Interview [Audio]: Tony Gilroy [BAFTA Lecture]

June 9th, 2014 by

BAFTA (The British Academy of Film and Television Arts) has been hosting a wonderful lecture series the last few years, featuring some of the best screenwriters in the U.S. and U.K.

If you go here, you can listen to 72 minutes of Tony Gilroy (Bourne Identity, Michael Clayton) talking about the craft (recorded September 2013).

You can download a PDF transcription of his lecture here.

Stephen Fry’s 2014 BAFTA Awards final comments

February 26th, 2014 by

For a fleeting moment in time, there was a video on YouTube with the entirety of this year’s BAFTA Awards ceremony. But alas, the YouTube gods yanked it away. So we will have to make do with this:

And a transcript of Fry’s closing comments:

That’s all from the EE British Academy Film Awards 2014

Thank you Your Royal Highness and thank you everybody who has come and contributed and congratulations to all those who are nominated or involved in any of the films that have here been recognised.

After nine outings as host of this event, I can only speak truthfully and say that I think this year has presented the greatest variety of captivating, compelling, but always utterly watchable and engrossing stories.

There are new stories being enacted in the world every day, and there are stories that always need telling in new ways. There are stories being born in the minds of imaginative writers the world over. And maybe there is a story that you have fermenting in your mind.

Everyone in the film world starts out somewhere, and contrary to what you may think, it is not a closed world.

Everyone is welcome.

So to the established masters of the form – Good luck with your next story –

and to anyone out there who knows that they can tell a story in film, too – Go for it. I mean it.

Yes, the odds against achieving financial success as a writer and storyteller are significant. This path is not for the faint of heart.

But Fry is absolutely right: The film business is not a “closed world”. Maybe years ago, but now with the Internet, managers who want to read new writers, manager email addresses, and scripts as PDFs, anyone anywhere in the world has access to Hollywood.

Moreover there are sites like the Black List script hosting service which provide a go-to online platform for writers, buyers and reps.

Which means you can focus on the writing and learning the craft.

So by all means, go for it.


HT to Trish Curtin for sending me the link to the BAFTA Awards video, alas gone with the virtual wind. But Fry’s message lives on!

Written Interview: David Hare

September 1st, 2012 by

English screenwriter, TV writer, playwright and director David Hare (Strapless, The Hours, The Reader) with a presentation he made in association with BAFTA. An excerpt:

On The Hours, when Meryl Streep walked into the room in which she, the principal character lived, we had to stop filming for six hours to completely re-dress the apartment. Stephen Daldry is the most assiduously collegiate of directors. He’d had endless meetings with her about what it was going to look like but at that moment when the abstract becomes concrete everybody realises that they are making a subtly different film in their heads. And the job of the director is to align everyone’s views and to make everybody understand the degree to which they are making the same thing.

The screenwriter’s job is to begin that process. To be the first person who does that. I am the first person who imagines what it will be like at the Everyman Hampstead in 18 months time or two years time when the idea becomes concrete. So when people ask what I do for a living, mostly I think. I spend most of the day thinking – a posh word for thinking is imagining – but I do whatever you call that. Dreaming what the film is going to be. That’s what I do most of the day. Most of the day I balance out the implications of one thing being one thing, another thing being another thing, and how that will work.

When I recently delivered the film I’m hoping to make next year, the person who paid for it said to me ‘Oh my goodness me, this is dialogue to die for.’ I didn’t like to say to her I usually write the dialogue at about 4.30 in the afternoon and it usually takes me about 20 minutes. Actually, writing the dialogue is kind of the easiest thing that a screenwriter does because if you’ve thought it all out right then the actual job of writing the words is just incredibly easy, because most of what you’re doing is imagining.

For the rest of the interview transcript and the video of the presentation, go here.

Thanks to Shaula Evans for sourcing this link.

2012 BAFTA winners

February 12th, 2012 by

The 2012 BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay goes to Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist.

The 2012 BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay goes to Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

The Artist takes most of the major awards. The entire list of winners is here.

UPDATE: @opedr Tweeted this quote from Hazanavicius from the BAFTA event:

“I’m very surprised because so many people thought there was no script because there was no dialogue…”

This goes at the heart of the general population’s ignorance about what screenwriters create, the perception that what we do is write the dialogue. In most cases, the dialogue is the least important narrative element compared to characters, sequences, scenes, theme and all the rest.

