Great Scene: “The Elephant Man”

August 26th, 2015 by

It’s one of the most poignant, sad, and beautiful movie moments I can remember: The ending of The Elephant Man (1980). Directed by David Lynch from a screenplay he co-wrote with Christopher De Vore & Eric Bergren, the movie tells the story of John Merrick (John Hurt), known in Victorian England as “The Elephant Man” because of his grotesque physical features. After a life of cruelty, Merrick is befriended by Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) who discovers that underneath the exterior of the ‘beast’ lies something truly remarkable as Merrick is possessed of keen intelligence and an appreciation for beauty.

In the final scene, he fulfills another wish: Simply to sleep lying down, as opposed to being propped up, how he’s had to sleep his entire life to keep from choking to death on his own saliva which pools in his lungs when his body his horizontal. In other words, Merrick’s final wish is to sleep like a ‘normal’ human being, even if it means his own demise:

The cathedral is a masterwork of detail and shading, as if it 
were St. Philips itself shrunk to a miniature.  He goes to the 
table, dips the brush into the paint and carefully signs his 
name at the base of the main spire.

				MERRICK
		John...  Merrick!

He sighs deeply, lays the brush down on the table and pushes 
the model towards the window.  The movement causes him pain.  
He puts his left hand up and feels the back of his head.  
Merrick turns out the lamp and goes to his bed.  He looks at the 
cathedral again, then around at his room.  We see in the dim 
light his books, his gallery of smiling women, his dressing 
bag, his cloak and hood, and finally his mother's picture on 
the table.  A slight breeze billows the curtains.  We move in 
very close to them.

DISSOLVE TO:

High altitude... roiling clouds with lightning flashes and
low thunder.  The sky is in turmoil.

				MERRICK (V.0.)
		When will the stream be aweary of
		flowing under my eye?

Lightning flash... thunder roll.  The clouds are mingling and
scattering.

				MERRICK (V.O.)
		When will the wind be aweary of
		blowing over the sky?

The clouds erupt, pushed onward and onward... they slowly begin 
to calm as... they turn slowly into... elephants linked 
trunk to tail moving slowly away from us...

				MERRICK (V.0.) 
		When will the clouds be aweary 
		of fleeting?

The elephants are calmer than the skies we saw...  they keep
moving onward and onward ...

				MERRICK (V.O.)
		When will the heart be aweary of
		beating....

A lacy curtain has taken the place of the sky.  The elephants
seem to be moving on it...  into the distance.

				MERRICK (V.0.)
		... and nature die?

Knock, knock sound - the curtain moves to one side wiping the 
elephants away with it.  There is no terrified audience behind 
the curtain. There is only light and Merrick's Mother smiling 
a calm and benign smile.

				JOHN'S MUM
		Never, oh!  Never, nothing will 
		die; the stream flows, 
		the wind blows, the cloud fleets, the 
		heart beats...

The light grows brighter and brighter until we cannot see John's
Mother anymore. it almost blinds us.

				JOHN'S MUM
		Nothing will die.

WHITE OUT

CUT TO BLACK

			THE END

Here is the film version of the scene:

Did you know that Mel Brooks produced The Elephant Man?

[Originally posted March 5, 2010]

Daily Dialogue — August 26, 2015

August 26th, 2015 by

Olive: [going over eye test pamphlets] Mom, Dwayne’s got 20/20 vision!
Sheryl: I bet he does…
Olive: OK, now I’m going to check to see if you’re colorblind.

Opens the pamphlet.

Olive: What’s the letter in the circle?

Dwayne looks confused.

Olive: No, no inside the circle, right there, see? It’s an A. Can’t you see it? Right there.
Frank: It’s bright green. Oh man.

Dwayne scribbles anxiously on his notepad – “What?”.

Frank: Dwayne, I think you might be colorblind.

Pause, Dwayne holds up his notepad again – “What?”

Frank: You can’t fly jets if you’re colorblind.

Dwayne immediately falls into an emotional breakdown.

