Posts Tagged ‘David Koepp’

“Think about different ways of telling your story without dialogue…Try to find visual ways to tell your story.”
Jim Mercurio

Dr. Grant: Are you sure the raptors are contained?
Dr. Sattler: Unless they figure out how to open doors.
Jurassic Park, written by Michael Crichton and David Koepp

“In Jurassic Park in the kitchen scene where the velociraptors are chasing the kids, there’s no way the kids should escape velociraptors, but they’ve got home field advantage. Everything about the kitchen is used against the velociraptors. There’s doors and they have claws. There’s stainless steel which has a mirror-like reflection but it’s also slippery. And the tile floor is slippery, too. And there’s a freezer that has a weird handle. So all these things together are how these kids are able to escape the velociraptors. And basically [the kids] have home field advantage, it’s using that location in a clever way.”
Filmmaker/teacher Jim Mercurio  ()
Complete Screenwriting: From A to Z to A-List DVD course

P.S. There are even a few more layers to that classic Spielberg directed scene where the filmmakers used the location and props to add conflict and drama:
1) The first thing the kids do when they enter the kitchen is turn off the lights again using what’s at hand for survival, giving a horror like lighting to the scene. (But the DP used small windows placed on high on the kitchen set to allow light to spill into the kitchen so it’s not pitch dark.)
2)  It’s used against the kids where the ladle falls to the ground altering the velocirapors of their location.
3) The round window in the kitchen door adds drama and a touch of humor when the velociraptor  breathes on the window and then peeks through the window and his own condensation.
4) Once the velociraptors figure out how to use the handle on the door, it’s one of those heavy doors that closes automatically so there is a little push back the raptor as to figure out.
5) The raptors make a loud noise which reverberates through the kitchen full of reflective surfaces and the young boy covers his ears.
6) After the raptor fully enters the kitchen, what’s worse than being hunted by a raptor in a kitchen? Being hunted by two raptors in a kitchen!
7) At one spot it actually looks like another visual humor cue where we see just the raptors claws on the tile floor and it looks to me as if there is a little tap, tap, tap of the claw as if to say, “Now where are those little kids I’d like to eat?”
8) The tail of the raptors is used to push over many pots and pans that crash on top of the kids and then onto the hard floor.
9) The young girl uses the ladle to distract the raptors because they are close to the boy and he is frozen in terror.
10) A door jams in one of the places where the young girl tries to hide.
11) Kitchens tend to have ice, right? The filmmakers use that as well.
12) What the filmmakers didn’t use: A round door handle on the kitchen door which would have prevented the raptors from entering in the first place. Of course, they could have and raptors could have just pounded the door down making for a dramatic entrance. But there was a nice set-up/pay off by playing off the line, “Unless they figure out how to open doors.”

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Everything I learned in Film School (Tip #1)

Scott W. Smith

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“As a teacher what I do is I combine passion with the subjects I teach.”
Jaime Escalante (1930-2010)
Inspiration behind the movie Stand and Deliver

“I can’t think of a better way to spend a life than pursuing the imagination.”
Richard Walter
Writer & screenwriting professor

(Richard Walter Interview Part 1)

Today begins a several part series taken from an interview I did with Richard Walter, Chairman of the UCLA screenwriting program. Early in his screenwriting career he wrote the first draft of American Graffiti for George Lucas. He’s taught at UCLA since 1977, where his students have included David Koepp (Spiderman) Audrey Wells (Under the Tuscan Sun), and Alexander Payne (Sideways). He’s also the author of Essentials of Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Television Writing.

SS: In the last 30 years there has been an explosion of screenwriting training in books, schools, CDs/DVDs, blogs, and seminars, yet you say that you’ve seen that many writers are merely writing scripts that are “shiny, superficial and soulless.” So what’s the problem that writers today are technically better, but that hasn’t translated into better scripts?

Richard Walter: “They’ve gotten intellectual. I think the downside to some of the books on screenwriting is they do tend to make people become self-conscious and intellectual—’Uh, let’s see is this the inciting incident? Or is it a plot point? On page 17 this is supposed to happen, and that’s supposed to happen.’ How can that do anything other than straight-jacket people?

I do believe in outlining, but at some point you have to let go of that outline and stay open to surprises and live with the uncertainty.

I’ve seen people who have shaped the script correctly, yet it just doesn’t move me. It just doesn’t reach audiences in the solar plexus. It’s too complete in the old spelling of the word C-O-M-P-L-E-T. It’s a little too well made.

One of my favorite movies ever, but certainly my favorite of those that came out of UCLA, was a real UCLA film school Mafia film called Stand and Deliver, the story of Jaime Escalante. He was a dedicated teacher and decided to teach calculus to these Latino kids who live in the barrio in East LA and go to Garfield High. And he succeeded in doing that.

