T.J. Barnard of WhatCulture recently shared ten screenwriting lessons any writer can learn from Django Unchained (the script). Django offers a number of positive examples of what to do, but also does a few things wrong, and T.J. expertly identifies those problems:
My experience with Django Unchained didn’t start with the finished movie: I read the screenplay a couple of years before when it got leaked online. At first I tried to resist, but the temptation was too great. Reading it, it struck me as a bit of a mess – in retrospect, “messiness” is a trait that most critical reviews (even the positive ones) picked up on. It also struck me as wildly imaginative, immensely fun to read, and packed to the brim with that great QT dialogue we all know and love.
Earlier this year, Tarantino won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay at the Oscars for this very script. Though I was certainly pleased for him, I can think of other QT screenplays that probably deserved the Oscar more: it’s far from perfect (and that’s something you can pick up by either watching the movie or reading the original screenplay). But the movie is still a great one, and is entirely deserving of the high praise it has received.
Tarantino is generally seen as a bad role-model for aspiring screenwriters because he doesn’t conform to any of the rules that you might glimpse in books by Robert McKee or Syd Field or attending prestigious screenwriting courses. Simply put, writing a Tarantino-esque script isn’t seen as a good way of breaking into the industry. Why, despite all those Oscars? Because the man doesn’t adhere to “standard structure” and writes enough dialogue to fill five or six different screenplays.
Despite all that, though, QT’s films are engrossing as hell, so whatever he’s doing, it’s safe to say it works. In this article, I’m going to wrench some screenwriting lessons (both good and bad in nature) from Django Unchained and see what we can learn. Given the idiosyncratic nature of QT’s script, these tips might prove to be a little more left field than those offered in the previous articles in this series, but will hopefully reveal themselves to be valuable nonetheless.