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“Citizen Kane is the film that made me want to become a filmmaker.” Oscar-winning director William Friedkin (The French Connection) “I think the opening image is usually about theme. And the question you might ask is what comes next? Character? Setting? Tone? Genre? Well, I don’t think that’s the right question to ask because there’s no […]

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Theme: I think that’s what makes for really good [movies].—Screenwriter Sheldon Turner

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Erik Bauer: Do you think a great science fiction film needs to have some kind of a social anchor? I mean, a social relevance, a metaphor, or a statement that it makes? John Carpenter: “It has to have a thematic concern. Every great work has something that’s thematic about it. Not a message, because I don’t […]

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“The obligatory scene, usually the denouement of a story, classically expresses the theme.” Alexander Mackendrick

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“I always look for amazing characters who I find are fascinating, charming, flawed, romantic and in trouble”—Screenwriter David O. Russell (American Hustle)

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Over the weekend I saw Saving Mr. Banks and enjoyed it immensely. And there is a line in the film—that I don’t think is a spoiler—that seems to be what the film was about. “In every movie house, all over the world, in the eyes and the hearts of my kids, and other kids and […]

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Scott Frank on Theme

“I got an idea for a movie.” Chili Palmer (John Travolta) Get Shorty As a rule [Scott] Frank says, he likes to avoid thinking about “theme” when writing a script (“The work can become pretentious or feel ‘built’”); but with a [Elmore] Leonard vehicle, a thematic idea can help pull together a lot of discursive […]

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From the book Script Tease by Dylan Callaghan: Question: What guides you through a story if you don’t outline? is it character or a certain voice? Diablo Cody: “I like to pick a theme. I know that sounds stupid. It’s not a super advanced technique. They pick a theme on Laverne and Shirley. I think about […]

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Shane Black on Theme

“What I do is I try to figure out what the piece is about and link that to the story arc or the character arc.  I always think there’s two things going on in any script—there’s the story and then there’s the plot.  The plot is the events.  If it’s a heist film, it’s how […]

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Since I’ve written the last few posts (and many over the years) about screenwriters and filmmakers who either start with theme, or how theme plays an important part of the stories they tell, here’s a Wes Anderson quote showing how creative people often take a 180 degree approach to what other people are doing: “If […]

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