Frank: Ah, we’ve got a little bit of a…Ok, we’ve got an emergency back here. I think we just need pull over man, just pull over.
Richard: What’s the emergency? We’re late as it is…
Frank: Dwayne, Dwayne it’s alright. [screams to Richard] Just pullover the car, I’m not kidding!
Richard: Ok, Ok.
Frank: Would you get him to pullover please?
Sheryl: Richard, pullover the car.
Frank: Richard, pullover the car.
Sheryl: It’s alright honey we’re pulling over.
Richard: I’m pulling over.

Dwayne tries to get out of the moving van.

Frank: No, wait, wait. Just sit down.
Richard: God, this better be good, I’m pulling over. Alright, alright.
Sheryl: Stop the car! Are you going to be Ok Dwayne? Dwayne? Oh God.
Dwayne: [runs from the van] FUUUUUUCK! Fuck! No, no….
Sheryl: What happened?
Frank: He’s colorblind. He can’t fly.
Sheryl: Oh, Jesus… oh, no.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006), written by Michael Arndt

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Hysterics. Today’s suggestion by James Schramm.

Trivia: Michael Arndt, who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine, used the supporting character name “Stan Grossman” as a tribute to Fargo (1996), another Best Original Screenplay.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary by James: “Well, if you’re going to break a 9 month self-imposed code of silence, you might as well be hysterical while doing it. Great scene from a great movie.”

Twitter Rant: @ORachaelO on What Makes a Writer Stand Out

August 25th, 2015 by

A few days ago, Rachael Prior, head of development at Big Talk Productions, went on a Twitter ‘rant’ about what makes a script – and as a result the writer – stand out. Reprinted in its entirety by permission.

As ever, there is a degree of subjectivity here. Personal taste plays a factor, but on the whole, good writing is undeniable.

You’ll have heard a lot abt ensuring the first 10 pgs of your script are strong enough to guarantee your reader continuing beyond that point

I cannot stress enough how important this is.

A good first 10 pages of any script should be working as hard as it can to originate, charm and enthrall in whatever genre it sits in.

The best way to do this (imo) is with killer character work.

If you can surprise, unseat or make your reader sit forward with your location and situation, all the better…

But many scripts require a more conventional start. If that’s the case? Character, character, character.

I can’t tell you how to write great characters, but I can tell you that the more individual their behaviour is…

…the more specific the way express themselves, the more compelling they are to your reader.

If your dialogue could be readily interchangeable with other characters in your script, you have work to do.

Chances are you are channelling movie speak, or trying to emulate. Stop.

Good character work comes from being utterly open, honest & free. If you are coy abt what you put on the pge, ur characters won’t fascinate.

You also need to listen. A fuck of a lot. In particular to people outside of your friendship and family circle. Tune in to different rhythms

One of your duties as a writer is to get down truth. Human truth.

This is often ugly, contradictory, obfuscated, naïve, selfish, perverted, joyful, heartbreaking.

To get this down, you have to get over your internal filters. At least when you are starting out. Filtering comes from rewriting.

When I can feel this in character work and dialogue, no matter how raw and undisciplined, I consider a writer to have potential.

When I feel this done with craft and elegance, I know I’m in the hands of a great writer.

How this presents itself in different writers is forever fascinating to me. At risk of embarrassing them, let me talk about 3 diff writers..

Chosen with deliberate bias so as not to offend the unchosen.

I have worked with @Finkowska and @TheTessMorris on several projects, and I I have read pretty much every script @BrianDuffield has written.

All very different scribes, all with a unique way of pulling a reader in.

Toby writes mainly drama. Pretty dark stuff on the whole, but he is preoccupied & fascinated by the human condition & this drips off the pg.

From his characters, to his dialogue to his prose and his visual landscape.

You know when you are reading a script by Toby. He has voice. It’s unmistakable. This is what u r striving for. Voice. Distinct, compelling.

He’s also clever as fuck, incredibly well read, and has a million literary references at his fingertips.

