Thursday 17 October 2013

Advice on screenwriting - Brian Koppelman

Brian Koppelman is the writer of films such as: Rounders (1998), Runaway Jury (2003), Ocean's Thirteen (2007), and The Girlfriend Experience (2009).

He has taken to providing advice on screenwriting in six second bursts, over Twitter, using an iPhone app called Vine. Vine allows you to "create short, beautiful, looping videos in a simple and fun way for your friends and family to see." Which is to say, it is effectively a selfie, with up to six seconds of talking.

Here's an example, Lesson No. 1.

(Note: You need to turn the sound on, by clicking on the red X in the top left-hand corner, which is invisible until you mouse over it. Then, click on his face somewhere.) 

I imagine these will end up in a book of their own one day. In the meantime, here are the first 25 of Brian's tweets:
  • All screenwriting books are bullshit. All. Watch movies. Read screenplays. Let them be your guide.
  • "Write what you know" works, but is limiting. Write what fascinates you, write what you can't stop thinking about.
  • The so-called screenwriting guru is also really the so-called screenwriting conman. Don't listen to them if you don't know their movies.
  • In what I felt was the beginning of a serious heartfelt conversation, I told my dad I wanted to be a writer. He looked at me and said, "You want to write? Write." Still the best advice.
  • Calculate less. Don't try to game the market. Write what you want to write. And drink plenty of coffee.
  • Of the many supposed bullshit rules of screenwriting, the only one that's legit is, Write every day.
  • There's a whole industry of bunkum trying to convince you screenwriting needs to be learned at some course. Don't believe it.
  • The moment your screenplay leaves your hands, it becomes a commodity. So while it's with you, treat it like it's a piece of art.
  • Instead of reading screenwriting books, read about your subject; the subject that fascinates, compels and interests you.
  • The screenwriting gurus tell about the How. How do I write this? Writers should think about Why. Why do I need to write this now?
  • You don't need any 'experts' permission to write your story, your way.
  • The modern screenplay that I'd be reading, over and over, if I were starting out, for dialogue, character and plot, is Michael Clayton, by Gilroy.
  • Every writer should read Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It's a great book on running and even better one on writing.
  • Forget about contests, agents. Focus on what you can control. Words, pages, and the intention behind them.
  • The first screenplay my partner and I wrote was rejected by every agency as unsellable. It was Rounders.
  • The Coen brothers, Charlie Kaufman, Quentin Tarantino never tried to guess what Hollywood would make. They wrote their obsessions and so should you.
  • Let me use fewer words than the books do to explain three act structure. Beginning, middle and end. So stop worrying and start writing.
  • The best tool I've found for dealing with writer's block is morning pages. Done precisely as described by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way.
  • The mysteries of formatting revealed: Keep it under 115 (pages), make sure every scene moves something forward, and start your story before I get bored.
  • David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow is the best example I know of how meter equals voice, and what Hollywood execs really care about.
  • When I want a quick shot of inspiration, I watch Amelie or Y Tu Mamá También, Movies that broke all the rules but engage the heart.
  • Self-doubt goes hand-in-hand with self-expression. Tune it out for two hours a day, you'll have a finished screenplay.
  • If Hollywood could come up with an algorithm to write the screenplays, they would. They need storytellers. Remember that.
  • Look, I'm not saying form and structure don't matter; they do. But it's forming an emotional connection with the reader that sets you apart.
  • When I'm stuck on a first draft, I remind myself no-one gets to see this till I say they can. Which gives me permission to finish.

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