Posts Tagged ‘Simon Herbert’

“There’s no movie that can’t be told through its emotions. And there’s no movie that succeeds that is told any other way. In my opinion.” 
—Billy Ray

I want to sneak in one more post before stepping back into a run of posts on Hamilton (and the emotional “I want” song My Shot.) This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post What is the simple emotional journey?—Screenwriter Billy Ray’s Mantra

Normally Ray is given exclusive assignments where he has a week (or a weekend) to decide if he wants to take on a film project. But Captain Phillips was what he calls a “beauty pageant” where many screenwriters went in to pitch their angle on the story. This is how Ray arrived at his pitch and landed the assignment (and for which he received an Oscar nomination):

“I thought, what’s the movie about? Narratively, Captain Phillips is a white guy gets kidnapped by four black guys and three of them get their heads blown off. And not only was that not a movie I wanted to write, that was not even a movie I wanted to see. So I had to think, okay, where is the story in there that has an emotion that I want to write? And so I thought, well, you can just twist the reality of that. The narrative reality of that just a little bit. Look at it from a slightly different perspective and it becomes a story that would be moving.  The pitch was, this is a movie about leadership. This is the story about two captain wake up on opposite sides of the globe and they get up in the morning and get dressed and go to work. And their work is going to put them on a collision course. And once they meet we’re going to realize that one of these captains is would sacrifice himself to save his men, and the other captain would sacrifice his men to save himself. And their collision is the story. That I could write. And that’s the movie. That’s what Captain Phillips is, but told in a visceral, emotional way.”
—Screenwriter Billy Ray
UCLA’s Story Break podcast interview with Simon Herbert and Chris Kyle

Tucked inside Ray’s pitch (and the trailer below) is conflict, character, stakes, emotions—core storytelling traits that helped attract Tom Hanks to the role. And also helped the other captained, played by Barkhad Abdi, to get an Oscar nomination and win a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor. (When AFI does a great movie quote list for this century, I expect Abdi’s line “Look at me, I’m the captain now” to be on that list. )

P.S. The very first line of Ray’s pitch for The Comey Rule (The TV mini series on James Comey) was the emotional idea, “This is a love story between a man in love with an institution, and everything he does is in defense of that institution.”

Related post:
Screenwriting Battlefield  (How Billy Ray beat out more experienced writers when starting out. And what he learned from Robert McKee’s seminar.)
‘Hamilton’ as an Emotional Journey 

Scott W. Smith 


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“[When I was in my early 20s] my father told me to read a book called Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman. . . . It was just so insightful about how screenwriting actually works. And I think I imitated Goldman’s style in a pretty thief kind of way. Reading his screenplays really taught me about making scripts readable. Making them feel kind of  breezy. Taking your reader inside the emotional experience of a movie.  That was a huge influence for me. . . .  On the computer monitor on which I’m seeing your face right now, in big block letter across the top, it says WHAT IS THE SIMPLE EMOTIONAL JOURNEY? That’s always the mantra for me. That‘s always the true north. Screenwriting is an intellectual exercise that’s designed to illicit and emotional response.”
—Oscar nominated screenwriter Billy Ray (Captain Phillips)
UCLA’s Story Break podcast interview with Simon Herbert and Chris Kyle

If you missed the movie Richard Jewell last year check it out. It was written by Billy Ray and directed by Clint Eastwood and for various reasons got lost in the shuffle and did not have a good box office run. But it is one finely crafted film including Paul Walter Hauser‘s performance in the lead role which was quite an emotional journey.

”The best advice I ever heard about screenwriting . . . ” —Billy Ray
Billy Ray’s Directing Advice 
Screenwriting Quote #162 (Billy Ray)
Information is the Death of Emotion — Christopher McQuarrie 
40 Days of Emotions 

Scott W. Smith 

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