Tess writes predominantly in comedy. Her style is completely diff to Toby’s, but guess what? She’s also fascinated by the human condition.

She chooses to explore this via comedy.

I’ve not read a script yet from her where I haven’t been grinning like an idiot by pg 2 & wanting to hang out w/her & her chars & be BFFs.

Tess writes in the oldest of genres with the most contemporary of voices.

She does this by again, being painfully honest on the page, but also by being incredibly knowledgeable about popular culture…

…and being a committed student of her craft. It’s paid off. She is unique among her peers in the UK.

Brian is the master of the opening 10 pages. In fact, he should teach a class on it or at the very least, do a tweet series. I’m serious.

Brian writes across many genres, but always with a particular kind of fucked up twist.

He’s developed a unique voice & has talked abt how this matured to @gointothestory so you should def try and track that interview down.

Brian writes with an immediacy and turn of phrase that is completely unique to him. I mean, he’s really quite bonkers, but…

He understands and loves movies, and he knows how put his own stamp on whatever he’s building. He’s a very groovy writer.

I met all of these writers when they were unproduced. Toby was working as a reader, Tess was about to give it all up…

…Brian had JUST quit his day job.

Rather than you love movies and thought it might be cool to write one. I’d like to write one. I know it’s harder than that.

How do you know if you’ve got it? How do you know if you have a voice people are going to want to listen to?

Here’s honesty, & sorry if it makes me unpopular. I think I can often tell if a writer has potential even from the way they choose to tweet.

…how they craft a sentence, which words they choose.

Another account on here (and I’m sorry I can’t remember who because I ought to credit them) gave a useful litmus test a while ago.

Take a look at a tweet from a celebrity or writer you particularly admire. If they tweet something amusing and you decide to tweet back…

…your own bon mots, go take a look at all the other replies.

Have you tweeted something that stood out, or have you tweeted a variation on 90% of their mentions?

You want to be in the 10%. And not because you have just said something idiotic or ridiculous.

But I believe it’s the part of the craft that is most easily taught and worked on.

The other stuff is, to a greater or lesser extent, down to your natural talent.

So I’ll move on to talk a little bit more now abt how you can improve on your craft, which is something none of us should stop striving for.

I don’t mean the lovely scenes you depict, I mean as an actual moving, breathing graph.

If it’s not working, I can just feel it. I want to be pulled in a particular direction, but you’re taking me somewhere else…

The rhythm is wrong, the timing is off, you attending to the wrong part of the story. I’m not getting pleasure from it.

U need to develop this instinct for urself, but it’s HARD. Being ur own ed is difficult, so building a pod of trusted, expert readers is key

Expert readers aren’t around every corner, so if you can’t get that, get honest readers.

Or, you know, relegated to beers, snacks and moaning duties only.

Be very ruthless with your prose and your chitty chat. In real life, we are incredibly economic with our use of language.

We are leave huge gaps that our listeners easily fill in.

In film writing, this is essential. It will take your dialogue & prose from boring & arduous to biting and compelling. Probably. Hopefully.

Know the story you are telling. Don’t get diverted. Don’t fall in love with anything. No, particularly that bit. Your favourite bit.

That’s the bit that’s fucking your entire 2nd act.

Chances are you’re writing just became 30% more immersive.

Do not labour your point. Remember you are writing in a visual medium.

Remember we told entire stories without words on a big screen and this is how our industry was born.

Truth from on high, people! So many things in this rant I resonate with: Character. Voice. Humanity. Study. Character. Listen. Language. Words. Character. Read. Economy. Visual. Character. Character. Character.

Thanks, Rachael, for this your advice.

If you are on Twitter, follow @ORachaelO.

Black List writers on the craft: Characters (5 Part Series)

August 25th, 2015 by

Over the years, I have interviewed over 40 Black List screenwriters. This month, I am running a series featuring one topic per week related to the craft of writing.

Black List logo

Last week: How do you develop your characters?

