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The following comments are from five time Oscar-nominated writer/director Sidney Lumet (The Verdict, Dog Day Afternoon, Prince of the City,  12 Angry Men, Network):

“When I first meet with the screenwriter, I never tell him anything, even if I feel there’s a lot to be done. Instead I ask him the same question I’ve asked myself: What is the story about? What did you see? What was your intention? Ideally, if we do this well, what do you hope the audience will feel, think, sense? In what mood do you want them to leave the theater? 

“We are two different people trying to combine our talents, so it’s critical that we agree on the intention of the screenplay. Under the best circumstances, what will emerge is a third intention, which neither of us saw at the beginning….[Arthur Miller] said that he loved seeing what his work evoked in others. The result could contain revelations, feelings, and ideas that he never knew existed when he wrote the play. It’s what we all hope for.

“…Of course, the original intent is present. But all of the individual contributions from all the different departments add up to a total far greater than their individual parts. Moviemaking works very much like an orchestra: the addition of various harmonies can change, enlarge, and clarify the nature of the theme.”
Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)
Making Movies 
Pages 29-30, 46

Related post:
Where Do Ideas Come From? (A+B=C)
Sidney Lumet on Theme
Arthur Miller on Writing
Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)

Scott W. Smith

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“When I first meet with the scriptwriter, I never tell him anything, even if I feel there’s a lot to be done. Instead I ask him the same questions I’ve asked myself: What is the story about? What did you see? What was your intention? Ideally, if we do this well, what do you hope the audience will feel, think, sense? In what mode do you want them to leave the theater?”
Director Sidney Lumet (Network, The Verdict)
Making Movies 

P.S. This quote is actually a nice bridge between the worlds of podcasting/radio and filmmaking. One of the things that makes Ira Glass’s work stand out is he is known to sometimes ask over 150 questions to decide if a person or topic is worthy of a radio program on This American Life. That and he’s also said to have a 40% kill rate of shows they start to produce but do materialize in a way that is worthy of the program. The great thing about asking questions is they’re quite inexpensive.

Related posts:
‘Out on a Wire’ Podcast (A good list of sample questions to ask?)
The Major of Central Dramatic Question
Screenwriting Quote #194 (John Jarrell)
Is It a Movie?
What is it about? (An Oscar-winner weighs in on asking questions.)
What’s Changed (Tip #102)

Scott W. Smith

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