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Archive for the ‘Screenwriting Quotes’ Category

“I usually work on the script throughout the whole process—I re-wrote whole sections of Ida in prep, during rehearsals and even during the filming. It’s not like there’s a script and then I go and execute it. The script is always growing, evolving in my own peculiar method. It’s not like the usual film made in the U.S. or even in Britain. It’s more like an ongoing process based on a simple structure that then gets complicated, simplified again, complicated again, introduces some characters, takes them out, and slowly distills something in the end that’s very simple.”
Pawel Pawlikowski, director and co-writer of Ida
Interview in Film Comment by Violet Lucca

Related posts:

Ida
Filmmaking in Poland
Writing Quote #50 ( Rebecca Lenkiewicz)

 

Scott W. Smith

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Former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden once said of a standout player, “He may not be in a class by himself, but whatever class he’s in— it doesn’t take long to take roll.” (That’s from memory, but you get the point.)  I thought of that quote I heard decades ago when I read the following quote by Rod Serling.

You have to compromise all the way down the line no matter who you are. Unless, of course—you say I’m an affluent screenwriter and all that—I’m a known screenwriter, but I’m not in the fraternity of the very, very major people. I would say a guy like Ernie Lehman, William Goldman, and a few others are quite a cut above. There’s a marvelous and unique man named Frank Gilroy. He’s the only writer I know who absolutely, pointedly refuses to do any changes that he doesn’t feel are absolutely essential and totally in keeping with his own view and perspective. But not too many writers are that independent and that strong-willed.”
The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling
Rod Serling:The Facts of Life interview with Linda Brevelle

P.S.  I found the link to Brevelle’s interview via nofilmschool and it’s believed to be his last interview before Serling died in 1975 at age 50. Serling’s work was great at giving people a fresh perspective on life. When I read the interview the first thing that jumped out at me was the above quote because it’s a reminder that there’s always a food chain. That’s true not only in the world of screenwriting—but if you play professional sports, become a world-class surgeon, or become the President of a great county. Don’t be discouraged by that, but it should help keep you humble. Simply do the best you can, with the skills you have, wherever you live. Stay in your lane because you can’t run William Goldman, Ernest Lehman, or Rod Serling’s race.

P.P.S. And not to take anything way from 6-time Oscar-winning screenwriter Ernest Lehman (North by Northwest), but time has been very good to Rod Serling’s legacy and I don’t think Serling’s “quite a cut above” comment is true. Despite not attracting a wide audience when it first ran in 1959-1962, in 2013 The Twilight Zone ranked fifth on TV Guide Magazine’s 60 Best Series of All Time. (Following The Sopranos, Seinfeld,  I Love Lucy, and All in the Family. )

Related links:

Rod Serling’s Ohio Epiphany
Rod Serling’s Binghamton Roots
Stories that Will Always Sell (Tip #89)
Spike, Woody, and The Twilight Zone
Screenwriting Quote #111 (Ernest Lehman)
William Goldman Stands Alone

 

Scott W. Smith  

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If I have a gift to the screenwriting world, it’s having a filter to sift through the mountains of material out there and find bite-sized chunks to post in this internet generation we’re living in. I love digging through interviews and finding quotes like the one below that was originally published 14 years ago:

A writer’s greatest fear now is not that he’s going to be no good when he sits down to write. A writer’s greatest fear is that he’s going to be brilliant and that no one will read it, that no one can read it, that no one knows the difference because they read these stupid ‘How to write a screenplay’ books. It’s made people into idiots. In the old days the writer’s greatest fear was always, this time out, it just isn’t going to happen. I just won’t have the stuff. Now the fear is that I’ll have it, but those little jerks from Harvard Business School won’t be able to understand it. Because these MBAs can follow instruc-tions, they read these books and say your script has to have these characters and those turning points. They ask questions like, ‘Who are you rooting for at the end of the first act?’ I was never conscious of my screenplays having any acts. I didn’t know what a character arc was. It’s all bullshit. Tell a story.”
Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Milius (Apocalypse Now)
Interviewed by Erik Bauer, Creative Screenwriting March/April 2000
Best of Creative Screenwriting Interviews

P.S. Yesterday at Starbucks I overheard a conversation that applies to screenwriting well. A person was talking about a friend she had who was taking every real estate class he could to be a good realtor. Nothing wrong with that, right? There’s always a need for people to buy and sell houses even in a down market. But this fellows problem was he wasn’t buying and selling houses for clients—he was taking course after course trying to learning everything about being a realtor. He hadn’t helped one person buy or sell a home. He was addicted to the learning, not the doing. I imagine that hits close to home for many people who’ve studied screenwriting—maybe even started one or two—but never finish one. So don’t get caught too caught up in all the screenwriting  books and blogs—TELL A STORY.