Black List writers on the craft: Characters (Part 1) – Real people

Black List writers on the craft: Characters (Part 2) – Brainstorming and asking questions

Black List writers on the craft: Characters (Part 3) – Biography

Black List writers on the craft: Characters (Part 4) – Scene-writing

Black List writers on the craft: Characters (Part 5) – Insider tips

Perhaps the biggest tip: Get curious about your characters.

In my opinion, the Black List is the most important brand related to screenwriters and screenwriting in Hollywood. Therefore it makes sense we should study the creative processes of writers who make the list. More insight and inspiration coming next week.

 

Script Analysis: “Nebraska” – Part 2: Major Plot Points

August 25th, 2015 by

Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read. Our daily schedule:

Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Tuesday: Major Plot Points
Wednesday: Sequences
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Takeaways

Today: Major Plot Points.

In every scene, something happens. A plot point is a scene or group of scenes in which something major happens, an event that impacts the narrative causing it to turn in a new direction.

A relevant anecdote. Years ago, I was on the phone with a writer discussing a script project. My son Will, who was about four years old at the time, must have been listening to me talking about “plot points” during the conversation because after I hung up, he asked, “Daddy, what’s a plop point?”

That’s in effect what a plot point is. It’s an event that ‘plops’ into the narrative and changes its course. So when you think Plot Point, think Plop Point!

The value of this exercise:

* To identify the backbone of the story structure.

* To examine each major plot point and see how it is effective as an individual event.

* To analyze the major plot points in aggregate to determine why they work together as the central plot.

This week: Nebraska. You may download the script – free and legal – here.

Written by Bob Nelson.

IMDb plot summary: An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.

Writing Exercise: Go through the scene-by-scene breakdown of Nebraska and identify the major plot points. Post your thoughts in comments and we’ll see if we can come up with a consensus.

Major kudos to David Joyner for doing this week’s breakdown.

For Part 1, to read the Scene-By-Scene Breakdown, go here.

Tomorrow we consider the script’s structure in terms of its sequences.

REQUEST: We have some incredible scripts in the GITS library which we have yet to analyze including 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street, and many more.

I am looking for volunteers to read a script and provide a scene-by-scene breakdown for it to be used as part of our weekly series. What do you get? Beyond your name being noted here, my thanks, and some creative juju, hopefully you will learn something about story structure and develop another skill set which is super helpful in learning and practicing the craft.

The latest volunteers:

Birdman – Doc Kane
Dallas Buyers Club – Devin Dingler
Frozen – Doc Kane
Gone Girl – Ashley
Looper – Michael Perkins
Nebraska – David Joyner
Nightcrawler – Marija

Thanks, all!

To see examples of scene-by-scene breakdowns, go here. Part of the goal is to create a library of breakdowns for writers to have at their disposal for research and learning.

You may see the scripts we can use for the series – free and legal – by going here.

To date, we have analyzed 45 movie scripts, a great resource for screenwriters. To see those analyses, go here.

Thanks to any of you who will rise to the occasion and take on a scene-by-scene breakdown.

And for those of you who have volunteered, please send me your scene-by-scene breakdown as soon as possible!

Circling back to where we started, reading scripts is hugely important. Analyzing them even more so. If you want to work in Hollywood as a writer, you need to develop your critical analytical skills. This is one way to do that.

So seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

I hope to see you in comments about this week’s script: Nebraska.

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 2)

August 25th, 2015 by

Over the years, I have interviewed over 40 Black List screenwriters. This month, I am running a series featuring one topic per week related to the craft of writing.

Black List logo

This week: How do you understand and work with the concept of ‘theme’?

The diversity of responses among the Black List writers I have interviewed is fascinating. Yesterday we explored various articulations of what ‘theme’ is. Today we look at some writers who begin the story-crafting process with theme.

Joshua Golden: “I typically start from theme and character. I don’t want to start writing and halfway through, ultimately figure out what the story is about. I mean thematically, what it’s about. I need to know that going in… I want everyone’s journey to be reflective of whatever the theme is. Some might argue that maybe it’s not as important or as necessary. But theme and character, for me, are my two starting points.”

