Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tony Gilroy: Screenwriters Lecture

This a speech by Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy, State of Play, Duplicity, Michael Clayton, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Identity, Proof of Life, The Devil's Advocate, Dolores Claiborne) on creativity and the original screenplay.


1 comment:

Kathy Smart said...

Listening to a great screenwriter who is genuinely trying to establish a teaching relationship with other screenwriters is a privilege. Tony Gilroy is such a natural storyteller he describes screenwriting in story format.

First he talks about the way he came at writing different movies. The interviewer at the end mentions his writer family and Mr Gilroy acknowledges that he was brought up knowing the tempo of the disappointments and exultations of a writer's life, but he did not mention this himself as an important starting point.

Begin writing a movie with an idea. Play with it, write around it. Writing dialogue is a good way of exploring the idea as it helps the characters rise. Eventually you will come up with a scene which will form the genetic DNA of the movie.

You can then be a mad explorer and do your world building. Write what you know about, open possibilities to everything. For action scenes, make sure you know the real place and use the limitations of the location to build a sequence.

At some point you need to call a halt and decide what your movie is about.

The quality of your writing is a direct reflection of your understanding of the contradictions and complexities of human behaviour. You also need to have empathy with your characters. You need to live out the movie through every character.

The hardest work is the plotting, creating an outline. There is no point putting it in screenplay form until the bitter end. Take between 4 days to a year to get down between 30 to 80 pages, the whole loose full version of the movie. Every scene in the film must be real to you.

Now it is time to get out Full Draft or Movie Magic and have fun. Go through the energising work of improving your outline as you put it in screenplay format. When writing action scenes, get pumped up, write as fast as possible.

The fun stops when you realise it needs cutting. "Cut when fear outstrips confusion" - Mr Gilroy is very frank about how many writing decisions can only be made under pressure.

In questions, Mr Gilroy was asked about books like The Hero's Journey. He pointed out that Joseph Campbell teaches about the structure of story, but everyone in the room has been brought up surrounded by stories and is instinctively aware of the structure of stories.

An excellent lecture.