Posts Tagged ‘Joseph McBride’

This week I picked up the just published book Writing in Pictures: Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless by Joseph McBride. He’s the perfect person to pull a quote from on this blog because he’s had an interesting career, which actually got a kickstart start here in the Midwest.

As a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison he first saw Citizen Kane, and then went on to watch it a total of 60 times as a student.* He spent six years working alongside Orson Welles, produced a documentary on John Ford, wrote the screenplay for Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, has written and published several books on filmmakers, and now teaches at San Francisco State University where he’s been able to have top screenwriters visit his classroom.

Writer/director Peter Bogdanovivh says of Writing in Pictures, “Joe McBride’s comprehensive yet very succinct work should become a standard text.”

Now I don’t know how painless the quote I’ve pulled from McBride’s book is, but is a common thread that I have found over the four years of writing this blog:

“I didn’t sell my first screenplay until 1977, the seventh feature-length script I had written (I also had written dozens of short film scripts and filmed several of them myself). That’s one of the first lessons I will pass along to you. Don’t ever stop writing…So I had served a ten-year apprenticeship teaching myself how to write scripts before I became a professional.”
Joseph McBride 

Maybe painless, but certainly time-consuming.

* Because, as a student in the ’60s, McBride couldn’t afford to photocopy the script for Citizen Kane he hauled a manual typewriter to the reading room at the now Wisconsin Historical Society and typed an exact copy of the script. A great exercise in learning. Something McBride points out that a young David Mamet did with the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire.

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Scott W. Smith

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E.T. was a very personal little picture. My motivation for making it was pure and non-profit based – I didn’t think it would be a hit because it was about kids and no films about kids under 18 were doing any business then.”
Steven Spielberg
Total Film interview

“This movie made my heart glad. It is filled with innocence, hope, and good cheer. It is also wickedly funny and exciting as hell. “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” is a movie like “The Wizard of Oz,” that you can grow up with and grow old with, and it won’t let you down.”
Roger Ebert
E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial movie review

In the post Emotional Autobiography I touched on The King’s Speech being the emotional autobiography  of screenwriter Daivd Sielder . His personal childhood story of overcoming stuttering is told in the larger story of King George VI.

In a similar way, the movie E.T. touches on the childhood of director Steven Spielberg. The script written by Melissa Mathison is saturated by the great director’s own Norman Rockwell childhood full of Boy Scouts, toy trains, and 8mm movies. A childhood that was disrupted by his parents divorce and moving to California in high school. Before the divorce his parents moved a lot making it difficult to establish friendships, and he had other issues;

“I was skinny and unpopular. I was the weird, skinny kid with acne. I hate to use the word wimp, but I wasn’t in the inner loop. I never felt comfortable with myself, because I was never part of the majority.”
Steven Spielberg on his youth

“ET is as close to an autobiographical movie as Spielberg has given us with the themes of loneliness, fear of separation and longing for friendship, they seem to come straight from Spielberg’s own lonely, peripatetic childhood.”
Roger Ebert

“A beautiful simple and lyrical parable of interplanetary friendship, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was also the little movie about ‘keeds” Francois Truffaut had been urging Spielberg to make since 1976. Produced for Universal by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, E.T. was made for comparatively low production cost (about $10. Million) and with few of the elaborate visual effects that accompanied the aliens’ visit to earth in Close Encounters. But, ironically, it was finally delivering the ‘little movie’ he promised himself and the public that Spielberg made the film that accumulated the largest domestic box-office gross in movie history until Star Wars reclaimed the title with its 1997 reissue. What touched the hearts of more than two hundred million moviegoers throughout the world in E.T.’s first year of was release was a disguised emotional autobiography of Steven Spielberg.”
Joseph McBride
Steven Spielberg: A Biography

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