Note: I pulled this quote from my 2009 post, Starting Your Screenplay.
Archive for the ‘Screenwriting Quotes’ Category
“Always and consciously, I try to hook the audience in the first five minutes. I want them right from the start to feel something—BOOM! I want an explosion right at the beginning. I always what that.”
Writer/actor Gene Wilder (Young Frankenstein)
Between the years that playwright Tennessee Williams and screenwriter Diablo Cody graduating from the University of Iowa there was this quirky actor named Gene Wilder who also studied theater and communications and graduated from the Iowa City school on his way to becoming a Hollywood star and playing the iconic character Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).
More about Wilder and his career tomorrow.
“When I first meet with the scriptwriter, I never tell him anything, even if I feel there’s a lot to be done. Instead I ask him the same questions I’ve asked myself: What is the story about? What did you see? What was your intention? Ideally, if we do this well, what do you hope the audience will feel, think, sense? In what mode do you want them to leave the theater?”
Director Sidney Lumet (Network, The Verdict)
P.S. This quote is actually a nice bridge between the worlds of podcasting/radio and filmmaking. One of the things that makes Ira Glass’s work stand out is he is known to sometimes ask over 150 questions to decide if a person or topic is worthy of a radio program on This American Life. That and he’s also said to have a 40% kill rate of shows they start to produce but do materialize in a way that is worthy of the program. The great thing about asking questions is they’re quite inexpensive.
‘Out on a Wire’ Podcast (A good list of sample questions to ask?)
The Major of Central Dramatic Question
Screenwriting Quote #194 (John Jarrell)
Is It a Movie?
What is it about? (An Oscar-winner weighs in on asking questions.)
What’s Changed (Tip #102)
P.S. While Sorkin may have been writing on the fly for The West Wing because he knew the characters and there is the regular TV grind of cranking out work, for his feature film scripts he does have at least one tried and true organizational way to add to his writing process:
“There are index cards everywhere in Aaron Sorkin’s office. Index cards for scenes from films going back to 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War. The writer likes to use those cards, tacked to a large corkboard, to keep track of key elements. Social Network’s pivotal scenes are still up there, with notes that read, ‘Mark and Erica in bar,’ ‘Mark walks back to dormitory’ and ‘Mark begins drinking, blogging, hacking.'”
Inside Aaron Sorkin’s Writing Process by Christy Grosz
The Hollywood Reporter, 1/8/2011
Screenwriting Via Index Cards
“I wrote [Swingers] if I recall in right about two weeks, and I wrote [Chef] just as quickly. I get scared that I’m going to stop writing, and I have a lot of unfinished screenplays that I’ve said, ‘Let me take a day off…” And with [Swingers and Chef] I kept myself [writing] everyday until I got a first draft out. Because there’s not a lot of big plot points in any of them them, it’s all character and situational, so I wanted to make sure I had a first draft done—even if it was terrible. You know, when you re-write it’s a different part of your brain, but when you’re writing you just want to get it out and get through it. It’s a real endurance, wind-sprint all the way through.”
Producer/Writer/Director/Actor Jon Favreau
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith
Screenwriting Quote #195 (Bob Nelson) “You try and write your first really bad draft as quickly as possible.”
Writing ‘Rocky’ “I was young, and I wrote it in a fury…The original [Rocky] draft was only about 89 pages long, and it was rather hastily thrown together.”— Sylvester Stallone
Screenwriting Quote #160 (Justin Zackman) “I wrote [The Bucket List] very quickly, just in a few weeks.”
Baseball, Bergman & Bull Durham “I wrote it quickly (10 weeks), without an outline, and we pretty much shot the first draft.” Ron Shelton on his Oscar-nominated Bull Durham script
‘Who Cares If It’s Garbage?’—Edward Burns
Screenwriting Quote #164 (Dan Fogelman) “I kind of vomit it out when I’m writing… and work on fixing it after.”
“You try and write your first really bad draft as quickly as possible, with some care—not just sloppy, throw it on. But take your time and steadily get through a few pages everyday and when you’re done you’ll have your 100-120 pages—whatever it is—and it’s going to probably be pretty bad. All of my first drafts are awful. Then you have something to mold, then you have something to play with. The re-writing to me is the fun part. I hate writing that first draft. You’ll have this idea you think is great and you’ll start writing it and halfway through you start to doubt yourself. The main thing is to push through, maybe give it a few days before you re-read it and then if you want to keep going just get back in and start re-writing scene by scene.”
Oscar-nominated screenwriter Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith
“When analyzing any film, two specific questions need to be asked of each beat — 1) What is the ultimate purpose of each scene? 2) What does it accomplish structurally?…There are no random beats in a great screenplay.”
Screenwriter John Jarrell (Romeo Must Die)
Tough Love Screenwriting: The Real Deal from a Twenty-Year Pro
A) Alonzo (Denzel Washington) immediately establishes the balance of power between them — veteran/new guy, strong/weak, big dog/little dog, top/bottom. This keeps Hoyt’s character off-balance from the very start.
B) Hoyt’s lackluster drunk-stop tale fails to impress. Why is this seemingly innocent exchange of special note? Because this normal, first day on the job meet-and-greet actually confirms Hoyt’s lack of experience for Alonzo.
Think Big Picture. As we’ll later learn, Alonzo has plotted out the entirety of this training day well in advance. But to make it all work, he needs a young, green cop he can fully manipulate and control.
‘Tough Love Screenwriting’
‘Learn from the very best’
Five Must-Read Screenplays “If for some ridiculous reason you haven’t seen or read Training Day, put this book down RIGHT NOW and go do it.”—Jarrell
Screenwriting with Brilliant Simplicity
‘Little Green Envelopes of Love’