Once in a great while, the curtain is drawn back and the insides are splayed open for all to see. The Artful Writer does it on a regular basis. If you want to know what first-tier writers who have everything they ever dreamed of argue about, and how brutal they can be, check this out….
P.S. Reserve a half hour and read the whole thing. It’s worth it.
Instead of crabbing that you will never break into Hollywood because of the strike (which is bunk), spend the time writing and reading! Both Universal and Miramax are allowing you to download screenplays for their Oscar-hopefuls.
Universal has pdf versions of: “American Gangster”; “Breach”; “Knocked Up”; “The Kingdom”; “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Elizabeth The Golden Age” available here.
Miramax has pdf versions of: “No Country For Old Men”; “The Diving Bell And The Butterfly”; “Hoax”; and “Gone Baby Gone” available here. When you get to the Miramax site, you have to dig the scripts out by clicking on the poster and looking for the link.
Don’t wait. Who knows how long they will keep these up? This is a terrific collection of scripts that cannot do anything but help you write. Download them, read them, all. (I will do the same.)
As most of you know, at The Thinking Writer, I think a lot about theme. In a review of Alex Epstein’s excellent book, “Crafty Screenwriting”, The Artful Writer has dredged up a debate over that all important element: theme. It is worth paying attention to. A-level writer Craig Mazin shares his insight.
Here’s a sampling of past entries from The Thinking Writer on theme:
Why Bother With Theme? April 4, 2005
But I Have A Theme? April 7, 2005
Theme:Again February 25, 2005
I have a screenplay that I am currently peddling and want to know what the ramifications of putting the finished SP on my web / blog. I am not overly worried about somebody stealing it but I don’t think many prospective prodcos would be happy at the thought of the script being out in the public forum.
Your instincts are correct, Gary. There is no good reason to post your screenplay on your weblog while you are marketing it to mainstream Hollywood. If the script is exceptionally good, it will circulate quickly anyway through the industry by being shared with, demanded by, slipped to and stolen for everyone who can get his or her hands on it. Good screenplays get around fast – whether they sell or not. Having people ask for your script is always good for you. Industry insiders are much more likely to remember writers whose scripts they have requested than those whose they are forced to read.
Even if it does not get that kind of reaction, you want to control access to your writing – at least while you’re breaking in. If you want someone to read it – you need to send it to her (provided she has agreed to accept it). If she won’t read it that way, she certainly will not read it on your weblog. In addition, posting your script will make you look like a complete amateur.
The last thing to say about this is, with all the rules, there really are no rules. While I think you are enormously more likely to damage the prospect of a sale by posting your script, at least a sale to mainstream Hollywood, you could be the first one to make a sale because of it. Your script might ignite an immediate buzz – your blog could get a million hits a day – and the phone could start ringing off the hook. Extremely, extremely unlikely – but weirder things have happened.
It’s late. I’m at the keyboard re-reading the damn pages, again, and thinking about theme, again. The questions I always face from beginning to end are “Why write this script?”, “Is it exploring questions worth exploring?” and most importantly, “Does each and every scene really further the exploration of the theme?” As if that’s not enough, I also worry about whether the story is entertaining while making this serious exploration, whether the characters are interesting enough, and whether anyone else will be interested in the questions the story asks.
After years of working on creatiing interesting characters, I’ve finally decided I don’t give a damn. When a development exec says, “You need character development,” he or she really means, “The story is just not that interesting.”
Somewhere on the old website, I posted some pretty good articles on the psychology of character. I put a lot of serious thought into how to conceive characters that are built on internal conflict from the ground up. I’ll post these articles again one day, but what I’ve come to realize is that the psychology of a character doesn’t matter at all if what the character is up to doesn’t matter. Is my character facing a struggle that asks a question that I think is important? If not, I’m wasting my time.
So how the hell do I know whether my theme is good enough? The only answer I’ve ever come up with is that if it reaches me, if I look at what really matters to me, if I get it on the page through dramatic action without ever preaching it, then it’s worth writing. Not only can’t I tell what will be important to a particular exec, I can’t write it if it means nothing to me. It’s too hard. I don’t want to be vacuous. Contrary to popular belief, execs are not stupid. They know when you don’t care; it shows up on the page.
There’s a lot to say about theme and I’ll get around to saying it. Just not tonight. I need to read the damn pages again.