Related Post:
Start Small…But Start Somewhere
Starting Your Screenplay (Tip #6)
The 99% Focus Rule
The Secret to Being a Successful Screenwriter (Seriously)
How to Be a Successful Screenwriter (Tip #41)
Commitment in the Face of Failure

Scott W. Smith

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“I have to love my characters before I can write them – no matter how unlikeable they may appear to be. The first thing I do on any project I write is I put pictures of all the characters on the walls of my office (or wherever I am working.) In this case the film [Saving Mr. Banks] was based on real life events so pictures of Walt, PLT, the Shermans were easy to find. If it’s a fictional character like Ralph I’ll find a picture of someone I imagine he looks like. I will also surround myself with anything else that is useful so… pictures of the Disney lot, as it was, exteriors and interiors of PLT’s house. I want to inhabit the world I am creating from the inside rather than as an onlooker. For me that’s the best way to crawl into the people of the piece and feel like I am there with them. I hope that it can then become an encompassing experience for the reader too. Everything, for me, starts and ends with character; I am definitely not a plot driven writer.”
Screenwriter Kelly Marcel (Terra Nova, Fifty Shades of Grey)
Scriptshadow interview 

Related Posts:
Walt Disney & Shades of Glass
Scriptshadow Secrets

Scott W. Smith

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“I personally get up at four, because I’ve found the hush of silence and darkness very conducive to me writing. The phone’s not ringing, there are no distractions, it’s just me and the whimsical characters moving about. So I start very early. I write until I’m tired and then I stop. And if I’m writing a first draft it’s total immersion, I don’t do anything else and I can work for 12 hours at a stretch, take a break and go back to work because my methodology is ‘Always do the research first, as much as it takes’… No first draft has ever taken me more than three weeks, but then I go back and just work and work forever, and then when I think it’s in a position that’s not entirely embarrassing or will end my career, I’ll give it to whoever my key collaborators are.”
Screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, Hugo, Skyfall)
BAFTA 2011 Interview

Related posts:
Screenwriting Quote #167 (John Logan)
The Breakfast Club for Writers
Sidney Sheldon’s Early Start
Screenwriting Quote #82 (John Logan)
The Secret to Being a Successful Screenwriter (Seriously)

Related Blogs: The 3 a.m. Screenwriter

Scott W. Smith

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“I feel like when you write, you have to have a personal core to a story if you have any hope of it translating to an audience. There are certain emotions you have throughout your life that are palpable, you can feel them; they hurt. Every film I’ve made, I can point to one of those emotions, and for this one (Mud) it was going to be heartbreak. I can create all these plot lines, but they have to service that…By the time you get to the end of [the film], that thematic idea has just seeped into the story. You haven’t attacked it head on; you’ve been able to let your audience absorb it into their bloodstream.”
Writer/Director Jeff Nichols (Mud)
The Script Lab article by Meredith Alloway

Related Posts:
Emotional Transportation Biz (Tip #68)
Theme = What Your Movie is Really About
Michael Arndt on Theme
Writing from Theme
Robert McKee vs. Richard Walter (Opposite views on “personal” stories?)
Emotional Screenwriting (Tip #53)

Scott W. Smith

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I was in Minneapolis Sunday and saw the debut of the documentary  Making Light In Terezin at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. It was produced and directed by Richard Krevolin who wrote the book Screenwriting from the Soul. I’ll write about his film tomorrow, but here’s a quote of his for today:

“All characters are wounded souls, and the stories we tell are merely an acting out of the healing process. They are the closing of open wounds, the scabbing-over process.”
Richard Krevolin
Screenwriting from the Soul

P.S. Making Light In Terezin tells another chapter of Jewish people during World War II. Though it’s about people who use humor and entertainment to help them survive —it’s still a film about wounded souls.

