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Posts Tagged ‘screenwriting’

 

I had this amazing experience of being able to go into a screening room at Fox and watch [James L. Brooks] direct Broadcast News, through his dailies. I remember watching the dailies of the scene where Holly Hunter and William Hurt are in those rolling chairs, and it’s kind of a great romantic moment where they come together, and he gets close to her. I watched Jim build this scene out of behavior and dialogue, and I was just . . . high. I realized, I really want to do this. So I began studying all the films, everything I possibly could. That experience really made Say Anything fun, the beginning of a journey. Then I made Singles, and Jim said, let’s do another. He was getting ready to do As Good as It Gets, and we went and had lunch at Delmonico’s on Pico. And that began a whole period of journalistic research, of trailing after characters, building drafts. The first draft of Jerry Maguire was this basic, long, vomit draft. I remember Jim saying, ‘I’ve never read so much story with so little plot.’ It was 140 pages, but filled with the passion of the story. Jim is all about the process. So rather than accenting the problems, he said, ‘let’s embrace structure.’ Out of that came the odd but ultimately satisfying structure of Jerry Maguire, which begins with an ‘all hope is lost’ moment that usually happens at the end of the second act or towards the end of the movie. We started with Jerry’s descent. It was really exhilarating to find that starting point.”
Writer/director Cameron Crowe
Deadline interview with Mike Fleming Jr.

P.S. Could someone close to James L. Brooks encourage him to write some kind of book or do a long-form podcast of his extensive production experiences?

Related posts:
James L. Brooks on Chayefsky
Writing Grace Notes (via James L. Brooks & Judd Apatow)
The Devil Speech by James L. Brooks
Jerry Maguire’s Mission Statement

Scott W. Smith

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“If I were starting now, I would not go into film at all. I would not be a screenwriter. I would go into television. I’d go into theater. I’d write fiction. I would not subject myself to the screenwriter’s existence, ‘cause you’re not really a writer. It’s a simulacrum of a writing process. You’re living like an artist—what I mean by that is you are digging into yourself, you’re trying to make something really work. You’re putting everything into it, but what you’re creating is essentially a series of suggestions for other people to do what they want with—it’s really not art, what you’re making, at the end of the day. Your art is your screenplay, but nobody sees that.”
Screenwriter Ed Solomon (Men in Black, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure)
The Moment with Brian Koppelman podcast interview (7/4/18)

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This is a good screenwriting/filmmaking follow-up to yesterday’s post on the true life emotional journey and relationship of Taylor & Danielle Morris:

”What people really want to see, whether the character is a bookkeeper or a football player, is an emotional dramatic journey they can relate to. It’s never the fight. Boxing is one part, but it’s the cut-away, to the audience, where you see the wife crying or the sister or the child, that makes you feel engrossed because you can relate to that. If you just see two fighters pounding each other into unconsciousness, it doesn’t pull you in as emotionally as seeing who they are fighting for.”
Writer/director Sylvester Stallone
Deadline interview with Mike Flemming Jr. 

P.S. I believe it’s on the Rocky DVD commentary where Stallone talks about doing a reshoot for that Rocky ending where they gathered a small group of people together to shoot the Adrian! sequence. Stallone said he had doubts it was going to work, but the editing and Bill Conti’s music at the end gave it that emotional ending that Rocky needed. Without that ending I don’t think Rocky wins the Best Picture of 1976. (John G. Avildsen also won the Oscar for Best Director, and Richard Halsey and Scott Conrad also won for Best Film Editing.)

Related posts:
40 Days of Emotions
The Rocky Road to Rocky “It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
Writing ‘Rocky’

Scott W. Smith

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“David Lynch’s The Elephant Man is the one Lynch film that found a mesmerizing middle ground between conventional Hollywood story structure and its director’s surreal dreamscapes. Yet today it seems on the verge of being forgotten, and that’s a shame.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

The Elephant Man is currently available on Amazon Prime and I had forgotten what an extraordinary film it is. The direction (David Lynch), the acting (John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud), the make-up (Christopher Tucker), the black & white cinematography (Freddie Francis), and the screenwriting (Christopher De Vore, Eric Bergren, Lynch) are brilliant.

It was nominated for eight Oscars and the winner of BAFTA Best Picture in 1981. I saw the film in theaters when I was a teenager and it definitely peaked my early interest in what films could be.

Rewatching the movie makes me want to go read the original source material on the life of John Merrick; The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences by Sir Frederick Treves and The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu.

And here’s a super article that fills in more about the movie.

P.S. The Elephant Man opened in theaters in October 1980 and that was a great time to be a teenager newly interested in movies. This was the pre-internet days and VHS or cable TV hadn’t come into my world yet. My movie tastes were evolving so I went to see everything I could. Here’s an eclectic—and partial— sample of what I saw in theaters in 1980:

The Shining 
Caddyshack
Raging Bull
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
The Blues Brothers 
Airplane!
The Fog
Urban Cowboy (worth watching just to see Scott Glenn eat the worm)
Stir Crazy (Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor)
Coal Miners Daughter 
My Body Guard 
Private Benjamin 
Used Cars
The Gods Must be Crazy
Brubaker
The Blue Lagoon
Melvin and Howard
Atlantic City
Ordinary People (Oscars: Best Picture, screenplay, direction, supporting actor) 

Then there’s a list of 1980s films I didn’t catch until later Breaker MorantAltered States, Stardust Memories, and Alligator (early John Sayles screenplay). A couple that slipped by me I need to check out: Kurosawa’s Kagemusha and Jim Jarmusch’s Permanent Vacation. And some interesting titles I never saw and probably never will; Cannibal Apocalypse, Fists of the White Lotus, Eaten Alive!, Blood Beach.

Cheers to the class of 1980. Lots of talent on display that year.

Related post:

Legacy Filmmaking (and Your Bank Account): “They’re never going to talk about your bank account when you’re dead, but they will talk about maybe the movies you left behind if you really cared about what you did.”—Frank Darabont

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

 

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“I like to think about sequences. I really believe less in a three-act structure and much more in sequences that are sort of eight-to-12 pages. Roughly about ten-minutes that work almost like chapters in a story. Nobody is better at building a story this way than Steven Spielberg… The sequences have their own beginning, middle, and end that are satisfying—it really pulls you along.”
Director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind)
Masterclass

Related post:

Sequence Writing (Tip #105)

A look at Chris Soth’s sequence version called the “mini-movie method”—mixed with a little Blake Snyder

Scott W. Smith

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“The last 15 minutes of any movie are the most important, but the first 15 pages of any screenplay are the most important just from the standpoint of getting the movie made. I’m talking to young writers now who want to get their foot in the door. They want their scripts made. If you have a kickass first 15 pages, a studio executive will forgive the crummy 110 pages that follow. It’ll need to be re-written. But those first 15 pages, if they really hook you—someone’s going to be interested.”
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin
Masterclass

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Making connections—that’s what I do. Today I’m connecting the Judd Apatow/James L. Brooks grace note concept to two films that had basically the same grace note. (If they qualify as grace notes.):

“You don’t need everyone to love you. Just a few good people.”
Charity Baily to her husband P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman (2017)
Written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon

“Maybe you don’t need the whole world to love you. Maybe you just need one person.”
Kermit the Frog to Miss Piggy in The Muppets (2011)
Written by Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller

To keep things in perspective remember that Robin Williams once said that basically winning an Oscar does changes your life—for about a week or so. Then everyone starts thinking about next year’s Oscar Awards.

P.S. If you know someone who used the term “grace notes” before James L. Brooks let me know.

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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