Note: On this re-post Saturday I’m going to post one of my favorite screenwriting quotes by one of my favorite teachers of screenwriting—Richard Walter. The original post back in 2011 (which had a different title) was the end of seven days of posts revolving around an interview I did with Walter. (The informative links to the interviews can be found at the end of the post.)
Also, yesterday I mentioned I was going to post some quotes from screenwriter Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3) next week. Black went to UCLA where Walter is now the Chairman of the MFA Program in screenwriting.
If you happen to be in L.A. this summer (June 24—August 2, 2013) and are a UCLA student (or even a non-UCLA student) you can take an advanced screenwriting workshop with Walter at the Westwood campus. No guarantee you’ll become a multi-millionaire screenwriter like Black, but if you have the time and money, it’s a great opportunity to learn.
Here’s the original post called “Don’t bore the audience!”:
“Screenwriting’s one unbreakable rule: Don’t be boring.”
Essentials of Screenwriting
The above quote was how I ended yesterday’s post after seven straight days of posts taken from an interview I did with UCLA’s Richard Walter. And as a perfect segue for today’s post I picked up the book The Paris Review’s Playwrights at Work and stumbled upon this quote under the heading ADVICE TO YOUNG PLAYWRIGHT:
“What shouldn’t you do if you’re a playwright? Don’t bore the audience! I mean, even if you have to resort to totally arbitrary killing onstage, or pointless gunfire, at least it’ll catch their attention and keep them awake. Just keep the thing going anyway you can.”
I’ll always regret not meeting Williams when he visited a small theater in the Orlando area shortly before he died. A few years after he died in 1983 I remember doing an actor’s workshop in LA where I spent six weeks just working on the opening monologue of Tom’s in The Glass Menagerie. (“I have tricks up my sleeves…”) It was in that workshop taught by Arthur Mendoza that I really began to appreciate the power of words. Names like Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg were revealed to me.
And as I mentioned yesterday, the best way not to bore the audience is through conflict. There’s always talk about writing from theme and plot, and having interesting characters in the stories you tell, but somewhere above your writing desk (or taped to your computer) you won’t go wrong if you—Write from Conflict. (Ideally, meaningful conflict.)
“Airplanes that land safely do not make the news. And nobody goes to the theater, or switches on the tube, to view a movie entitled The Village of the Happy Nice People.“
P.S. If you’d like a free copy of Walter’s book Essentials of Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Television Writing shoot me an email at email@example.com and tell me a couple ways I could spin this blog in a new direction that would make it a better blog. (Podcast, videos, interviews. Anybody with info on publishing ebooks or gumroad would be a bonus.) I’ll pick the three most helpful ones and send the book to those three for no charge. Thanks for your help.
Robert McKee vs. Richard Walter