In fact the screenplay for The Artist is 42 pages long and comprised of 124 scenes including all the silent dialogue as title cards.

To check out the script for The Artist and many other movies that came out in 2011, you can go here to download them legally.

BAFTA Nominations

January 17th, 2012 by

2012 screenplay noms from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts:


THE ARTIST Michel Hazanavicius

BRIDESMAIDS | Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig

THE GUARD | John Michael McDonagh

THE IRON LADY | Abi Morgan



THE DESCENDANTS | Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

THE HELP | Tate Taylor

THE IDES OF MARCH | George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon

MONEYBALL | Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin

TINKER TALIOR SOLDIER SPY | Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan

Video Interview: Guillermo Arriaga

January 8th, 2012 by

BAFTA (British Academy for Film and Television Arts) ran a series in 2011 called “Screenwriter Lectures” featuring some of the world’s most renowned film writers. Here are highlights from a lecture given by Guillermo Arriaga whose screenwriting credits include 21 Grams and Babel.

Video Interview: Paul Laverty

January 1st, 2012 by

BAFTA (British Academy for Film and Television Arts) ran a series in 2011 called “Screenwriter Lectures” featuring some of the world’s most renowned film writers. Here are highlights from a lecture by Paul Laverty whose screenwriting credits include Sweet Sixteen and The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

Charlie Kaufman BAFTA lecture [Final]

December 23rd, 2011 by

During the last two weeks, I’ve excerpted a recent lecture Charlie Kaufman gave at a British Academy for Film and Television Arts event. Here are links to the entire speech:

For Part 1 of this series, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

For Part 3, go here.

For Part 4, go here.

For Part 5, go here.

For Part 6, go here.

For Part 7, go here.

For Part 8, go here.

What did you learn from Kaufman’s lecture? And more generally, what have Kaufman’s movies taught you as a writer and creative thinker?

Charlie Kaufman BAFTA lecture [Part 8]

December 22nd, 2011 by

On September 30, 2011, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman gave a lecture at a British Academy of Film and Television Arts event. I thought his presentation offered such wonderful insights not only into Kaufman’s world view, but also the very act of creativity that we should go through the entire thing on GITS. Today: Part 8.

Storytelling is inherently dangerous. If you consider a traumatic event in your life, consider it as you experienced it. Now think about how you told it to someone a year later. Now think about how you told it for the one hundredth time. It’s not the same thing. A few components enter into the change. One is perspective. Most people think perspective is a good thing to have in a story. You can figure out characters arcs, you can apply a moral, you can tell it from a distance with understanding and context. The problem is that this perspective is a misrepresentation of the incident; it’s a reconstruction with meaning and as such bears very little resemblance to the event.

The other thing that happens in storytelling is the process of adjustment for the audience over time. You find out which part of the story works, which parts to embellish, which parts to jettison. You fashion it. Your goal, your reasons for telling it are to be entertaining, to garner sympathy. This is true for a story told at a dinner party, and it’s true for stories told in movies.

I’m sifting through now, to see if there’s stuff… So I should stop soon?

Audience: No!

CK: I’ll do this part now because this sort of relates. So in relation to that, don’t let anyone tell you what a story is, what it needs to include or what form it must take. As an experiment, go out of your way to write a non-story. It will still be a story, but it will have a chance of being a different story. Our brains make stories. It is as basic to us as breathing; we cannot do otherwise. Free yourself – and by extension the rest of us – with your efforts. If you give yourself too specific an assignment you will keep yourself locked away from your work. Go where it takes you. If you say you want to write about homeless people, and in the end reveal their humanity, you’ll end up with something illustrative and perhaps instructive.

If you say, ‘There aren’t words to put this moan I feel in me, but I’m going to swim in it and see what happens,’ you’ll end up with something real. But you’ll have to throw away any predetermined notion of what real is. It doesn’t mean you’ll end up with a million dollar screenplay or that critics will love it. You can write to that if that’s your goal. In the process you might lose track of who you are but that’s okay. They’ll assign you an identity.


With a screenplay you’re creating a world; consider everything, every character, every room, every juxtaposition, every increment of time as an embodiment of that world. Look at all of this through that filter and make sure it is all consistent. As in a painting, every element is part of one whole composition, just as there is nothing separate in the actual world there should be nothing separate in the world you create.

