What’s the first movie where the writing really made an impression on you?
I remember watching WAR OF THE ROSES on videotape with my brother, and liking it so much that I immediately rewound it and started watching it again. I wrote down the dialogue for the first few scenes, and suddenly realized that somebody really had to write this all first — the actors weren’t just making their lines up. There was an invisible plan behind the movie I was watching.
That seems strange to me now, because at the time I’d read plays and even acted in a few. But plays are basically just dialogue, while a movie script had to show what was happening even when no characters were talking. I wouldn’t read an actual movie script until a few years later, but it didn’t stop me from transcribing an entire episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." (Incidentally, transcribing a show is a great exercise to get comfortable with standard formatting and writing scene description, since the big work — structure, character, dialogue and plot — are already handled for you.)
When someone says about a movie that "the writing was really impressive," I always wonder if that means that some other aspect of the movie wasn’t very good, such as the acting or the directing, which let you notice the words. In my experience, if everything in is working at top form, you’re not even aware the movie is written. It seems to simply exist.
It’s only as you stop to think back about what you saw that you recognize how good the writing must have been. Experience has shown that you can make a bad movie from a great script, but you can’t make a great movie from a bad script.