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Posts Tagged ‘Dylan Callaghan’

“I learned a technique from a guy many years ago, a working backwards technique. So I start with the question, How do I want the audience to feel? And I write that answer, I want the audience to feel like their life has value. Okay. I draw an arrow down. How do I visually see that happening in the movie? The bad guy, the old drunk gets a medal as a saint. Then I work backwards from that. What’s the scene that culminates that? Oh, he gets honored at a kid’s saint ceremony in a Catholic school. Then you just go, what precedes that? I start with this working backwards process, so in very broad strokes, I just start to kinda feel it out. I don’t have to do the whole script, but you know, I have to know where I’m going in order to get there… Then, once I’ve done that to where I feel good about where I’m headed – granted I usually just do the third act, ‘cause that’s where you wanna know where you’re heading – I then outline scene to scene going forward…This is pretty detailed, pretty much every scene, just a one-liner. So and so does this. So and so does that, a one liner…I write the longhand the first draft, and it’s abbreviated – I write one line of action. I don’t believe in a lot of description. Then I start the dialogue. I then get to the computer, and I type through. As I’m typing, I’m editing, so now I’m on the second draft, which is great. So when I’m done, and type THE END, I have basically a second draft, which is way better than the first draft on paper ‘cause now I’ve had time to think about it, digest it, and check it, and work it through.”
St. Vincent writer/director Theodore Melfi
WGA, West interview by Dylan Callaghan

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“How many actors are so unlikable and loveable in the same moment? That’s Bill [Murray].”
Writer/director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent)

“When you have a character as disagreeable as Vincent (Bill Murray), if you can keep him disagreeable, even when he becomes agreeable, you have done the job. Because you and I ultimately both know how the movie’s gonna end. Period. We might not know exactly how they’re gonna get there, we might be surprised along the way, but ultimately, you don’t go sit down and watch a movie called The King’s Speech and think that the King is gonna stutter in his last speech. We all know watching a movie called St. Vincent, that Vincent is gonna end up being the kid’s saint. This is not a thriller. To me all movies are about the journey to get there…This movie to me, basically, in one word, is ‘value.’ How we have a value, and we think we have a value as human beings. We all have a value and that value is equal. Over time, the prostitute has a value, the single mom has a value, the old drunk has value, the Catholic priest has value, the kid has value.”
Theodore Melfi
WGA, West interview by Dylan Callaghan

P.S. Saw St. Vincent this afternoon and enjoyed it throughly. One of my favorite films of the year. Strong writing and great casting, with Murray at the center as a man at the end of his rope—and in real life heading for an Oscar nomination.

Related posts:
Postcard #74 (Bill Murray)
‘Lost in Translation’ Golf Scene
End of the Rope Club (Oscars ’14)

Scott W. Smith

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“Screenwriting is so hard. Anyone who’s ever done it or tried to do it learns very quickly how cruel it can be. It’s so dependent on things that are out of your control. I mean, the chemistry between actors, the director’s pacing, and all of a sudden you either look really good or really inept. The idea of creating something from a blank page is about a challenging as it gets. I have tremendous respect for someone that can create an original piece of material in screenplay form.”
Writer/Director James Gray (The Immigrant, We Own the Night)
WGA article by Dylan Callaghan

Related post:
Billy Wilder on Writing “(Writing) is blood, sweat, and tears, believe me.”—Wilder

Scott W. Smith

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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 what the emotional core of the story is, what’s something I can play on across multiple story lines, and I go from there.”

P.S. There are many less accomplished screenwriters who would never reference the ’70s TV show Laverne & Shirley, but that’s part of why I call the Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter the Woman of Steel. And for what it’s worth, Laverne & Shirley was co-created by Garry Marshall. In the five years plus years of writing this blog, Marshall is the only person I have written a single month of posts about. (And that just happened to be the most viewed month of posts I’ve ever had.)

Related posts:
Theme=What Your Movie is Really About
Theme=Story’s Heart & Soul
Michael Arndt on Theme
Sidney Lumet on There
Garry Marshall—Survivor
“Emotional Catharsis”—Diablo Cody


Writing from Theme (Tip #20)

Scott W. Smith

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