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Archive for the ‘Screenwriting Quotes’ Category

“I believe as long as you have a compelling story and talent, you could be on a farm in Iowa and start your screenwriting career. Although I now live and work in New York City, I originally got my start in Orlando, Florida.”
Amanda Caswell
How I Started My Screenwriting Career From Outside LA

Related Posts:

Outsider Paul Haggis & Your Voice I think it’s good for a writer to always be an outsider of some sort.”—Canadian-born screenwriter Paul Haggis
The Outsider Advantage
The World Outside of Hollywood Fine quote by The Graduate screenwriter Buck Henry
One Benefit of Being Outside Hollywood “(In Texas) you’re so removed you get to examine (how films are made) and say, ‘That doesn’t really make sense for us out here. Let’s do what makes sense.’ Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez
Why You Shouldn’t Move to L.A.
Screenwriting Outside L.A. 101 “I think that the Internet is going to effect the most profound change on the entertainment industries combined. And we’re all gonna be tuning into the most popular Internet show in the world, which will be coming from some place in Des Moines.” Steven Spielberg in 1991

Scott W. Smith

 

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“I am not in danger, Skyler—I am the danger.”
Walt (Bryan Cranston) in Breaking Bad

“In the early days, especially writing the [Breaking Bad] pilot, I worried so much that Walt wouldn’t be likeable. It’s funny, I bent over backwards to give the audience reasons to sympathize with him. I was nervous – anxiety-ridden, as I typically am – that what I was saying in that script was interesting enough for the audience. Watching that first episode, I probably overdid that a bit. In hindsight, I’ve learned the audience will go along with a character like Walt so long as he remains interesting and active, and is capable about his business. People like competency. What is it people like about Darth Vader?  Is it that he’s so evil, or that he’s so good at his job? I think it might be the latter. All the fears I had – ‘Boy, no one’s gonna sympathize with this guy’– turned out to be unfounded, which was a very interesting revelation.”
Two-time Emmy winning producer/writer and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan
Rolling Stone article by Rob Tannenbaum

Related bonus quote: “Television is really good at protecting the franchise. It’s good at keeping the Korean War going for 11 seasons, like M*A*S*H. It’s good at keeping Marshal Dillon policing his little town for 20 years. By their very nature TV shows are open-ended. So I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to have a show that takes the protagonist and transforms him into the antagonist?”
Vince Gilligan on creating Breaking Bad
The Dark Art of Breaking Bad by David Segal
2011 New York Times 

Related posts:
Simple Stories/Complex Characters (Tip #95)
David O. Russell on Characters & Theme “I always look for amazing characters who I find are fascinating, charming, flawed, romantic and in trouble.”
Protagonist= Struggle
Movie Flaws, Personality & DNA “Scorsese is often called ‘America’s greatest director’ on the strength of a body of work in which all the characters in his movies are various degrees of wicked and miserable people.”—William Froug
Martin Luther King & Screenwriting (Tip #7) “Strong characters hold our interest in life and on the screen.” —Andrew Horton, Writing the Character-Centered Screenplay

Scott W. Smith

 

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“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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