The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting

Front Cover
University of Texas Press, 2016 M03 1 - 219 pages

Veteran script consultant Jill Chamberlain discovered in her work that an astounding 99 percent of first-time screenwriters don’t know how to tell a story. These writers may know how to format a script, write snappy dialogue, and set a scene. They may have interesting characters and perhaps some clever plot devices. But, invariably, while they may have the kernel of a good idea for a screenplay, they fail to tell a story. What the 99 percent do instead is present a situation. In order to explain the difference, Chamberlain created the Nutshell Technique, a method whereby writers identify eight dynamic, interconnected elements that are required to successfully tell a story.

Now, for the first time, Chamberlain presents her unique method in book form with The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting. Using easy-to-follow diagrams (“nutshells”), she thoroughly explains how the Nutshell Technique can make or break a film script. Chamberlain takes readers step-by-step through thirty classic and contemporary movies, showing how such dissimilar screenplays as Casablanca, Chinatown, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Silver Linings Playbook, and Argo all have the same system working behind the scenes, and she teaches readers exactly how to apply these principles to their own screenwriting. Learn the Nutshell Technique, and you’ll discover how to turn a mere situation into a truly compelling screenplay story.


What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

After decades of secretly wanting to write a screenplay, I decided to mustard up the courage and do it. I bought this book to see if it could help me find a structure and to better understand the best practice and challenges of writing a screenplay. To my surprise, this book exceeded all of my expectations. Not only does the author do a fabulous job in explaining her Nutshell Technique in writing a screenplay but puts her money where her mouth is by using her technique in evaluating about 30 modern screenplays that have been adapted to film. This help me create a solid outline to my screenplay, which will make the writing of it so much more fluid. The hands on practical approach was invaluable and I strongly believe that it was one of the best investments that I have made. This book is a keeper for future reference. I highly recommend this book from the novice to the the experience screen writer.
Raymond Rosario

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

This book was incredibly insightful. Giving easy to follow instructions and really broke the concept of writing a full-length feature into manageable parts. By far the most informative book on screenplay writing I have come across.


The Problem 3
The Solution
Part twO The Nutshell Technique Process
How to Use This Section
Part 1
Point of No Return
Part 2
Climactic Choice
Final Step
Nonlinear Screenplays
Using a Secret Protagonist


Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2016)

Jill Chamberlain is a sought-after script doctor, story consultant, and screenwriting coach who founded The Screenplay Workshop ( She has taught the Nutshell Technique to more than a thousand screenwriters around the globe, and many of her students have achieved success in Hollywood, having their screenplays optioned, sold, and made into award-winning feature films.

Bibliographic information