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Posts Tagged ‘The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith’

“I learned a number of things [working on my first firm]. I remember there is a scene in the film [What’s Eating Gilbert Grape ] that I was so proud of—it was about seven pages too long.  [The director Lasse Hallström ] said the scene is about six and three quarters pages too long. I kept rewriting it and I got the scene down to nine words. So I learn economy. About that time I heard a great story about Peter Shaffer the great, wonderful playwright had adapted Amadeus for Milos Forman. And there’s a very famous monologue in the play where Salieri rages at God—there are still monologues in the film, but this was a particular speech that Peter Shaffer really wanted in the screenplay. He’s like if you’re going to adapt my play as a movie you must have this monologue in the film. Milos Forman said no. Shaffer said, no, no, no you need to understand something, this is the best piece of writing I’ve ever done. Salieri is angry at God—it has to be in the film. No. And they went back and forth, and finally Milos Forman said Salieri there is a cross on the wall, Salieri grabs the cross and he throws it in the fire. There’s your monologue. And that is a great example of learning that you can use image or you can use a cut to tell the story. Whereas I came from the theater where I was always trying to tell the story with dialogue. So I learned a lot there.” 
Writer Peter Hedges (Pieces of April, Ben is Back)
The Q&A Podcast with Jeff Goldsmith 

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“When we shoot these films, I don’t move my lips very much. I keep my mouth kind of closed so that when I see the film before we finish it, I can change the dialogue and make it better.”
Marlon Brando during ADR session for The Godfather (via editor Walter Murch)

“There’s a movie you think you’re making, and there’s a movie you made. The movie’s made three times; once on paper, once on film, and once on the AVID [the edit]. And it’s only then that you know what movie you made. And you go back and you do some pickups and some reshoots and shape the dialogue. And if you don’t believe me that this happens on every movie, go home tonight and put on The Godfather and listen to it with headphones, so you can hear all the ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement] very clearly in that movie. And you realize that movie is a pile of spaghetti in the editing room—it made no sense. If you take out the ADR the movie completely falls apart. I’m not saying it’s not a great movie, but that’s how great movies are made.”
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible — Fallout)
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith

Here are some videos that explain the how and why ADR is used.

Scott W. Smith

 

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“I’m often asked how much Pieces of April cost to make. A simple answer is difficult because it doesn’t fully represent the truth. In dollars, maybe not so much. But, you see, for every person who worked on Pieces of April, there’s a story of sacrifice. So I don’t know how to answer the question other than to say, ‘It cost a great deal.'”
Writer/director Peter Hedges
(Reported costs put the film between $150,000 and $300,000)

Before we get to the critical conflict oven scene in Pieces of April let’s step back a second and see the conflict before the film even got made. Writer/director Peter Hedges said the seed of the idea passed his mind in the late ’80s and then again around a decade later in the ’90s when he began writing the screenplay.

I’m not sure how long it took Hedges to write the screenplay, but I do know it was released in 2003. Here is some of the drama that took place behind the scenes to get the film made.

“Getting Pieces of April made was its own particular adventure…On three different occasions, we were about to start production with a budget anywhere from 4-7 million. Each time it fell apart. In our third incarnation, we were even setting up production offices in Toronto, hiring production designers and crew. I returned to Brooklyn for a few days to pack for the eight weeks of prep and the five week shoot. That’s when we got the call came. The number crunchers at the studio were shutting us down. We were back at the beginning, but for me felt like the end. Fortunately, John Lyons, my stellar producer, suggested we call Gary Winick and Alexis Alexanian at InDigEnt, a company that makes digital films on a shoestring budget. They spoke to their partners, Caroline Kaplan and Jonathan Sehring at IFC Productions, and the irrepressible John Sloss, and in less than twenty-four hours, we were, as the say ‘green lit.'”
Peter Hedges
Introduction in Pieces of April: The Shooting Script

Throughout the budget adjustments Hedges was able to retain top-notch actors (including Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, and Oliver Platt) who committed to seeing the film finally get made. And here we are almost 15 years after the film was produced still talking about that little gem of a film that hopefully can provide some light along the way for other filmmakers today.

And as a nice bookend to Hedges experience having difficulties with fundraising (as well as a quality script ultimately attracting financial partners (and quality actors) here’s screenwriter Nick Hornby talking about his experience working on the Oscar-nominated Brooklyn (2015):

“[The budget] was ten million pounds and it took the producers four years [to raise the money]…The drama in making Brooklyn was in fundraising, and what my wife [producer Amanda Posey] does and what [producer Finola Dwyer] does is way more difficult than [screenwriting]. They have their hearts broken ever single day. Rejection after rejection after rejection. And a bad writing day is, ‘ah, I couldn’t work out where these characters go when they come out’—it’s not that problematic really.”
Nick Hornby
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith

“The thing I’ve discovered the most about writing screenplays—it’s a wonderful dovetailing of art and commerce—is if you make your minor characters as interesting as you possibly can in the space that you’ve got, better actors will play them. And your film has more chance commercially…When you’re making an independent movie you need all the commercial help you can get, especially when you’re working with a young cast, because they’re not going to be the biggest stars in the world.”
Nick Hornby (An Education, Brooklyn)
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith

P.S. And that Brooklyn connection—happy accident. Didn’t realize it until after I wrote the post.

Scott W. Smith

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WiteOut

Once upon a time most screenwriters used typewriters to write scripts. Though some still do, I would venture to guess that most screenplays are written on a computer these days. So a word of warning—the wite out test isn’t advisable on computers except in a metaphorical sense. Wite out being the white liquid that was once a daily used commodity in offices everywhere, where if you made an error on the page you would apply wite out over the words you wanted to omit. Once that dried quickly you could type over it. Sure it wasn’t pretty, but it was effective and saved you from having to retype the whole page.

“You know, the idea of individual voices, that’s a toughest thing for a screenwriter. It’s always been the toughest thing for me. The first draft of a lot of scripts that I put down and say, ‘Okay, I’m not going to make that into a film’ is that everybody sounds like a version of me. And a great test that somebody told me to do early on was, ‘Take your screenplay and wite out or cover-up the names of the characters and then read the scenes. And can you tell who’s speaking based on the tone of their voice?’ Is their dialogue distinct enough that you can identify them from the other characters?”
Filmmaker Edward Burns (The Fitzgerald Christmas)
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith

P.S. Jeff Goldsmith, formerly of Creative Screenwriting magazine now as a digital magazine called Backstory; The Art and Business of Storytelling.

Related Posts:
The Four Functions of Dialogue
Emotionally Silent Dialogue

Scott W. Smith

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