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“I never took advertising seriously enough to worry about whether or not there was any sort of moral ambiguity about—I mean [Fight Club] probably more accurately depicts my take on advertising and what it provides for society than any of the advertising that I did. But, you know, you work where you can. I would have much rather started off making movies but nobody was that interested in hiring me to make movies early on so I did music videos and commercials as a way to just, you know, play with the tools.”
Two-time Oscar-nominated director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network)
Fight Club Blu-ray director’s commentary 

At 18-years-old Fincher began working for Korty Films in Mill Valley, California before going on to work for ILM in San Francisco. Next Fincher began directing commercials and music videos, and eventually feature films. “Work where you can.” Here’s an anti-smoking commercial directed by Fincher in 1984 when he was 21 or 22 years—starting at an early age being provocative with interesting visuals.

P.S. Fincher’s short time at Korty Films can’t be overlooked in setting the tone for his career. John Korty won an Emmy for his 1974 TV movie The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman which film critic Pauline Kael called “…possibly the finest movie ever made for American television.” An article by Paul Liberatore called Korty the “undisputed father of filmmaking in Northern California.”  He’s said to have inspired George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola to join him in creating “Hollywood North.” Korty also won an Oscar for his documentary Who Are the Debolts? [And Where Did They Get 19 Kids?]

And even his story has Midwest roots in that Korty was born Lafayette, Indiana and inspired to make films in 11th grade in Kirkwood, Missouri after a art teacher showed the class films by Norman McLaren.

“I had interests in music and art and writing and everything, and they were all separate things in my mind. When I saw McLaren’s films, I thought, ‘Wait a minute. Film is the one thing you can do that combines all these different elements.’ From that moment on, I was hooked on the idea of becoming a filmmaker.”—John Korty

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‘Fight Club’—The First Punch

Scott W. Smith

“The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.”
Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt)

I’m breaking the first two rules of Fight Club today by talking about Fight Club. But it’s okay because it’s really Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk talking about where he got the original idea for his novel Fight Club. (I had never read or heard this account until a few days ago when I watched the movie version and listened to the commentary by Palahniuk and Fight Club screenwriter Jim Uhls.)

“I had gone on a vacation hiking and camping. I’d gotten into a really big fight with some people over noise at night in the woods. Some people who just had to camp right next to our camp—just had to bring some huge radio some 3,000 feet up the Pacific Crest Trail and have some big blow out party in the middle of the night. And I came back to work at the end of my vacation with my face just bashed—like Jack in the urinal next to his boss. My face was so awful, so trashed that nobody would acknowledge it, because to acknowledge it somehow they would have to find out something about my private life they just didn’t want to know. So for three months as my face slowly changed color and started coming back to white people would look at my chest, and they would talk to my Adam’s apple, and they would say, ‘So, how was your weekend? Did you do anything interesting?’ And I’d be looking at them with two huge black eyes and say, ‘No. How about you/’It just seemed so ludicrous that I thought if you looked bad enough no one would ever dare ask you what you did with your free time, and that was the genesis of Fight Club.”
Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk

The irony, of course, is people often go hiking and camping to disconnect from their everyday worlds and reconnect with nature and have a peaceful experience—unplugged from the everyday noise. Yet if Palahniuk has a peaceful hiking and camping experience he doesn’t end up getting in a fight and perhaps Fight Club never gets written.

P.S. A few days ago Jeff Goldsmith  (@yogoldsmith) tweeted this; “So @chuckpalahniuk told me he’s working with David Fincher & @trent_reznor to do a rock opera – an enhanced version of the film!”

P.P.S. Fight Club screenwriter Jim Uhls taught a class on CreativeLive called The Screenwriters Toolkit that is currently on sale for $41. I haven’t watched the class, but in general I love what the CreativeLive team produces. And since people often complain about the lack of teaching material by working screenwriters of well done produced films this would seem a good opportunity to fill that void.

Scott W. Smith

“Digital equipment that allows you to shoot a film and edit it on your own computer to professional standard is the biggest innovation since the beginning of the history of cinema. The medium becomes accessible to people who cannot raise the funds usually associated with making a film….I’m more enthusiastic about films from the third world, which is the large part of the planet where they’re only just starting to have access to the technology. A lot of this is not cinema in the sense of a feature film of 95 minutes. In Africa, for example, where there are limited resources, soap operas that are entirely specific to the area and language where they’re filmed are made on very basic video cameras, and then distributed through a completely alternative network as cinema. There’s an immediacy and a really wonderful use of economy in these films. And they’re very good stories, human stories with the specifics of the area they’re set in. These are really vibrant forms of film-making.”
Oscar-nominated writer/director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas)
2009 interview with Daniel Trilling 

P.S. I don’t know much about Nollywood (cinema of Nigeria) except that it’s been called the third largest producer of feature films—between 500 and 1,000 a year. In the documentary This is Nollywood you learn many of those films are shot in 7-10 days for under $15,000. and has become a $250 million a year business. (Sure a lot less than Jurassic World made alone last month, but still interesting to learn of the filmmaking heartbeat from unlikely places.)

