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Posts Tagged ‘The Screenwriter’s Handbook’

“Bob Towne gave me a one-line idea that became Chinatown. We were sitting at Dominic’s restaurant one evening and he said, ‘ I have an idea about a detective told in the thirties when L.A. was a small town, he gets involved with has nothing to do with what he’s really involved with. The real problem is a woman whom he does not understand.’ And from that one-line idea, eighteen months later we had a script. It’s a beautifully done screenplay that took a lot of work. To do an original can be very painstaking. Bob had a lot of problems in writing it. But he won the Academy Award for it.

Bob Towne to me is what I really consider an honorable, as well as a brilliant, screenwriter. By honorable—he doesn’t look for the assignment, he’ll take the time, he doesn’t care. We gave him very little money for Chinatown—twenty-five thousand dollars to do it, against a large amount if the picture were made. But he believed in it, he worked on this for eighteen months for only $25,000.”
Robert Evans
Interview in The Screenwriter’s Handbook by Constance Nash and Virginia Oakley
Page 62

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“Always and consciously, I try to hook the audience in the first five minutes. I want them right from the start to feel something—BOOM! I want an explosion right at the beginning. I always what that.
Gene Wilder

So I’m getting in the Christmas spirit this year and thinking about giving away around 100 books I have on writing and film and video production to a local college. A purge of sorts. So today I was sifting through The Screenwriter’s Handbook written by Constance Nash and Virgina Oakey. It was published in 1978 and I imagine I picked it up in LA in the early 80s. Though it was one of the first books on writing I ever bought I don’t think I ever read the whole thing.

But this afternoon I did read an interview in the book with actor/writer/director Gene Wilder. Though best known as an actor (he won an Oscar-nomination for his role in The Producers) he actually also recieved an Oscar-nominated for writing Young Frankenstein with Mel Brooks. Less known about Wilder is he attended the University of Iowa—same as screenwriter Diablo Cody who was my inspiration behind starting this blog back in January 2008 after seeing Juno.

Here are a couple nuggets from his interview:

“I want to please the audience. I want to please the fat lady in Kansas City who sits on her porch swatting flies. I want to please my friends who laugh when I do something funny and who smile politely when it’s not so funny as I thought it was. I want to please them.”
Gene Wilder

“Truffaut said that he thought all directors fell into two categories, those who worked to satisfy themselves only and those who worked to satisfy the audience.”
Gene Wilder

“Sometimes I go for clichés in characters and use them for my own purposes, a tradition from silent comedies.”
Gene Wilder

“My advice to beginning screenwriters about contracts and sale agreements is: Get a good lawyer. Another piece of advice is: Watch out for producers.”
Gene Wilder

P.S. Wilder could also sing and dance…

Scott W. Smith

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