August 24

HANG YOUR ASS OUT THERE

unattributed gifHave a point of view. Please….

I’m begging you. For God sakes, say something with your screenplay. Anything. But have a strong point of view. It’s what separates you from everyone else writing for a living or writing in the hopes of making a living. What you think, how you see the world, what matters to you – that is what you really have to sell. Stringing together a vapid narrative is not enough – certainly not enough to build a career. Usually not enough even to get a lucky break. And never enough to give you any satisfaction in the writing of it.

Guess what Hollywood wants from you? Your point of view. They don’t want Scott Frank’s point of view from you. If they want his point of view, they’ll hire him. They don’t want a neutral point of view (even if the notes they give you tell you they do). No, they want your unique point of view. It’s what they can’t get from anyone else.

Who has made a living having a point of view? Oliver Stone (“Midnight Express”, “Platoon”, “JFK”), Gary Ross (“Big”, “Pleasantville”, “Dave”), M. Night Shyamalan (“Sixth Sense”, “Signs”), Julius and Philip Epstein (“Casablanca”), Robert Towne (“Chinatown”), Herman Mankiewicz (“Citizen Kane”), Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men”, “The American President”), Woody Allen (too many to list) – in fact, all of the greats.

You, too, have a point of view. Develop it. Think about it. Use it to your advantage. Don’t worry that it won’t fly.

It’s

all

you’ve

got.

If they don’t want your unique point of view, you lose. If they do, you win. It’s that simple. If you don’t have one at all, you still lose.

Better to lose hanging your ass out then to lose because you are run-of-the-mill with nothing interesting to offer. Hollywood could care less about run-of-the-mill. Art houses could care less about run-of-the-mill, too. That’s because audiences could care less about run-of-the-mill.

Be something. Don’t be nothing. Please….

Enough. Now go write.



Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.

Posted August 24, 2006 by TW in category "The Craft

17 COMMENTS :

  1. By Jay on

    I think about this sometimes, since I want my writing to have some meaning, be worth something and so on. However I find at least at the moment I’m drawn to writing horror comedy and I’m wondering exactly how you’re supposed to put your point of view across.

    Do you think it naturally comes out or do you purposefully put it in? If my PoV is that the good guys always win and the world is a good place, do I write a good/happy ending thus that’s my point of view?

    Along the same lines, I may have all these deep and meaningful theories about how things are or should be, but I try and think about how the hell I can write something interesting about it and put it in a genre I enjoy and… its pretty tough!

    Should I form an idea of the concepts or ideals, PoV I want to get across and THEN come up with a story to fit that or the other way around?

    Thanks, nice post!

  2. By TW (Post author) on

    Excellent comment. It is tough. It’s very tough. It’s the reason good writing is very hard to do. And it applies to all genres.

    In horror, take M. Night as an example. Like you, he believes the world is an ordered place where the good guys always win. In “Sixth Sense” (for which he reportedly wrote 15 drafts, 6 before he decided Malcolm was actually dead), he had something important to say. What he wanted to say is, “If you truly and carefully listen to the world, it all makes sense.” He did not preach it. He never even said it in the movie. He just worked his tail off to create a story that showed it. This was his point of view and why it was a story no one else could tell. The trick ending, which was so compelling, was not the reason the story resonated. Many pictures with trick endings are not nearly as compelling or successful. His was compelling because it had a powerful and unique point of view.

    POV does not come out just through the ending. The entire story leads to the ending, so the entire story must project the POV. I suggest you need to think more about your own POV and develop it further. How do good guys always win? In your POV, what is the mechanism through which this order is maintained? What is the right way to live so that you will be the good guy and always win? Explore your POV further and in more depth and you will see something more unique appear.

    In terms of how you develop a POV, it is a dance back and forth between story and POV. Sometimes you will know right up front what your point of view is. It might be something you have specifically developed your entire life. Sometimes you will have to explore. Sometimes, unfortunately, you will wander lost through many drafts before you understand it. Any way you develop it, you must consciously strive to project it. Good professional writers have developed the skill of developing a strong POV in a short amount of time, a necessary skill to meet deadlines.

    Thanks for hitting the nail on the head with your comment.

  3. By Dante Kleinberg on

    I’m not sure I have a POV, or really any strong feelings about one thing or another. When I write, I try to inhabit the POV of my characters and make that a priority in anything they say and do.

    As I was editing something today, I noticed that a character who would be revealed as a pyromaniac in 50 or so pages used the phrase “we’re gonna burn them” when describing a baseball game. I didn’t notice it when I wrote it, but it’s just another case of the character coming to life, yes? Making their POV known…

  4. By danny on

    First, I require more frequent updates of this blog, TW.