Brian Duffield: “I almost always start with the theme. I can’t even really think of a situation where I didn’t (if it was an original). Usually it’s a theme I want to explore because it’s really locked into my head as a person, as something I’m going through or struggling or interested with, so even if I throw out the characters or genre surrounding that theme a dozen times, the theme stays intact because it’s an itch I need to scratch. I think theme is deathly important. I read a lot of scripts and watch a lot of movies where I couldn’t tell you what it was really saying beyond a couple of interesting characters doing something interesting. Which is fine sometimes, but it always feels a little surface level to me.”

Kelly Marcel: “I’m personally a big fan of knowing what your theme is before starting. I think they can arise as you tell the story, but writing within and for a theme seems to me to help the process along. It allows for much more intricate storytelling, ways of speaking to the theme and letting your theme to speak to you, even unconsciously. I said ‘theme’ four times in that last paragraph. I shouldn’t be allowed to be a writer.”

For some writers, whether they start with theme or not is an open question:

Barbara Stepansky: “It really depends on the script. Sometimes I have a very clear theme in mind and I know this is a story about these people discovering a certain aspect about life. Then every scene has to be geared toward that. Then sometimes, like with “Sugar in My Veins,” honestly no, I never spend much time on theme with “Sugar in My Veins.” I just wanted to tell this particular story and so it didn’t bother me that thematically, it wasn’t that clear in my head at the beginning. It became much clearer later on.”

And some may wonder about starting with theme, but it’s just not their thing:

Justin Kremer: “It’s interesting because some guys — like I listened to an interview with Steven Gaghan — he is someone I have in my Writers Rushmore — he operates very much from the theme first. Then he’ll draw his narrative from that. I think what I found to be most helpful is to find the arc and work on the character and then the theme will organically emerge. That’s been my experience.”

Takeaway:

* Knowing your theme is important in shaping the narrative, understanding the characters and their purpose in the story, and tying together every scene into an organic whole.

* If you start with theme, you have some company…

…But honestly, most writers I’ve interviewed, like Justin Kremer, discover their story themes in the process of working out and writing the story, seeing it “organically emerge.”

How about you? Do you start with theme?

For Part 1 of this week’s series with Black List writers, go here.

Come back tomorrow for more about this important subject: Theme.

Screenwriting 101: Wells Root

August 25th, 2015 by

screenplay“Generally speaking, the most successful stories are those of human character. The most important thing in a script is to have strong leading characters. Plot and structure and the rest are really secondary. It’s how your characters behave and what they say that really makes a film live. The most effective screenplays and films are those solidly based in human characters.”

— Wells Root

Daily Dialogue — August 25, 2015

August 25th, 2015 by

JAKE: Oh, please, don’t kill us! Please, please don’t kill us! You know I love you baby. I wouldn’t leave ya. It wasn’t my fault!
MYSTERY WOMAN: You miserable slug. You think you can talk your way out of this? You betrayed me.
JAKE: No, I didn’t. Honest…I ran out of gas. I had a flat tire. I…I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GAAAAWWWWWWWDDDDDD!

The Blues Brothers (1980), written by Dan Aykroyd, John Landis

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Hysterics. Today’s suggestion by Will King.

Trivia: The line, “They broke my watch!” occurs three times in the film, each time spoken or voiced over by a policeman on the losing end of a car chase with the Blues Brothers. The first line is in the shopping mall, the second is in the rollover ditch, and the third is in the pile-up under the elevated train line. The broken-watch theme starts when Jake’s broken watch is returned to him when he is released from prison at the beginning of the film.

Dialogue On Dialogue: I don’t know about you, but when confronted by a rifle-toting mad-woman, I’ve been reduced to hysterics a time or two myself.