Scott W. Smith

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“Twenty years ago screenwriter Larry Marcus (“The Stuntman”) told me that if you have a great script it may take a week, a year, or even ten years, but if you’ve written something undeniably fantastic, someone will find it. Why? Because there simply aren’t that many great scripts out there. It’s straight-up supply and demand….This is the real key for any aspiring writer — ‘It only takes one buyer’. That’s what my first agent told me, and it’s just as true today. You can hear 1000 ‘No’s’, have a million doors slammed in your face, but just one simple ‘Yes’ validates everything. As a writer, I’ve always found strength and inspiration in that. You don’t have to conquer Hollywood, you just need to find that one buyer out there who gets it.”
Screenwriter John Jarrell (Romeo Must Die)
ScriptShadow Interview

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“Write something unique that showcases your voice. Readers read so much – at times four or five scripts a day. So many of those scripts become one blob in your head – a singular voice. It’s the scripts that really strive to do something unique, whether it works or whether it doesn’t, that stick with you. As long as you’re writing something that is representative of your voice and your experience, I think you can’t go wrong.”
Justin Kremer (Whose script McCarthy in 2012 made The Black List)
Go Into The Story interview with Scott Myers

Related Posts:
Meet Your First Audience (Tip #36)
Finding Your Voice
Four Year Anniversary (features Diablo Cody quote: “Here’s my unsolicited advice to any aspiring screenwriters who might be reading this: Don’t ever agonize about the hordes of other writers who are ostensibly your competition.  No one else is capable of doing what you do.”)

Scott W. Smith

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“I knew that I wanted to make movies but I kinda didn’t know what you do.”
Chris Terrio (Talking about after graduating from college)

Screenwriter Chris Terrio is now Oscar-winning screenwriter Chris Terrio. His script for Argo was not only a winner for him but the movie also took home the Oscar for best film.

His career  path took a few years—heck, even his Argo script which everyone loved took five years to get made. But the path Terrio took is also a familiar one; born in New York City, private Catholic schools, undergraduate work at Harvard, a year graudate study in England, MFA at USC,  Sundance, Oscar-winner. But those impressive credentials gloss over the lean years and the dedication to writing of the now relatively wealthy and well-known 36-year-old screenwriter.

“When you’re not in the [WGA] you’re just grateful for anything that’ll you give you a month of rent or a couple months of rent. My first couple of jobs were New York independent things. And for really smart interesting producers trying to do smart interesting things. But of course there wasn’t a lot of money for an untested writer. So if somebody had read some things you’d written, or a play you’d written, or a script you’d written on spec then sometimes you’d get paid 5,000 bucks, if you’re lucky, on a good day maybe 10,000 bucks. Or just here’s lunch if you’ll let me be the guy to take your screenplay around, and you’re grateful for that. One of the things I’m not sure you’re always prepared for is the  loneliness of it. You really have to get to a mental place where every single day you can be prepared to be alone for long periods of time.
Chris Terrio
December 2012 interview with David Poland on The DP/30 Channel

P.S. For what it’s worth, the Harvard and USC education costs about $400,000. in today’s dollars. The Catholic schools Terrio attended in Staten Island are probably worth another $50,000—100,000. It’s often hard to pay back any college loan, much less when you’re making $5,000 or $10,000 on an occational script sale. (In fact, on the above interview Terrio says he got himself into “crippling, crippling debt which I literally paid off two months ago.”) Nobody’s sugar-coating things here. A friend of my is producing a documentary called Broken, Busted, & Disgusted about the true cost of a college education. On their website they say 2/3 of college graduates have loan debts, averaging $25,000. It’s an important topic that I’ll write more about more in detail later. You can also learn more about the film on their Facebook page.

Related post:

How Much Do Screenwriters Make? (Odds are before the six or seven-figure check arrives, the five-figure check will come.)
How to Be a Successful Screenwriter (Seriously)
How to Become a Successful Screenwriter (Tip #42)
Beatles, Cody, King, and 10,000 Hours

Scott W. Smith

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