    Second, what are your thoughts on the line between POV and preachiness?

    I think it’s a pretty thick line between the two. And I think you do too.

    Either way, it seems a similar-enough topic worth discussing.

    Sorkin, for example, is often blasted by his (few) detractors for being too preachy. But he is also Sorkin. He can get away with just about anything as long as his witty dialogue is running full blast.

    But what about the rest of us?

    How can we tell when merely expressing a unique POV shifts to cramming it down your throat?

  5. By TW (Post author) on

    To me, a story becomes preachy when a character directly preaches the point-of-view. A point of view should be clear from the dramatic action – including dialogue as action – without the character giving sermons. (Dialogue as action means dialogue that properly functions in a story to create both text and subtext and properly advances the character as well as the story.) If the dialogue ceases to function dramatically but is put in merely to state the point of view, it is preachy. Put another way, if the dialogue stating the point of view is unnecessary to advance the character or the story, but is just guilding the lilly, then it is preachy.

    As for Sorkin, he usually places characters in a world where how each one reacts to issue debates is the core of the character. It allows for characters to directly state their points of view on many issues. And while he is usually guiding us into accepting the more liberal position, that is not really the point of view of his stories. The point of view of his stories is usually something like, “democracy is imperfect but if it is being administered in good faith by people who really care, everything will work out all right.” (“The American President”, “West Wing” and even “A Few Good Men” all had something like this at heart.) That point of view is rarely ever directly spoken in his stories. Rather, like all good stories, it is demonstrated by the dramatic action. (I would not be surprised if the point of view of his new show “Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip” has a point of view something like, “Trying to keep TV ratings is hell, but if the show is run in good faith by people who care, everything will work out all right.”)

  6. By danny on

    That’s a good distinction between the two. Worth throwing onto my Revisions Checklist.

    For the record, I don’t think Sorkin is preachy either; it’s just something I hear a lot. Very much looking forward to STUDIO 60.

    I also forgot to say, this is a fine blog you’re running. Keep it coming.

  7. By Brett N on

    Wow. Great post.

    SO great that I’m leaving a short comment rather that the usual novella.

    Trust me– this is rare.
    .
    .
    .
    B

  8. By Sal on

    Top post, glad I stumbled across your blog.

    Like Brett, I haven’t much to add, just wanted to concur, really

  9. By Andrew on

    Beginning writers are often inundated with the “Must haves” for their screenplays… “there must always be conflict”… “your hero must be sympathetic”… “your hero’s own decisions must drive the plot”.. etc, etc etc..
    I think that all of this aside, your point, which has been desperately begged by other screenwriting advice-givers too, is enough in many cases to give a story all of the above.. when you give your main character a POV that is truly unique, then by definition he/she will be at conflict with the world, and will make decisions based on that POV that drive the story, and will be identifiable/sympathetic as a result, because anyone in any audience can relate to the feeling that the way they see the world is personal and unique.
    I think your list of the great screenplays of all time all feature main characters that see their universe differently than those around them.
    A hero’s POV is not necessarily the same thing as an author’s POV, but it can be.

  10. By Karppi Lammikko on

    Hey Mr. writing man, it’s couldn’t care less.

    I bet all of you natives couldn’t care less what a foreign stickler thinks about this, but really: if I could care less, doesn’t that mean that I do care somewhat?

  11. By TW (Post author) on

    Karppi –

    It’s an idiom. They work in funny ways. See this link for background of “could care less” in place of “couldn’t care less”.

  12. By the crossfader on

    great post. i basically came to the same realization about my own stuff a few weeks ago. i would also add that you’ve also got to put your ass on the line with every emotional beat in your story such that the character become flesh and blood. what we enjoy about movies that we can watch over and over again in the flesh and blood tangibility of what the writer is forcing us to experience with him/her.

  13. By AG on

    The proper response to someone who uses the malapropism, “I could care less,” should be, “Well, go right ahead!” This thinking writer site is a thinly veiled attempt at making money. The guy or guys who write the tips here are truly lame. You can read Steve Cannell’s tips for screenwriters for free on the internet, and he’s produced and written six or seven hit series and a number of best selling novels. This site is a joke.

  14. By TW (Post author) on

    There is no money involved here. I sell nothing and make no money whatsoever with this blog. On the other hand, the website which hosts the Stephen J. Cannell’s tips (which I highly recommend) does generate revenue from banner and other advertisements.

  15. By ed on

    All is about audience´s emotions. The attempt to be convinced is much more entertained than to be just a witness of one story.

    The POV tries to convince the audience. It is also a resource.

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