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“Write it dramatically, write it cinematically, make it intriguing. Make it emotional. Move me.”
WME story editor Christopher Lockhart
‘Move Me’ 

“One of the storyteller’s main responsibilities is to resonate in the audience’s psyche a certain something at the end of it all, to emotionally move the audience.”
Oscar-nominated director Arthur Hiller (Love Story)
‘Emotionally Move the Audience’

Did you know there is an interesting connection between Game of Thrones director David Nutter and Pro Football Hall-of-Fame quarterback Jim Kelly? Back in the early 80s both were students at the University of Miami. (I was there and for a fleeting moment crossed paths with both of them on their way to greatness.)

Kelly went on to become the only quarterback in history to led an NFL team to four consecutive Super Bowls. Nutter on the other hand made his first feature in 1985  (Cease Fire) with an up and coming actor named Don Johnson. Then he directed an episode of 21 Jump Street with another up and coming actor named Johnny Depp. Then episodes of ER with yet another up and comer named George Clooney.

Nutter’s career has continued to rise directing 19 pilot TV programs that DGA magazine said has resulted in an unprescedented 17 that have been picked up for series, and “He’s had a pilot earn a primetime slot 16 of the last 18 years, and in 2003 accomplished the rare feat of going two-for-two.”

He’s directed episodes of The Sopranos, The West Wing, The X-Files, Homeland, The Pacific—as well as the red wedding episode of Game of Thrones. Nutter earned a front row seat—sitting in a director’s chair— to what’s been called the golden age of television. So what attracts him to a TV script?

“I have an overall deal with Warner Bros. Television and my guiding light there is Peter Roth who’s the president and he’s someone that understands that whenever I do read material it has to move me. I have to be touched by it—it has to have heart. It has to have something that affect me in some respects.

In the last several years a lot of the pilot I’ve done have been pilots that actually have a certain ilk to them. What I mean by that is the fact that my father died when I was a year and a half old and I basically grew up without a father and I’ve kind of been drawn by broken families to some respect in the stories that I’ve told.  Supernatural; two brothers looking for their father after their mother had dies.  The Sarah Connor Chronicles in which the father was gone—it was a single mother situation. I did a series called Jack & Bobby which was a pilot I really enjoyed doing that was on for a short time about a single mother and her two sons.

And also doing stories about characters that actually have no choice to do what they do, but have to—are compelled to do what they do. Simon Baker and The Mentalist; basically a man had killed his wife and daughter and [became] someone who was to become this crime fighter, and somebody that actually  about saving people’s lives. And if you go back to the various pilots I’ve done —Smallville, young Clarke Kent who is someone that is an orphan in some respects and doesn’t know if he’s an alien or a human being or what he’s all about, and what he’s capable of doing, and where he’s going. And to me that was  a great story of telling a story of a young man who’s basically trying to find himself—as all teenagers are trying to find themselves to understand what they’re all about…So to me, story such as that are something that are really important to me.”
Primetime Emmy-winning Director David Nutter (Band of Brothers)
On the Page podcast interview with Pillar Alessandra

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Scott W. Smith

“I love comedies, musicals, and thrillers like everybody else, but I confess to believing action pictures are what movies are most essentially all about. It’s the work they do best and uniquely best. I don’t mean action movies are better; in fact, most of them are actually a lot worse than the norm. But the few that really work are sublime. Films like Colorado Territory (1949), White Heat (1949), Ride the High Country, The Seven Samurai (1954), Scarface (1932), Heat (1995), Dirty Harry (1972),  Attack! (1956), The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), or a hundred others I can name… The real power of movies lies in their connection to our unconscious or semiconscious dream life, and action movies are about heroism and death. Will he live or will he die is the ultimate drama, isn’t it?”
Writer/Director Walter Hill (48 Hours)
Interview by Patrick McGilligan

H/T Cinephilia & Beyond—In fact, they have a link there to Hill’s screenplay for The Driver calling it, “The best screenwriting school you can get.”

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Scott W. Smith

“I personally don’t think that being in LA is necessary to break in as a writer, but it certainly can’t hurt. I would hesitate to advise anyone to just quit their job and throw everything into a U-Haul and drive off to LA on a wing and a prayer. There are too many sad stories that began that way. If you want to be an actor, then you do need to be in LA, because you are the product. You have to go to auditions. You have to do that stuff. But you can write a decent script from anywhere. The difficulty begins once people start to get interested in your script. At that point you are going to have to go LA to go to meetings and for development.”
Screenwriter Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli)
Go Into the Story/Scott Myers Interview

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Scott W. Smith

“I think every writer working in the studio system secretly fantasizes about buying a couple of 7Ds and shooting their own script without any interference. I see people doing it, and man, does it look fun. I love that kids can make their own movies now. I even love that Vine exists. When I was in high school, if you wrote a story or made a little movie, there was really no way to get it in front of people. You could show it to your friends, but that was it. Now, you can make anything available to a vast audience, instantly. I always tell younger writers and filmmakers not to take that for granted.”
Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody
ScriptFest interview with Bob Schultz

