Friday, January 30, 2009

Which came first?

Last night I talked to a guy who does not like watching movies but he's writing his first screenplay. He decided to watch movies because he's writing one, but he's never really liked most films.

I like this guy. He's pretty cool, but I'm sure most of us can see the problem here. It sort of seems backwards.

This business is not for the faint of heart. This is a long commitment, maybe a lifetime, and you have to really love it to want to struggle through it.

I love movies. Don't you love movies? I could talk for days about film structure and story elements and cinematography and all kinds of stuff.

But then I think back to when I first started and I didn't know anything. I knew I loved movies, but I didn't know why I loved one and not the other. I didn't know what a DP was or why Citizen Kane was so revered or what three-act structure meant. I had to learn all that to truly appreciate it. I had barely seen any films made before 1980 when I started my first screenplay and now I'm obsessed with catching up on the classics. One of the best film I've seen in the past year is M, which is not only old and black and white but in German, for crying out loud. Ten years ago I would rather have eaten worms than watch a movie that old, but with my obsession with screenplays I have grown my appreciation of film.

So maybe this guy isn't totally out of his mind. Maybe he'll develop an appreciation of film as he learns more about what it takes to tell a visual story. I certainly hope so, anyway, or this will be one short screenwriting career.

What do you guys think?


  1. Yeah, I don't see how a guy who doesn't watch movies, can write a screenplay. It's like someone who has never listened to music, decides to release an entire album. Would he know anything about what makes a good movie, how to create characters, expose their flaws, and write a climax scene?

    but maybe he'll grow to appreciate films. Who knows. Everyone are different, I guess.

  2. Anonymous1:19 PM

    You know in thinking about your post, I thought of Beyonce. When she decided to go solo, I was not impressed. I thought Kelly was the better talent...the better singer. Because I couldn't see inside of her heart, I couldn't know who Beyonce was.

    I venture to guess, that before the end of this decade...Beyonce will win an Academy Award.

    My point? Give this guy a chance. Get to know him. See what he's got going on in his heart.

  3. Anonymous1:40 PM

    Maybe he has an advantage. Maybe all of us trying to write a movie or tv show know too much for out own good.

    I know when I knew less, I wasn't worried about getting it right before I even started, which I do now. My first screenplay was written over a weekend and it was 170+ pages. Every one of them bad.

    I wish I could do that know. At least I could go back and correct it or move on. Now I can't get past outlines unless I go over them 50 times. Now I think about structure too much or plot points or b-stories.

    I have a friend who raps but dosen't listen to rap and hates most of it. It's different, but it works.

    I think there is some advantage in not knowing. There will be things he will have to learn, but hopefully by then he will be ready to just add to what he's already got and not try to get everything right before he writes.

  4. He may well be ahead of a lot of us, because he focuses on the writing skill rather than ... (not sure how to express it) the 'movie watching experience'?.

    Once you know how a script translates to the screen, it's a matter of following the screenwriting conventions to express your own original ideas.

    I assume he reads scripts, right?

    Cuz if he doesn't, I CAN see a problem here. Screenwriting is to a large degree problem-solving and many problems have been solved by others before, so it's good to know what has been done and how.

    Trying to reinvent the wheel is not always a good thing.

  5. Anonymous3:14 PM

    Most of these guys are a waste of time, but enough of them succeed that I think it would be a mistake to dismiss him.

    Some people have the knack of seeing very clearly. This guy might have an intuitive understanding of what needs to be done.

    But probably not.


  6. No offense, but he sounds like a dabbler, and if he gets an agent before me, I'm going to turn violent.

    I liked, liked movies before I saw 'Risky Business' that night. All of a sudden, it hit me in the head- 'somebody wrote this, and you'd like this. You'd be good at it.'

    Started writing a screenplay the next day.

  7. Anonymous5:18 PM

    I don't watch many films. In fact I really try to avoid it. There are several reason for this, not the least of which is, most of the stuff out there is crap--and a lot of it re-done crap.

    What's the point of copying crap?

    I don't feel you have to watch movies to write movies--and I'm fairly successful at it. You can learn the structure of screen writing from a book, the basic elements anyway.

    You don't have to be a movie fan to tell a good story. If you can learn the format structure of screenplays and you are a great storyteller the rest will take care of itself.

  8. Anonymous9:44 PM

    I like to watch movies that grab me.

    Like LOTR.

    Like Twilight.

    I like movies that I will go to the theater to see more than twice.

    That's the kind of script I intend to write.

    I'll bet your guy is thinking along those lines...just got that feeling.

  9. He doesn't like cars but is going to win an F1 race.

    he doesn't like tennis but is going to take out Wimbledon.

    Ditto America's Cup and yachting.

    Ditto anything.

    I think everyone here is being extremely generous to this guy. He doesn't even LIKE most movies. If you can't think of at least 50 movies you like(I am talking just enjoyment not even love) you have not really watched many and if this is the case, how can he translate it from script to screen if he has not been exposed to it.

    Vanilla Chunk, if this guy gets an agent, I'll hold him, you hit him, then we can swap.
    PS only kidding violence solves nothing unless it's in a script.

    WV: psisoi - sums up my feelings towards this guy :)

  10. I think so long as he reads the screenplays and watches the movies at the same time (to see what got edited where) he'll learn to like watching movies.

    And, I agree with Vanilla Chunk about getting the agent first...ha.

  11. Anonymous7:49 PM


    seriously. I hear it is a real word.

    anyone here have any idea what it means.

  12. Anonymous, the point of this post was not to encourage or discourage the guy, it was to discuss whether or not you can be an effective screenwriter if you don't watch movies.


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