrote the screenplay for the independent feature Siren for Las Vegas company Stage Left Productions. His feature script Juncture was produced by Front Range Films in March of 2006.
Robert is a principal member of the Denver production company "Conspiracy Films." He is frequently an invited speaker for local writers organizations, served on the faculty of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in 2002, and in 2007 was chosen to participate as a panelist for the Aspen Film Festival Short Screenplay Contest. Robert regularly presents his screenwriting class "The Elements of Screenplay," along with advanced classes and workshops, in the Denver area.
Additionally, he is a frequent contributor to this blog.