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Scott W. Smith

“A warmth radiates through Ricki and the Flash like a song sung true.”
NPR review/Meryl Streep Shines in ‘Ricki And The Flash’

“When I wrote [Ricki and the Flash] I was thinking micro-indie, honestly. I just wrote it on spec and I did not think there would be any interest in it. I still believe the only reason this movie got made was because Meryl Streep attached herself to it.  The fact that this is [my] biggest release in terms of screens—it’s scary.
Screenwriter Diablo Cody
DP/30 Interview

“I do know the appetite for the kind of movie I write has changed. Like Juno came out at a really great time, because it was Little Miss Sunshine—those Searchlight movies were making bank. If Juno came out this year, I don’t think it would be a hit. I feel like it’s harder right now. I feel like what people are looking for now is more of a spectacle…I feel like movies that are getting people out to the theater are movies that require you to be in an immersive experience with a huge screen and 3-D glasses. But Ricki and the Flash is a musical movie, tons of performances—you want to be in it. I think this is a theatrical movie and I hope people get that.”
Diablo Cody
DP/30 Interview

“That’s the weird thing about having an extraordinary success right out of the gate [with Juno], and like winning an Oscar and all that weirdness. Like you know that’s not going to happen again. That was truly a career high. For anybody that would be a career high. And mine happened bizarrely right away. So I never sit around thinking, ‘Oh, that’s going to happen again.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to enjoy this moment, and maybe I’ll go back to Minnesota when this is all over.’ I didn’t know if I was going to keep writing. It was a crazy experience. It’s like a hit of crack. Oh, it’d be great to feel that again. But at the same time you have to say, like, what’s the terrible Facebook cliche— ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.'”
Diablo Cody
DP/ 30 Interview

P.S. So how did Cody get Streep interested in the script?

“I had originally brought this project to [producer] Marc Platt and he happened to be shooting Into the Woods at that exact moment in time. So he was in England with her and he was able to maneuver the script into [Streep’s] hands, which is not an easy thing to do. An A-list star has so many gatekeepers.”
Diablo Cody
The Hollywood Reporter article by Rebecca Ford 

P.P.S. If you’re new to this blog you may not beware that I started this blog in January 2008 just days after seeing Juno and learning that Diablo Cody went to the University of Iowa and wrote the Juno script while living in the suburbs of Minneapolis. At the time I was living in Cedar Falls, Iowa (between Iowa City and the Twin Cities) and decided that I could come at screenwriting and filmmaking from a different perspective. In the post Juno Has Another Baby (Emmy) I wrote about how Cody and Juno helped pave the wave for me to earn a Regional Emmy—in Minneapolis to boot.

Cody’s early success—and flair— made her a polarizing character in Hollywood and beyond. I feel like Cody’s big brother here, but before anyone in any part of the greater screenwriting community has a bad word to say about Cody please check out the Scriptnotes podcast How to Not Be a Jerk (Epidode:209). Or as writer/director Garry Marshall said, “Kindness is free.”


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Screenwriting’s Biggest Flirt “The fact is, when I wrote Juno—and I think this is part of its charm and appeal—I didn’t know how to write a movie.”—Diablo Cody
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Scott W. Smith

The best advice I ever heard about writing came from Paddy Chayefsky — he, of Network and The Hospital. He also wrote Marty. (That’s three Oscars.)

Chayefsky’s advice to writers was simple: Don’t think of it as art, think of it as work.

Because when a writer is stuck and he or she calls in another writer for help, that second writer doesn’t say, “What’s the art problem?”

That second writer says, “What’s not working?” And they get under the hood and fix it together.

That’s most of what you’ll do in your career — work, problem solving. Approach it in that way and then at the end of every day, you’ll at least be able to say, “I did my job today.”

If you’re an artist, it’ll come out as art anyway.

…I take my son to his bus stop every morning at 7:30. I’m at my desk working by 8:00. Somebody feeds me at 1:00 and I’m back at my desk by 1:30, working until 6:00.

I don’t surf the web. I don’t gamble online. I don’t go to the local Starbucks for two hours. I don’t try to seek out old girlfriends on Facebook.

I don’t do anything that requires time. I just work.
Oscar-nominated Screenwriter Billy Ray (Captain Phillips)
2012 Academy Nicholl Fellowship awards via Medium.com

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Scott W. Smith

Ironic Commentary

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 4.01.03 PM

“Any novel has the advantage of being able to describe both external behavior and internal behavior, as well as any exposition that can be ladled on. Screenplays don’t have that luxury at all. It’s watching external behavior… Now that’s violated sometimes because sometimes there’s massive narrations with exposition, and [describing] where we were, and what I’m thinking. [In Fight Club] we used voice-over really for an ironic commentary—as sparingly as possible. It’s not helpful to the audience, it’s just there to be something that’s almost contrary to what’s going on on the screen.”
Fight Club screenwriter Jim Uhls
The Dialogue interview with Mike De Luca

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Nora Ephron, Voice-over & the Mafia (“I just love voice-over. I adore it.”)
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Is Voice-Over Narration Dead? (Robert McKee vs. Billy Wilder)
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Scott W. Smith

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