Scott W. Smith

“I’m not a person who runs to something. I’m not running to quality. I’m running from failure. And I know you would think having done this the way I’ve done it and having worked on the things I’ve worked on, that worked the way a lot of them worked, that at a certain point I would go, ‘At this point, having done this 20 plus years, I kind of know what I’m doing.’ I don’t feel like that at all. I feel like I know less now about how to do it than I did when I started. What I know is I think I have a better idea of what doesn’t work…I just am much better at identifying flaws.”
Seven-time Emmy nominated producer/writer Alec Berg (Seinfeld, Silicon Valley)
Scriptnotes interview with Craig Mazin

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Scott W. Smith

“Most of the screenplays I’ve written have not been made. And the ones that haven’t been made I’ve worked very, very hard on, believed in and loved, and thought they were good, but they haven’t been made. Or you know I’ve handed them in and then somebody years later has made it with a different script and said, ‘Oh yeah, we just left yours.’ So I’ve often left completely on the scrapheap without anyone even telling me. So I don’t get very well treated as a writer either. So that’s comforting isn’t it really?”
Two-time Oscar-winning actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson
BAFTA Guru Screenwriters’ Lecture Series

“And in the same way as you might begin a script and you can write five scenes in and then suddenly discover that actually you need to drop the first four scenes because they’re not, that’s happened to me a lot. That’s what I mean about just write, because you can dive in later, but you’ve got to create the shape, you’ve got to have the stuff, you’ve just got to have the stuff there to work with because that’s what it is. It’s your material, you’ve got to create you material first, do the knitting, spin the wool. It’s spinning the wool. It doesn’t matter whether it’s bad because you can make it better later, but if you’ve got nothing to work on then it’s neither bad nor good, it’s just nothing. So just write, it doesn’t matter what you write. It does not matter, just sit at that desk and write. And then the next day you may come down and think, ‘Oh, that sentence is quite good actually, the rest of it isn’t, but that’s okay, I got that sentence. I can work with that.’ That’s the rule, just drawing the chair up to the writing desk and writing, that’s all, and it’s the only thing that works for me.”
Emma Thompson
Transcript of 2014 BAFTA and BFI Screenwriters’ Lecture 

Related Links:
Perseverance & Persistence (Tip #99)
“I can’t keep handling this…rejection” Advice from a now Oscar-winning screenwriter.
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Scott W. Smith

“[Jim Sheridan] said—we were talking about screenplay writing— and he said the ending should be like a magnet. When you stop and think about that in your head immediately you get this piling of iron filings over here—which are the scenes and the characters, and the words which lift up—and as you get close to the magnet they get more and more magnetized and they start going fast and faster, and faster and faster, until the end when they’re all just phumph. And that’s the feeling you get when you see a really great film at the end. It’s all those iron filings have just gone whoosh, and you go out filled up with this incredible energy. It’s like the energy of electricity I think. And a great film needs to be that. (Pointing) So that’s your iron filings, and then the magnet’s your ending. And the relationship between those two things seemed to be a very helpful tip.”
Two-time Oscar-winning actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson
BAFTA Guru Screenwriters’ Lecture Series

P.S. Producer, director, playwright & screenwriter Jim Sheridan has been nominated for six Oscars including his work on writing In America, In the Name of the Father, and My Left Foot. While acting in In the Name of the Father Emma Thompson picked up that simple writing tip from Sheridan.

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Scott W. Smith

“I was commissioned to write a sketch show in the mid-eighties –’85-‘86—and did so with a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth and it was I suppose kind of a signal, and I suppose the most important thing I ever did because it was such a massive failure. There were all kinds of reasons for its failure, because like any sketches some of it’s good, some of it’s bad…I remember getting reviews like it’s very man-hating, and I thought well, I love men, I’m just writing about what it’s like here for me. That’s all I’m doing. So it was a very violent experience and what is interesting and important is after that I didn’t write sketch comedy anymore. I never wrote another monologue. I never wrote another sketch, and I think that’s quite tragic actually. Because I really wanted to be Lily Tomlin, I wanted to be Jane Wagner and write another version of The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe which was more or less what I was trying to do I suppose. It was a terrible experience and I tell the story with great purpose because I think if you can’t fail like that, you can’t do this job.”
Two-time Oscar-winning actress & screenwriter Emma Thompson (Howard’s End, Sense and Sensibility)
BAFTA Guru Screenwriters’ Lecture Series

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Facing the Possibility of Failure
Tennessee Williams on ‘Apparent Failure’
Who to Blame for Your Failures
‘Failure is an option.’
Commitment in the Face of Failure
Failing—Learning—Succeeding
Hollywood Failure—Robert Altman
Susannah Grant on Failure
Aaron Sorkin on Failure
Spectacular Failures

Scott W. Smith

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