Saturday, December 15, 2007

Roundtable: Feature screenwriters

The Hollywood Reporter recently posted a roundtable discussion featuring Ben Affleck, Ronald Harwood ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and "Love in the Time of Cholera"), Diablo Cody ("Juno"), Paul Haggis, and David Benioff ("The Kite Runner").

THR: Diablo, did you think about things like that when you wrote "Juno"?
Cody: No. I was actually completely ignorant about structure, and I think I probably still am. I didn't pick up any of the manuals. But if you're a person that loves films and has been consuming them voraciously your entire life, you almost have an innate knowledge of act structure because you know how films unfold. You can see them in your mind. And so I was able to visualize it that way. "Juno" might have an unconventional structure, but I've never really thought too hard about it. And now I'm superstitious about overeducating myself.
Affleck: There is a kind of an internalizing of (structure). You mostly get educated by watching movies that you love. And there's a sort of intuitive sense of what happens.
Haggis: Does anyone here have a formal education in screenwriting?
Affleck: When I came out to L.A., it was the time of (1991's) "Slacker" and (1989's) "Do the Right Thing" and (1992's) "Reservoir Dogs," and it was the first time people thought, "Oh, you can make your own movie and it can be outside the conventional studio system." At the same time, there were those (writing) schools and Robert McKee was the big, big thing. But they had very rigid rules. I looked at (notes from his class) and thought, of course, "Here is the bible. There are rules. You have to do this." And then I was intimidated and thought, "Well, geez, I don't really know." And I eventually figured, you learn the rules, and then you're allowed to break them.
Harwood: This is the golden rule of screenwriting: There is no golden rule. Every screenplay is different, isn't it?


Read HR's roundtable discussion.

3 comments:

Joshua said...

LOved this article.

And it echoes what I strive for - learn structure and then forget what I learned until necessary.

Mystery Man said...

Ben said, "And I eventually figured, you learn the rules, and then you're allowed to break them."

I'm going to make this point in my book - if a story works after a writer has "broken the rules," it means the rules were wrong in the first place.

-MM

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