Sunday, February 25, 2007

Writers are Filmmakers

Hey guys,

I just want to share on this Oscar Sunday an article that ran recently in the L.A. Times which covered a
roundtable discussion amongst the screenwriters who've been nominated for Oscars.

Here are some highlights:

Did any of you either lose things from your screenplay that you really wished had stayed in the final film or keep things that you really fought for?

DEL TORO: One of the reasons why financing collapsed on "Pan's Labyrinth" so many times is because the movie opened with a 10-year-old girl dying of a shot in the gut. And I kept telling people: By the time the movie's over it is my hope that people realize it's about rebirth. I said, "That's the journey, that's the trip in the movie." And they really were set against that.

YAMASHITA: They weren't so big to the story, but things like, "You know where you have the boat coming in from the mainland? Can you make that a small, light plane?" There were a lot of things that they had to cut out from a budgetary point of view.

ARNDT: The producers were always trying to make the script shorter. And it got to the point where there was this one line — it was Alan Arkin saying, "Dwayne? That's your name, right? Dwayne?" — it had been taken out and I wanted to put it back in. They said, "Well, you can put it back in if you take out an equal number of syllables somewhere else." I think I added in 11 syllables and took out nine.

MORGAN: Does that constitute a draft? Is it billable?

ARRIAGA: What was that, a haiku? [Laughter]

MORGAN: We had a moment afterward, in the cutting room, where people concerned with the marketing of the film saw the film and said, "Well, it's a hell of a movie. And right now, hers [Helen Mirren's] is a good performance, but it's not an Oscar performance. So, Pete, would you write an argument, or a scene where she's angry, in the first act?" I said to Stephen [Frears], "I don't think that's the problem. I think the problem is, there isn't enough Tony Blair." Which made them slowly begin to weep, because Tony Blair — no international audience. "More Helen, more Helen, more Helen…." I explained to Stephen why, and Stephen put his foot down, and we shot four extra days of Tony Blair. The net effect was that by putting in counterpoints, his part feels no bigger, but her part feels enormous, without shooting a single extra frame of Helen Mirren.

ARNDT: I just want to jump in and say that everything that got added to the original script of "Little Miss Sunshine" was an improvement. There was nothing that I was forced to put in that I didn't think was better, and there was nothing taken out that I wanted to be in there.

YAMASHITA: Clint Eastwood, I have to say, I wish all directors were like him because he just said, "Go with the first draft." And don't you wish more directors were like him, where they actually trust the writer?

DEL TORO: You know that it is part of our craft to deal with compromising. I think that the craft of dealing with the compromise should be in theory a joined effort between the director and the writer, always.

MORGAN: I couldn't agree more. Writers are filmmakers! Why does everyone call a director a filmmaker and a writer a writer? Writers are filmmakers.


Mim said...

"I think that the craft of dealing with the compromise should be in theory a joined effort between the director and the writer, always."

This is so great. This is what I'm discovering as I work with my director. It's not going to be HIS story or MY story. It's going to be OUR story.

GameArs said...

I can't wait for the day they interview me before the Acedemy Awards. :)

Articles like this one always make me think of the opening scene in "The Majestic". It's classic and I once had a meeting alost exactly like that.

Anonymous said...

There's still always a hierarchy.

Someone will, and SHOULD, have the final determination.

And that's okay.

If you're a screenwriter, the goal is you realize you're delivering to others... while still retaining originality.

If you're a novelist, you're a God within a really small pantheon (which may not remember how to pronounce your name correctly without prompting.)

Take your poison.

Mystery Man said...

I couldn't agree more. In the real world, everyone's got a boss.

I just read a review in the New York Times of David Mamet's new book, "Bambi vs. Godzilla" in which Mamet cries out against the state of Hollywood today (found here.)

"'The very vacuousness of these films is reassuring,' he writes, comparing them to the expensive weapons systems whose presence makes us feel secure in other ways. These filmed extravaganzas send the message that 'you are a member of a country, a part of a system capable of wasting $200 million on an hour and a half of garbage. You must be somebody.' Whatever the merits of Mamet’s assertion, his decision to write it down and publish it suggests another mechanism at work — the same one behind such exposés and satires as Budd Schulberg’s 'What Makes Sammy Run?', William Goldman’s 'Adventures in the Screen Trade' and countless similar books. A writer heads off to Hollywood, gets rich and then, with his career secure, avenges himself on his employers by charging them with abandoning art and truth (except, perhaps, in their decision to hire him, which we’re left to infer was their last enlightened act before they gave themselves over to full decline). The strength of the form is that such charges are almost always warranted, but its weakness derives from the complainant’s pretense that he’s leveling them out of shock and disappointment. Did he really not know what he was getting into?"



Anonymous said...

Today my wife poured water into my computer, and smashed my monitor.

I don't think it's that complicated.

People react to whatever's in front of them.

Mystery Man said...

Oh my! Hope things are okay.

Mim said...

Dude, that's not right.

mernitman said...

But Matthew, you've got a great opening scene for a movie now.

MM, I loved this roundtable and cited it for different reasons in a current post I think you may find intriguing...