Friday, October 23, 2009

The Quotable Austin Film Festival -- Friday

or, Words of Wisdom from the Masters

Marvin Acuna (Rainmaker Films)

On Re-Writing and Motivation…

“Write your masterpiece so you can give some other screenwriter the opportunity to rewrite it.”

“If you sell it, it’s not yours anymore. You have to let it go. Get over the fact that it will be re-written, and start writing something else.”

“The idea of a writer’s Catch-22
(you can’t get optioned without representation, and you can’t get representation without being optioned) is because you are being lazy. You keep thinking that way, and some day you’re going to be 90 years old and on your deathbed, whining that ‘I didn’t get to do what I wanted to do because someone didn’t do it for me.’”

“Imagine a wall that separates you from your dream of a screenwriting career. You can let it keep you out and beat you. Or you can decide to somehow get to the other side. You can chisel it down, dig underneath, climb over, blast through… But do whatever it takes to get to the other side.”

“You can direct your career if you choose to.”

Jeff Graup (Producer / Manager)

(Jeff has been one of the most consistently helpful panelists in the sessions I have attended. His rapid-fire answers to questions are wry, candid, spot-on, and practical. He repeatedly preaches the “Be Nice To People” mantra. I would LOVE to have him as my manager… Note to self: See what you can do…)

On Re-Writing – “I extract movies from my writers painfully, as if the pages are stapled to their bodies.”

Other Words of Wisdom from the How to Sell Your Spec Script panel:

On Readers’ Notes…

“If the reader is not getting the story you are telling, you are not doing your job.”

“Look underneath the note for the underlying problem that needs fixing.”

“Do not defend your writing. Do not argue. Merely take notes and ask “Why?” a reader feels something is unclear. Anything you feel the need to explain or defend, write down. Then put it in the script.”

Herschel Weingrod (Screenwriter / Producer)

On Storytelling…

“To want to be a writer of screenplays is to want to be a co-pilot.”

“Comedy is usually tragedy that happens to other people.”

“People say you should write what you know about. I think you should write what you care about.”

On Pitching, Script Marketing, and the Way the World Works…

“Writing a screenplay is an act of seduction. The script is intended to invite people to want to make the movie.”

“The problem with Hollywood is, nearly everyone knows the alphabet. The executives don’t know the first thing about lighting, or acting, or set design, or sound… Critiquing the words on a page is their way of contributing to a project.”

“If you actually follow (an executive’s) notes in the next draft, they will hate the re-write.”

“It’s a corporate movie business and corporate entertainment. The writer is essentially in ‘New Product Development.’ It is now a part of our job to discuss marketing and demographics, and to sell the execs on this ‘wonderful new product.’”

Boaz Yakin (Screenwriter / Director)

On the Realities of Re-Writing…

“The screenplay isn’t the last thing anyone is going to see. It’s a blueprint for something else – the movie.”

“One of the big struggles of screenwriting is to maintain your enthusiasm for the work because you spend so much time protecting yourself (from the inevitable negativity of the industry). You have to come to some sort of emotional agreement for how you are going to relate to the project.”

“If I want to protect something I wrote, I’d write a novel and never allow anyone to shoot it.”

“There are over 80 million people involved in making a movie. Getting a film made takes a small army. The script has to evolve along the way.”

“Don’t underestimate the importance of actors bringing their conviction and contributing to the tone of the film.”

“I am sick of ‘Good Screenwriting.’ Too many screenplays are overly technically proficient, but they have nothing to say. Don’t be boring. But you gotta be yourself. The stuff that gets my attention is the sruff that lives and breathes.”

Terry Rossio (Academy Award © nominated Screenwriter originally from Kalamazoo, MI)

On Craft…

“Make each word fight for the right to stay on the page. If you’re not doing it word-by-freaking-word, you aren’t working hard enough.”

“Writing a single sentence could take an hour. The writer is the only one willing to spend that kind of time with the words.”

“Something really wonderful happens when a writer is discovering something, when there is momentum or inspiration. You can feel this motion of scene resonating against scene. You know it when you see it or read it. But it’s so elusive that we don’t even talk about it.”

“Jokes age. What was hilarious the first time is no longer funny after the eighth read…”

And my personal favorite words of wisdom from Terry Rossio:

“Take the trouble to be extreme to your characters. Santa Claus. Superman. Mary Poppins. Sherlock Holmes… Your character has to walk into that crowd and BELONG with those characters.”

My thanks to all the panelists who gave of their time and wisdom to us in the audience today... Onward and upward.

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