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Posts Tagged ‘screenwriting’

Just as Sean Baker talked about the unusual influence of The Littel Rascals on his indie film The Florida Project, screenwriter Scott Beck talks about the unusual influence of the origins of the monster movie A Quiet Place. 

It started with Charlie Chaplin—and I’m 100% serious. In college, we were watching a lot of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton [movies]. And one of our favorites is a French filmmaker named Jacques Tati. And the thing about Jacques Tati is he was working in an era of when there was sound so his films may be dialogue free, but he’s using sound in ways that’s extremely comical or enlighting, or would tell something about who the character is. [So we thought] what if we combine that with our love of Alien, and of Jaws, and these incredible genre films that were not only rich in being terrifying but also really rich in character, too.
Scott Beck (who co-wrote A Quiet Place with Bryan Woods and John Krasinski)
Q&A at WGA Theater/ video posted on The Inside Pitch Facebook group

You may not have the benefit of ever going to the University of Iowa to study the films of Jacques Tati like Scott Beck and Bryan Woods did, but through the magic of the Internet you can get a taste of Tati’s work and influence here.

P.S. For a deeper dive, check out The Complete Jacques Tati DVD/Blu-Ray from The Criterion Collection.  

Related posts:

Mr. Silent Movie
Silent Clowns
Harold Loyd vs. Buster Keaton
Writing ‘The Artist’ (Part 1)
The Journalistic and Cinematic Roots of The Florida Project
Show Don’t Tell
Show Don’t Tell (part 2) with a Charlie Chaplin example

Scott W. Smith

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I’m reading through Ted Hope’s book Hope for Film, From the Frontline of the Independent Cinema Revolutions (the Kindle version which I recommend) and came along this passage that he calls “My formula for the perfect Sundance Film.” I hope you find it helpful. (From pages 78-79.)

 

1. The protagonist: Center the story around an everyday person, someone the audience can identify with (not a wealthy or an evil type).

2. The plot: The protagonist needs to go through a serious arc, suffer hardship, and then come to some understanding that the audience didn’t expect.

3. Be bold: Show risk-taking in the filmmaking. Make it feel like it may all fall apart, but then save it at the last moment: People should say, “It’s bold.”

4. Be disciplined: If you can’t be bold, be disciplined. If it doesn’t fit the form, cut it out.

5. Own your aesthetic: Embrace, even flaunt, your aesthetic and the limits of your aesthetic. Don’t be ashamed of your limitations. Own your choices.

6. Engage bigger issues: The story has to be bigger than the movie itself and should deal with issues of either class conflict, gender conflict, sexual conflict, or other political issues. How do you comment on the world at large while still examining the minute and particular?

7. Cast: You need to cast a few stars or soon-to-be stars, so it should be an ensemble piece that covers generational conflict. You have the old-name actor you’re bringing back and the up-and-comer whom no one had seen yet, along with actors who can move from TV into feature films.

8. Shock value: It needs some moment of audacity, the kind of thing that people will talk about and that might even shock the uninitiated.

9. The right mix: Have a sense of humor about great tragedy— or find the tragedy in the hilarious. Embrace the cocktail; make it at least feel fresh.

10. Leave them wanting more: Shorter is better; 90 minutes is the new 120 (today, 80 is the new 90). No one ever says, “I wish it had been longer” when they leave the theater.

