Reader Jonas tipped me off to this great post at Mystery Man looking at the 125-page transcript of the conversation between George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan as they first sat down to discuss the movie that would ultimately become Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I haven’t read the .pdf transcript — in fact, it’s hosted on one of those sketchy providers that I wouldn’t link to — but MMoF’s long post gives you ample excerpts and a lot of thoughtful commentary.
LUCAS: What I’m saying is that character just would not fit in a college classroom or even as an archeologist. He’s too much of a scruffy character to settle down. A playboy, or however you want to do it. He’s too much of a wise-guy, maybe that’s a better way to say it, to actually be a college professor. He really loves the stuff, but he became too cynical, he’s too much of a wise guy to fit into an academic situation, or even an archeological situation. He’s really too much of an adventurer at heart. He just loves it. So he obviously took this whole bent that was different because it’s just more fun. He just can’t settle down. It’s a nice contrast. It’s like the James Bond thing. Instead of being a martini drinking cultured kind of sophisticate, he’s the sort of intellectual college professor James Bond. He’s a superagent.
I’ve never worked with Lucas, but the snippets with Spielberg feel very accurate based on my interactions with him on JP3, Minority Report and Big Fish. He’s always looking for the little moments that click:
SPIELBERG: …it would be funny if, as they’re talking about this and the olives are between them, you see a hairy little paw is pulling olives off the plate, coming in and out of frame. Finally the paw comes up to grab an olive and begins slipping, like palsy. You use a little mechanical paw. And then you hear a thump.
The screenwriter’s role in marathon meetings like this is to listen and refocus the ideas. You’re trying to capture not just the plot points, but the enthusiasm. Fast forward a few drafts, and there will likely be torturous meetings in which every decision is micro-analyzed. But at this first step, the only goal should be mapping out the territory you want to explore.