Style = Voice

August 24th, 2015 by

How you approach screenwriting style is a reflection of your writing voice. This is the case whether you are intentional about it or not. A professional script reader, who plows through hundreds of scripts per year, will pick up on a script’s sense of style – or lack thereof – from the very first line of scene description. Therefore it stands to reason you need to think about your writing voice as conveyed in your script’s style. And that is what Core IV: Style is all about, exploring the breadth and depth of the 4th essential screenwriting principle I teach in the Core content of The Quest:

Style = Voice

Start with this question: Who tells your story? Obviously, when you sit down to create a screenplay, you write the story. But when a manager, producer, agent, or studio executive reads your script, who tells your story to them?

It is someone who remains largely invisible, but whose presence is felt from FADE IN to FADE OUT. Someone about whom many screenwriters have little knowledge and yet traffic in that unseen world every time they write a scene. Someone who can make a screenplay a great read – or something less.

Let’s call it Narrative Voice.

Narrative Voice is not a narrator per se. You will never see it with its own side of dialogue. In fact, you will never name it in your screenplay. But Narrative Voice is there. And it is a critical aspect of your script’s success.

What is Narrative Voice?

Narrative Voice is the storytelling sensibility you bring to your screenplay through your writing style. Think of Narrative Voice as your script’s invisible character. Although silent, it is present in every scene, every line, every word you write. As you develop and sharpen each visible character in your screenplay, you also need to figure out who your Narrative Voice is, what your Narrative Voice sounds like, and how your Narrative Voice will play an active role in the telling of your story.

In Core IV: Style, a 1-week online class I will teach starting on Monday, August 31, you will learn about:

* The ins and outs of Narrative Voice

* Elements of screenplay style

* Psychological writing (Perspective, Proximity, Perception)

* Imagematic writing (Verbs, Descriptors, Poetics)

* Action writing (Lines, Paragraphs, Direction)

And much more. The course consists of four components:

  • Lectures: There are six lectures written by me, each posting Monday through Saturday.
  • Writing Exercises: These optional exercises offer you the opportunity to test out your own writing style, plus the chance to workshop and receive feedback on one of your own loglines.
  • Teleconference: We will have a Skype teleconference call to discuss course material.
  • Forums: The online course site has forums where you may post questions / comments.

Our study scripts: Wall-E, The Hangover, The Dark Knight, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Last Boy Scout, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Chinatown, The Matrix, Black Swan, Legally Blonde, American Beauty, Little Miss Sunshine, Basic Instinct, Unforgiven, True Grit, The King’s Speech, and Winter’s Bone.

For those of you who have not taken an online class, the interface is extremely easy. Plus online classes can be an amazing experience. Most of the activities you can do on your own time — download and read lectures, review and respond to forum discussions, upload loglines and track comments. In addition, I’ve been teaching online for over a decade and it never ceases to amaze me how much of a community emerges in such an environment.

Core IV: Style is one of eight classes in the Core curriculum. Here is the schedule for the remaining five classes, the only time I will be offering these courses in 2015:

August 31: Core IV: Style

September 28: Core V: Dialogue

October 12: Core VI: Scene

November 9: Core VII: Theme

November 30: Core VIII: Time

Choose one or two depending upon your interests and needs. Or if you’re really serious and want to save some coin (nearly 50% off), consider The Core Package which gives you immediate access to the content for all eight Core classes which you can go through at your own pace, as well as the option of taking each 1-week online course.

“When I found out about Scott Myers’ Screenwriting Master Class, I signed up for the first module, to test the waters, but before the week was out, I’d signed up for the rest [The Core Package]. Wish I’d known about it all those years ago! Value for money, solid understandable notes, a teacher who’s been there and done it, plus swapping ideas with fellow writers – it doesn’t get any more real.” — Philip Brewster

I have gotten to know dozens of professional script readers throughout the years and I can let you in on this little secret: A writer’s voice as exhibited in screenplay style goes a long way toward winning them over and getting you favorable script coverage.

For information on Core IV: Style, which begins August 31, go here.