This is a little thing that I wrote, that’s just a personal thing for me, and it’s very… I don’t know, but you’ll see. But I hate this, so I’m just going to share with you that I hate it. ‘Do not write jokes to your readers in your stage directions.’ You know what I mean by that? People do that. Don’t do that. Your job is to create an atmosphere. You’re trying to establish a mood. You’re writing a story and what you’re trying to do is to help this large group of people who are going to come together to understand the tone and the spirit and the feeling of this movie so that they can come together and make it. That’s what you should spend your time on, not with winks and stuff. Not winking at people.

This is all gold by the way [referring to his notes], but I’m… you know, some of this I’ve covered. I’ll tell you this little story now, and I don’t know why I’m telling it but it’s interesting to me and it just seems like there’s something inherently cinematic about it. I run in my neighbourhood, and one day I ran past this guy who was running in the other direction, an older guy, a big hulky kind of guy, really struggling, huffing and puffing. I was kind of going down a slight hill and he was coming up the hill. But it was very slight, and he was wearing a headband and his sweatshirt.

So he passes me and he goes, ‘Well sure, it’s all downhill that way,’ and I love that joke because it’s funny. And he made a connection and it was sort of a witty thing to say. So I had it in my head that I like this guy, this is a cool guy, you know, and he’s my friend now. So a few weeks later I’m passing by him again, I see him in the distance coming towards me, we’re going opposite ways, and I’m thinking, ‘There’s the guy, that’s cool.’ So as we pass each other he says, ‘Well sure, it’s all downhill that way.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, okay. He’s got a repertoire, and doesn’t know… I’m not that special. He’s probably said it to other people. Maybe he doesn’t remember me, he’s an older guy, maybe there’s some… but okay. I laughed. But this time my laugh was a little forced, because I’ve got all these things going on in my head and I’m disappointed.

And then I pass him again, and he says it again. And this time he’s going downhill and I’m going uphill. So it doesn’t even make any sense any more, it’s not about anything. And I started to have so much pain about this, because I’m embarrassed for him and there’s something wrong with him I think. And then it just keeps happening. It’s all downhill that way. Probably heard it seven or eight more times. And I start to avoid him. I see him coming and I cross the street because you know… And if I can’t cross the street then I look like I’m really focused on my running, he says it anyway if he passes me, even if I’m not looking.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this story, except that I like the idea that changes over time and nothing has changed. What’s changed is all in my head and has to do with a realisation on my character’s part through time. There’s no outward story here, and it can only be told in a form. It can’t be told in a painting, I guess is the point I’m making. I wouldn’t know how to do that, and… I’m probably reaching here to say this, but I do think that when you’re doing a movie, when you’re doing a screenplay, you have to know why it’s a movie. And if it doesn’t have to be a movie then you shouldn’t make it.

It’s very important that what you do is specific to the medium in which you’re doing it. And that you utilise what’s specific about that medium to do the work. And if you can’t think about why it should be done this way or needs to be done this way, then it doesn’t need to be done this way and then you should figure out what it is about this – if you want to do it – that needs to be told in the form of a movie.

I think about YouTube, I really do think about it, because this stuff just ends up on there and then everybody in the world says what a jerk you are or whatever, you know. It’s a very weird thing to think about that as the thing that you’re contending with when you come and do anything in public; this other sort of element of mindless aggression that exists on the internet.

I’ve got a bunch of other stuff, but I think it’s 8.02 so I think I should stop and do the Q&A. Yeah? Okay, because my other stuff is my B material. Thank you.


For Part 1 of this series, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

For Part 3, go here.

For Part 4, go here.

For Part 5, go here.

For Part 6, go here.

For Part 7, go here.

To watch the video of Kaufman’s presentation, go here.

To subscribe to the BAFTA newsletter, go here.

To the best fansite dedicated to Charlie Kaufman, go to Being Charlie Kaufman.

HT to @Brentwgraham for the link.

Charlie Kaufman BAFTA lecture [Part 7]

December 21st, 2011 by

On September 30, 2011, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman gave a lecture at a British Academy of Film and Television Arts event. I thought his presentation offered such wonderful insights not only into Kaufman’s world view, but also the very act of creativity that we should go through the entire thing on GITS. Today: Part 7.