 

 

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The work I did with [writer/director Nicole Holofcener] on the Walking and Talking script would set the template for my standard development process with dozens of filmmakers later. In large part, it starts with a series of questions: How do you find the theme? What do you want the big takeaway from the movie to be for the audience? What do you want them to remember intellectually, and what do you want them to feel emotionally? At a certain point, Nicole came up with this image in her mind: The character Amelia (played in the film by Keener) is holding her friend Laura (played by Heche), who is getting married and starting a new way of life, afloat in the water. That, to me, was a baptismal moment of surrender and passage. It was about loving someone so much that you let her go. And that was the big takeaway of the movie in a single visual and heartfelt instant. But it was a process to get there. Once we found this telling scene, and once the theme of love as loss emerged, we had to make sure that the theme emerged elsewhere in the script.
Producer Ted Hope (The Ice Storm)
Hope for Film (with Anthony Kaufman
pp 65-66

Related posts:
Writing from Theme
Sheldon Turner on Theme
John Carpenter on Theme 
Diablo Cody on Theme 
Ryan Coogler on the Theme of Black Panther 

Scott W. Smith

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When I make my new film, I’m not just competing against Poultrygeist. I’m not just competing against the new Mel Gibson movie. I’m competing against the whole history of cinema. You sit here in your home and say, ‘Well, next on my Netflix queue I have this Kurosawa film, this Fritz Lang film, the fourth season of South Park , and I have Slither by James Gunn.’ I have all these things I want to watch. I’m competing against the history of cinema. So why are you going to watch my movie tonight instead of those? I need to give you the access. I have to give you the ramp trail to get you to the wheel and make you content to keep running around. Okay, so that’s not the best metaphor…

As a new filmmaker, you have to recognize, that’s your job. You have to build the ramp to get us to watch the movie. You have to get us to say, ‘Kurosawa may be one of the greatest filmmakers ever, but tonight I’m going to watch Joe Blow’s $20,000 debut film.’ And that can happen; you can win that nightly battle.
Longtime indie producer Ted Hope (and now head of production at Amazon Studios) in 2010 
Sell Your own Damn Movie! by Lloyd Kaufman with Sara Antill
(via Masteringfilm.com)

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“I have a whole bunch of little life hacks to break through whatever it is blocking me [from writing]. A bunch of little writing exercises…Write the absolute worst version of the scene. Just get it out of your system. Be as horrible as possible. It shuts up the voice in the head saying, ‘This isn’t any good.’ Good it shouldn’t be.”
Screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
Basic Brainheart podcast interview with Hannah Camacho

 

 

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”I don’t particularly like [the writing process], but I don’t dislike it either. I can tell you that I’ve come to a somber acceptance that…my tastes as a consumer of movies and TV exceeds my talents, so all I can do is try my best to close that gap and to get as best a version of what it is in my head on the page.”
Screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
Basic Brainheart podcast interview with Hannah Camacho

 

Related posts:
The 99% Focus Rule
Art is Work
Screenwriters Work Ethic

Scott W. Smith

 

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Producer/screenwriter Brian Koppelman on his podcast asked indie producer Christine Vachon about what advice she had for young people today making their way into the entertainment world.

Christine Vachon: Stop calling yourself a filmmaker. Call yourself a storyteller. Call yourself a content maker. Start looking at everything as all the different ways, all the different platforms, all the different methodologies of telling your story and getting it out of there. And don’t confine yourself to one almost archaic form. Now young storytellers will come in and say, ‘This is my series idea,’ ‘This is my long form series,’ ‘This is my episodic series,’ ‘This is my web series’—

Brian: And you’re open to all that stuff?

Christine: Absolutely. A good example is Z: The Beginning of Everything— the series we did for Amazon—Christina Ricci brought us the book and said I want to partner with you. I want to play this role, but I’m open to what it could be. So we talked through what’s the film version, what’s the mini series version?

Brian: How do we tell this story in a way that we actually get the money for it and then sell it in the right way that finds some kind of an audience for it?

Christine: That’s right.

P.S. Speaking of Amazon, here’s a link to their submissions guidelines. Next week I’ll run some posts on indie producer Ted Hope (The Brothers McMullen) who is now the head of motion picture production for Amazon Studios.

Related Posts:

Filmmaking Quote #36 (Being Platformagostic)
Kevin Smith is Platformagnostic
Steven Soderbergh is Platformagnostic
Don’t Wait for Hollywood

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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