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Archive for September, 2021

Note: My goal at the beginning of the summer was to launch a podcast that has yet to happen. In fact, 2021 has proven to be the most difficult for me in just keeping up with writing blog posts. So for this post on talent, I’ve decided to reach back into past posts to grab some quotes to carve out a post today. I may do more of that in the coming days, weeks, and months. It’s been unusually hard to focus this month on writing because of various circumstances. At the moment, my brother in law is on week two of being in the hospital with COVID and the next day or two will be the most crucial. Who would have guessed in January 2020, the severe changes that were about to impact the world?

“I’ve never viewed myself as particularly talented. I’ve viewed myself as…slightly  above average in talent…Where I excel is with (a) ridiculous, sickening work ethic. While the other guy’s sleeping, I’m working. While the other guy’s eating, I’m working.”
Two time Oscar-nominated actor Will Smith (and 4-time Grammy winner)
60 Minutes Interview

“I am not sure what talent is. I have seen moments, and performances, of genius in folks I had dismissed as hacks. I’ve watched students of my own and of others persevere year after year when everyone but themselves knew their efforts were a pitiful waste, and have seen these people blossom into superb actors. And, time and again, I saw the Star of the Class, the Observed of all Observers, move into the greater world and lack the capacity to continue. I don’t know what talent is, and frankly I don’t care.

A common sign in a boxing gym: BOXERS ARE ORDINARY MEN WITH EXTRAORDINARY DETERMINATION. I would rather be able to consider myself in that way than to consider myself one of the ‘talented’; and—if I may—I think you would, too.”
Playwright and screenwriter David Mamet
True and False

“I graduated from Oberlin College in fifty-two, did the Army for two years, then went to graduate school at Columbia University for two years. It was then the summer of 1956. I was twenty-four, and I’d always wanted to be a writer. I’d shown no signs of talent. I got the worst grades in class.”
—William Goldman
Shoptalk by Dennis Brown
(Aaron Sorkin called Goldman “the dean of American screenwriting”)

I don’t particularly like [the writing process], but I don’t dislike it either. I can tell you that I’ve come to a somber acceptance that…my tastes as a consumer of movies and TV exceeds my talents, so all I can do is try my best to close that gap and to get as best a version of what it is in my head on the page.”
Screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
Basic Brainheart podcast interview with Hannah Camacho

“Mastery is in the reaching, not the arriving. It’s in constantly wanting to close that gap between where you are and where you want to be. Mastery is about sacrificing for your craft and not for the sake of crafting your career.”
Sarah Lewis 

“Every time I have set out to translate the book (or story, or hopelessly long essay) that exists in such brilliant detail on the big screen of my limbic system onto a piece of paper (which, let’s face it, was once a towering tree crowned with leaves and a home to birds), I grieve for my own lack of talent and intelligence. Every. Single. Time. Were I smarter, more gifted, I could pin down a closer facsimile of the wonders I see. I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.”
International best-selling author Ann PatchettThe Getaway Car (in the collection of essays book This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage)

”I’m a fast typer but I’m slow at ideas. Most of my scripts have taken probably about seven years between writing and getting made.”
—Oscar winning screenwriter Taika Waititi (JoJo Rabbit)

“If you’re looking for an excuse, you’ll find one.”
Actor/Director Denzel Washington 
60 Minutes interview December 18, 2016

“For me, it was a matter of years of trying to develop my writing in the same way that some people spend years learning to play the violin.”
Writer/director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption)

“You know, when you first start writing you’re going to suck. And so it’s good to keep it to yourself, until maybe you don’t suck as much.”
David Sedaris

“It took years of struggle. Years of not having anything happen, not even getting meetings, not knowing what I was really doing…Things have turned a corner.  I was really a starving artist for lot of years.  I moved to LA nine years ago, and the first five were really difficult.”
Oscar-nominated screenwriter Luke Davies (Lion)
Combined from PopEntertainment interview & Spook Magazine article

“No one was interested in my stuff at all. What actually got me going as far as a writing career was concerned—I’d never had any success ever and finally I met a really good buddy of mine, his name is Scotty Spiegel —he wrote Evil Dead 2. He’d just sold a big script. It was a big deal. He was involved in low budget horror films and stuff, so all his friends started calling up say, hey, would you do a re-write on my stuff? And he was like, well I can’t, I’m busy. But I have a friend of mine named Quentin maybe you should give him a call.
Writer/director Quentin Tarantino
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith

“There are two rules that I always adhere to. And that is to work hard and be brave. And I think the essence of hard work is one that’s pretty straightforward. You’ll never be the best looking, you’ll never be the tallest, the most talented, most capable, you’ll never have the most money—there will always be someone better at whatever you’re doing than you are. But you can always be the hardest working person in the room.”
Filmmaker Casey Neistat

“I think the most important thing you have to know is that it’s a very, very hard business, full of rejection and setbacks. If you don’t want to succeed really badly, you won’t. But, of course, if you get a movie made and it works, there’s nothing like it. Nothing.”
—Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally/Julie & Julia)
Tales from the Script
page 269

I’ll add more to this list as I find them—but this is a pretty good start.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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