“In order to get any good at it you have to write and write and write. It took me a long time to get any good.” Paul Haggis
My three Ps: passion, patience, and perseverance. You have to do this if you’ve got to be a filmmaker.
There’s absolutely no reason you can’t write in ANY genre if you are prepared to put the work in. Genre is craft. Craft can be learnt. So learn the conventions of the genre you want to write. Watch all the movies in that genre, big and small; read all the scripts. Go to events, learn about it. Read articles, blogs, soak it all up.
Is the script locked when you come to shoot?
No. A lot of times with read-throughs the directors come and say, “I don’t like this. I don’t get this.” My attitude is [locking the script is] like saying to an actor, “You can make this work!” You’re just teeing yourself up for heartbreak. You have to go, “Tell me why. What is it you see? What do you connect to?”
David Fincher talks “House of Cards” and locking in scripts when they shoot.
Filmmaking is about working together to create something, nothing is ever truly locked in, the writer creates the template and design and allows everyone else to colour in the material as well.
Insight into Richard Linkater’s process. Less practical than theoretical, the article addresses five bastions of great storytelling, according to the consummate independent filmmaker.
Find Your Form First
“There are a lot of stories in the world, and I spend all my time thinking about how to tell them. That, to me, is the cinematic element. That’s the hard part: the right narrative form on every movie is the thing I have to break. New forms have always been a part of my thinking. ‘Could you ever tell a story this way? Why wouldn’t that work?’ I might spend a year on a film like Bernie, figuring out how to tell it. My first film anyone saw was Slacker, and the question there was, ‘Could you tell a story that had no central character but still made sense?’”
Storytelling is Problem Solving
Sometimes bold experiments are born of finding work-arounds to limitations. “I wanted to tell a story about childhood, but I was having trouble landing on what part of it to express. My own thoughts and experiences were scattered throughout different ages, and that’s a limitation, obviously. You can’t just wave a magic wand and your actors are three years older–you have to pick your spot. The idea for Boyhood was one of those ‘aha’ moments that at its core was problem-solving. The film’s structure emerged out of trying to solve the problem of how to express that story over a long period of time. It’s very straightforward, but in a way that hasn’t been done before, because it’s just completely impractical.”
Trust Your Audience
“My stories are actually very cleanly told. There might be something formally challenging, but I’m never trying to confuse anybody. If you establish rules and play by them, the audience will buy in.”
Some Tech Has to Catch Up With Ideas
Linklater may be motivated by new stories, but sometimes he has to wait for technology to catch up to them. “I spend time digging into certain characters. If that necessitates some kind of new technology and a new way to tell a story, then I want to see if that could work.” Linklater says he’d been thinking about the idea that turned into the film, Waking Life, for about 20 years. “It never worked as a film in my head–technologically speaking–until I saw this animation coming together that some friends of mine were developing. It was one of those similar ‘aha’ moments” ‘Oh, that crazy film I’ve been thinking about just doesn’t work live-action, and it wouldn’t be an animated film. But this thing is a hybrid. It’s real and a construct. Kind of like a dream.’ The technology allowed me to tell that story the way I wanted to tell it.”
Plot Matters Less Than People Think
“I’m a big designer. When I write a screenplay, I’ve diagrammed the architecture of the story. There’s really got to be a structure; art demands it. I care more about structure, less about plots. Anything plot-driven feels a little more man-made, more manufactured. I’m always going toward something that’s a little more true to life.”
Every good writer or filmmaker has something eating away at them, right? They can’t quite get off their back. And so your job is to make your audience care about your obsession.
There’s a film you write, there’s a film you shoot, and there’s a film that you cut - and they’re all different.
To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.
My advice to aspiring screenwriters would be to find your voice, and by that I mean find the type of story you want to tell and how you want to tell it. You know, find what’s important to you and stick to that.
- Rian Johnson
Good advice for writers in general.
And in life as well.
Story is the key to writing.