The first thing a teacher has to have is high expectations. And indeed Escalante succeeded in teaching these kids calculus. And indeed they take the Educational Testing Services national test in calculus and they all pass it. Well, back in New Jersey where the ETS is located they get back these results and say, ‘This can’t be true. These Latino kids in East LA could not have passed this calculus exam, they must of cheated,’ and so they make them take the test again. This is the true story upon which the movie is based. So the kids take the test again and pass and demonstrate they indeed were capable of learning calculus.

Now I want you to imagine Tom Musca, who was the producer and co-writer of that movie, saying to me, ‘Now , Richie, imagine me pitching this picture to the town. The climax is these kids take a math test—twice.’ It sounds idiotic, it sounds very stupid. But it works so well. So I would say that the worst mistake that writers make is we outsmart ourselves, and that’s sometimes what happens with these (screenwriting) books, they make us a little too self-observing and that is the enemy of all creative expression. “

Related Posts: Robert McKee Vs. Richard Walter

Screenwriting Quote #16 (Richard Walter)

Scott W. Smith

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“(Screenwriting  is) all pretty much sitting alone in a room staring at a screen. That solitude is interesting to me.”
Screenwriter David Koepp (Spider-Man, Jurassic Park)

“Solitude is the school of genius.”
Edward Gibbon (Writer of the classic book, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)

Playing off the quote I heard and wrote about yesterday —“Solitude is creativity’s best friend.”—I thought I’d explore that a bit from the perspective of screenwriting. Of course, there are many layers and definitions of solitude than is fitting to cover here, so this is only meant as a quick overview.

In a happy accident yesterday I stumbled upon Anthony Storr’s book Solitude. I picked it up at a used bookstore years ago but never read it and had it in my car to donate to the library. So I read a chunk of it last night and found it an interesting read on the subject.

“The majority of poets, novelist, composers, and, to a lesser extent, of painters and sculptors, are bound to spend a great deal of time alone.”
Anthony Storr

In Karl Iglesias’ book, The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, he quotes several screenwriters on the topic of working alone.

“Something like 20 percent of the general population is introverted, but I think most writers probably fall into that category. They feel very comfortable with solitude. They are probably better in one-on-ne situations rather than dealing with lots of people. I know that when I’m in a room full of people, I tend to fall back as an observer.”
Robin Swiscord (co-writer, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

“As a screenwriter, you need to be comfortable with that solitude for long periods of time, unless you work in television where’s it’s a more social environment.”
Amy Holden Jones (Mystic Pizza)

“You need to create solitude so that you can hear the voices, and you need a willingness to to live in the world of the story for long periods of time, forcing yourself into the world of the story for long periods of time, forcing yourself into the world of the characters so that you can believe they exist. Many spouses understandably complain that we’re not living in the present.”
Tom Schulman (Dead Poets Society)

Solitude in the sense they are talking about is working by oneself.  But it can also be defined as withdrawing from normal activities for a time as Thoreau did on Walden Pond and wrote about in Walden.

“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
Henry David Thoreau

There are many positive aspects this kind of solitude. A spirit of contemplation and reflection.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up. Left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”
Mark 1:35

“Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely.”
Hara Estroff Marano
Psychology Today article “What is Solitude?”

“Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature.”
Albert Einstein

But the other side of solitude has a darker perspective. The former monk and reformer Martin Luther was not fond of solitude for that is when he believed Satan attacked him the most. It could be a place that the Eagles sang about, “Your prison is walking through this world all alone.” We’re talking Howard Hughes territory. And it’s clear if you read many bios or watch many movies on well-known artists, solitude was not always their friend—or even their choice.

“Creative talent of a major kind is not widely bestowed. Those who possess it are often regarded with awe because of their gifts, They also tend to be thought of as peculiar; odd human beings who do not share the pains and pleasures of the average person. Does this difference from the average imply abnormality in the sense of psychopathology? More particularly, is the predilection of the creative person for solitude evidence of some inability to make close relationships?

It is not difficult to point to examples of men and women of genius whose interpersonal relationships have been stormy, and whose personalities have been grossly disturbed by mental illness, alcoholism, or drug abuse. Because of this, it is easy to assume that creative talent, mental instability, and a deficient capacity for making satisfying personal relationships are closely linked.”
Anthony Storr

That is they were forced into a kind of solitude because they either could not stand to be with other people or other people could not stand to be with them. That often freed them to hyper focus on their art. And often to focus on things that led to their demise. Of course, not every creative genius falls into that category—but the list is pretty extensive of those that do.

So I guess like many things, solitude for any of us can be a benefit or a hindrance in life.

Scott W. Smith

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