I read an article about bullying recently. Everyone is up in arms about bullying. A vocal minority thinks it’s a good thing. That it’s part of growing up, that it builds character. What was left out of this article and doesn’t seem to be part of the discussion is that bullying is a significant element of our culture. The bullying of children by children doesn’t come from nowhere. The question remains whether bullying is an inherent aspect of human nature, but that doesn’t change the fact that a culture which discourages rather than encourages bullying would have a better chance of curbing it.

Our culture is marketing. What is marketing? Trying to get people to do what you want them to. It’s what drives our consumer culture. It’s what drives our politics; it’s what drives our art. Music, movies, books, fine arts, it’s part of every research grant proposal. I don’t want to participate. I don’t want to tell you how to sell a screenplay or tell you how to write a hit, or tell you how to fit into the existing system. I want to tell you that I have a hope that there’s another way to be in this world, and that I believe with courage, vulnerability and honesty that the stuff we put into the world can serve a better purpose.

The way movies work now, and I’m talking about mainstream industry, the only goal is to get you to buy a product. The only goal. The only goal. The only goal. The only goal. And this intention creates the movies that we sit through, and the movies that we sit through create us. In government we’ve been reduced to the same game. Through trickery, obfuscation, bullying and fear mongering, the goal of marketing a candidate is achieved.

I don’t understand many things, I don’t know as much as I’d like about anything, but I’m a human being and I won’t be in competition for the right to be treated decently. I won’t play that game. Nor should anybody have to. In turn, I will try not to use whatever access I have to the public’s fear to sell things, including myself.

The world is very scary now. It always has been. But something grotesque and specific to our time is blanketing us. We need to see that it is not reality; it is a choice we are making or allowing other people to make for us.

I sincerely hope that I have something of interest or value to say tonight. I can’t tell anyone how to write a screenplay because the truth is that anything of value you might do comes from you. The way I work is not the way that you work, and the whole point of any creative act is that. What I have to offer is me, what you have to offer is you, and if you offer yourself with authenticity and generosity I will be moved. You are born into a body, into a family, into a situation, into a brain chemistry, into a gender, into a culture, into a time – as am I. At times I can feel the massive gravitation pulling of all these various things, pulling me in different directions, creating me.

I watch the reactions I have, that are as much my father’s as they are mine. I know they are inherited through genes and situation, just as they have been for my father. And I feel immense loneliness in this prison, coupled with a great shame because I can see that this prison has an open door. But I can’t get through it. How weak I am. How can I not be a saner person? A healthier person? A more generous person? My sneaker company tells me that I can, and that it’s up to me. It is a sign of great weakness if I don’t ‘Just Do It’.

And these are the priests of our culture, the therapists, the Dad with a firm hand but your best interests at heart. A sneaker company that runs sweatshops in Third World countries. This is our Dad. And I don’t know about you but I can be moved to tears by these commercials that these people put out. And I think it’s despicable.

Allow yourself the freedom to change as you discover… I’m, like, dripping. It’s like I’m watching it rain off of me. It’s not only nerves; it is actually hot up here. But this wool suit – which I wore because I was told London is a chilly place, you know – it’s not working. It’s really bad. I need a suit made out of stuff that’s got holes in it, that athletes wear sometimes. Mesh stuff, a mesh suit would be good.

Allow yourself the freedom to change as you discover, allow your screenplay to grow and change as you work on it. You will discover things as you work. You must not put these things aside, even if they’re inconvenient. Let’s not disregard all the little voices in order to simplify. Do not simplify. Let’s not worry about what it looks like, let’s not worry about failure. Failure is a badge of honour; it means you risked failure. If you don’t risk failure you’re never going to do anything that’s different than what you’ve already done, or what somebody else has done.

Just know that that’s the choice you’re making when you won’t put yourself at jeopardy like that. Don’t compartmentalise to make things simpler than they are, and don’t work towards results. Allow yourself time, let things brew. You’re thinking about it, whether you realise it or not. Letting the unconscious take over brings in freedom and surprise and removes judgement. At every single moment, every single person wants something. Often many things, often conflicting things. Understand this about your characters and yourself.

For Part 1 of this series, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

For Part 3, go here.

For Part 4, go here.

For Part 5, go here.

For Part 6, go here.

To watch the video of Kaufman’s presentation, go here.

To subscribe to the BAFTA newsletter, go here.

To the best fansite dedicated to Charlie Kaufman, go to Being Charlie Kaufman.

HT to @Brentwgraham for the link.