Posts Tagged ‘There Will Be Blood’

“I guess what I like in my movies is where you see a character change by maybe two degrees as opposed to the traditional movie change of ninety degrees. I guess that always feels false to me in movies because that doesn’t truly happen. Around me, at least in the life I live, I guess I don’t see people change ninety or a hundred degrees. I see them change in very small increments. I think it’s just a monitor I might have on myself as a writer to not make any false scenes.”
Oscar-nominated writer/director/producer Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)
Best of Creative Screenwriting Vol. 1 (1994—2000)
Interviewed by Kristine McKenna & David Konow

Do you have a favorite movie (or scene) where a character changed incrementally (for better or worse)? Or a movie where the character change seemed too grand?

P.S. One thing that I find common with message films is the main character doesn’t just change two degrees, or 90-100 degrees, but 180 degrees. Films in general deal with short time spans and movies that feature characters who change 180 degrees usually comes across as trite.

Scott W. Smith

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 “I think when people come here they really feel the power of the land, which transcends beautifully on film.”
                                             Robin Lambaria, Marfa Film Festival founder


At the 2008 Academy Awards two of the films nominated for best picture were made in the same city. Los Angeles? Try Marfa, Texas. Is that a suburb of Dallas? Nope. It’s a little town of about 2,000 people in far West Texas. Really?

Yeah, really.

Parts of No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood were filmed in Marfa, but they aren’t the only connection to Hollywood. George Stevens shot for two months there back in the late fifties with James Dean and Rock Hudson for the film Giant. And though not shot there, the story for the Robert Altman film Welcome Back, to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean took place in Marfa.

 The Marfa Film Festival began last year and will be held this year April 29-May 3, 2009. How long does it take a festival to make a name for itself? Apparently, not long. Randall Roberts of the L.A. Weekly called The Marfa Film Festival, “The best little festival I’ve ever attened.”

The town of Marfa has been featured in Architectural DigestThe New York Times and MovieMaker magazine along with various other publications.

“Marfa is becoming a micro version of the art mecca that Santa Fe, N.M. has become. Blocks of the tiny downtown, where a blinking stop light easily handles the sparse traffic, have been taken over by the foundations established by renowned artist Donald Judd, who moved to Marfa in 1972 and died 22 years later.”
                                    Michael Graczk (Associated Press Writer)
                                    USA Today 

I don’t know if future Academy Award films will be shot in Marfa but the creative conditions seem to be ripe there for the thriving creative community to continue to grow.

Related posts: Screenwriting from Texas 


Scott W. Smith

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Last night I watched Daniel Day Lewis’ character in There Will Be Blood  self-destruct. Self-destruction is never enjoyable to watch, but it is usually fascinating within the confines of a movie theater or watching on DVD at home. And that leads us to our quote of the day.

“Stories of self-destruction are often the stuff of great movies because the lines of action and the opposition are built into the characters.” 
                                                                        William Froug
                                                                         Screenwriting Tricks of the Trade
                                                                         page 29

Of course, he’s right. Look at these films that come to mind:

Taxi Driver
Citizen Kane
Raging Bull
Training Day
The Lost Weekend
Leaving Las Vegas
28 Days 
Moby Dick
Death of a Salesman
Aviator  (Howard Hughes)

When you look at that list it’s hard to miss that self-destruction is rooted in some sort of obsession. An obsession with drugs, alcohol, greed, sex, power, control and/or money. If all the self-destruction movies were rolled into one we’d just call it Sin City.

It’s no surprise either that many of those movies are based on real life characters because stories of self-destruction are never far from the headlines. Just a few months ago in Florida a well respected real estate developer committed suicide. He owned three homes, had many successful projects completed over the years, and he and his wife had recently donated $2.5 million to a local college’s medical school. 

But many of his current hundreds of million dollar projects where stalled with the downturn in the real estate market and it is now alleged that he stole at least $21.4 million from investors. And from the world of New York City high finance,  just a couple days before Christmas a 65-year-old money manager who had lost $1.4 billion of an investment fund in a scam committed suicide in his Manhattan office by cutting his wrists with box cutters.

The good news is self-destruction doesn’t always mean ruin and suicide. It can be a low point on the road to redemption as is the case of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line where he overcomes a heroin addiction.  

And sometimes redemption comes outside the theater like some kind of cathartic Greek play.  When the real life Jake LaMotta asked his ex-wife if he was really as paranoid and abusive as he was portrayed in Raging Bull she replied, “You were worse.”  After the film came out it helped turn LaMotta’s life around;  “I was real low before the film, I was barely surviving. The book came out, I started to get interviews. The stand-up took off and the movie hit. Then the Oscar, that was it. I was famous again.”


Copyright ©2009 Scott W. Smith

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