For The Core Package, go here.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Twitter Rant: Gary Graham on Some Keys to Screenwriting

August 24th, 2015 by

Last week, Gary Graham went on a Twitter ‘rant’ about how he wrote and sold his spec script “A Garden at the End of the World” to Warner Bros. Subsequently Gary was hired to retrofit “Garden” to reboot I Am Legend. Gary’s saga told in tweets is a terrific object lesson in vision, passion, and perseverance. Reprinted in its entirety by permission.

despite my best efforts, i could not get the script into anyone’s hands who wanted it. so i wrote another.

more attempts to connect with managers failed. so i wrote another. a western. spent months and months on it.

with a connection i had in the industry, we tried to get it in front of people. realized no one wants to make a western.

as this was happening, i was working simultaneously on a documentary to make ends meet. two years on this film with a billionaire…

…who was really into it, etc. once we were finished shooting, that billionaire brought in his son in law and they kicked me off the film.

with no job i started working at apple. mainly because 5th avenue is 24 hours. so i could continue to write in the day, work late at night.

so long hours of a) working a day job. b) writing my ass off.

i wrote yet another script, a monster movie that takes place aboard a subway train. small, contained horror. had a few bites on that one.

Some days I wanted to toss that script in the garbage. I couldn’t crack it. I was so frustrated. And my day job was grinding me.

But I kept at it. And a few things happened to me. Mainly, I fell in love with my characters. And it was personal in some way.

I’m writing about a guy who feels isolated and alone. Who feels he’s lost his fucking soul.

And here I am working a job at Apple that I could have gotten when I was 19. And I have an MFA from Columbia.

It was an incredibly difficult time of self reflection. What the hell am i doing with my life?

I’m spilling this because I’ve been reading a lot of the same frustration I felt and hey… still feel.

So today is friday. if you’re feeling defeated or down, pull yourself up by the bootstraps.

Get off twitter and go talk to the people you love… the characters in that script you’re writing. And pour your heart and soul into it.

And forget all the rest of this shit and drama going on here. It’s a distraction from what you need to be doing.

Passion. Find a story you are passionate about writing… and write that. That not only ups the odds you will actually drag your ass onto chair day after day that you’ll get to FADE OUT, it’s also that passion which will hopefully find its way into your words, then lift those words off the page, and into imagination of the script’s reader.

This isn’t part of Gary’s rant, but it’s such a great story from his days at the Apple store, I’ve got to include it:

this elderly german woman comes in. big frown on her face. i sit down with her. she is not happy.

her grandson convinced her to buy a computer. but she can’t use it. what the hell does she need it for. it’s a paper weight.

i asked her question after question, looking for something she might need it for. then invited her to return it.

so i said. where were you born. she tells me. some small village in germany. i say, when was the last time you were there?

she says, last time she was there was when she was 15. never been back.

I love this story obviously for the human emotion involved, but there are a lot of writing takeaways from this tiny little anecdote:

* Characters are everywhere: Every single person we intersect with can be an inspiration for our creativity. We just have to keep our eyes and ears attuned to that frequency.

* Questions are key: Notice how Gary kept asking the woman questions, digging and digging, trying to find something with which he could make a connection for her and the computer. Likewise when dealing with our characters, I’ve found curiosity exhibited in questions is the most important tool we have in unlocking the mysteries of the individuals who inhabit our stories.

* Look for moments: One of my favorite writing quotes comes from Anne Beattie who said, “People forget years and remember moments.” That’s how I most remember movies: Its memorable moments. So as we go through life, the millions of moments we have over the years, be aware and sensitive to those which can spark a scene… give us dialogue… perhaps inspire an entire story.

Like helping out an old woman with her computer… and suddenly taking her home again.

By the way, you may be asking how did Gary get “A Garden at the End of the World” in front of Hollywood buyers? He uploaded the spec to the Black List website where it caught the attention of Brooklyn Weaver, a manager at Energy Entertainment, and CAA. The rest, as they say, is history.

To read all of the screenwriting Twitter rants I’ve aggregated on GITS, go here.