TALKING TO WRITERS
Today is part one of my recent talk with a truly gifted writer. I'll post the second part tomorrow.
I've spent most of my career out here working with writers, hearing their original ideas, pitching them mine, helping them to develop their work, editing it, trying to decipher it, trying to inspire them, being inspired by them, being educated by them, being bored or frustrated or confused by what they write, or moved or tickled or terrified or electrified, trying to protect them from the vagaries and brutality of the system, and most of all, trying to protect the intentions of their words and ideas as they get translated to the screen through all of the myriad collaborators and pressures that are part of the wild, wooly enterprise of filmmaking.
Having started writing again here through the medium of this blog, I thought it would be interesting to circle back around and play a role I haven't really ever played with writers, other than inadvertently, the interviewer. I feel there is a lot I can learn from talking to smart, talented people, and look forward to sharing their insights with you.
1. How did you get in to this racket?
i've always written and directed, since childhood. it's compulsive. i
would rather have been an actress or a rock star but strangely, that
never happened. i started serious writing with sketches and short
plays in college, helped found a theater company with friends
producing our original material, supported myself mostly with menial office jobs and never stopped working. 27 years later, i finally
scored a paying gig in television, Six Feet Under.
2. Why screenwriting?
although i've tried every kind of writing, writing for actors is
really my best thing and i'm interested in every form that involves.
it was natural to move from playwriting into film and tv.
3. How did you learn how to write a screenplay?
i'm still learning how to write a screenplay. it hasn't been an easy
transition and it's taken years because moving from stage to screen
involved not only a change in form but also a change in perception. i had to change myself, i had to change the way i see and experience the world and consciously develop my visual sense and comprehension. i had to figure out a new balance between communication through language and communication through image. and that balance shifts from piece to piece, depending on story, so every new project is like starting at the beginning again.
4. What were the movies that inspired you then? Have you seen
anything lately that stuck to your ribs? Where do you go for inspiration these days?
it's blasphemy, i know, but i'm more into real life than movies and
i'd rather make movies than watch them. so while there are many
movies i like, i'm not sure that there are any that have had a huge
impact on my work. i could be wrong. i don't like to get cerebral or
intellectual about it. too much thinking and talking and analysis
always gives me a completely unjustified sense of importance and
oh here's an inspiration -- one day a colleague laid out his system
for writing movies -- something happens on page one, then there's a
kiss on page 15, then a death on page 30, then a twist on page 45 --
scary. i was inspired to never ever have a system.
there are films and filmmakers i turn to for company, though --
fellini and bergman in particular, there are many more -- because i
feel so much freedom in their work. they don't give a crap about
rules or formulae, they take huge risks, they hit and they miss,
there's a depth and breadth and scale to them that's Shakespearean --
now there's an inspiration for you. all things human are found in
shakespeare. i return to his plays over and over and over.
TOMORROW: Part two of my talk with screenwriter Nancy Oliver