Some notes on certain sections:
0:07 Writing process
In How to Write a Scene, I go into a lot more detail on “looping” and “scribble versions” of scenes.
0:49 How scripts have evolved
My hunch is that the modern era of writing action begins with James Cameron. Every screenwriter I know read and devoured his scripts for Terminator, Aliens and Point Break. We’re all probably channeling him a bit.
1:30 When I write
I really do try to do most of my work during “office hours.” But during crunch times — which has been a lot more, recently — I find myself going back to work after dinner, or setting the alarm for 5 a.m. to get stuff written before breakfast.
Writing is an inherently selfish act: you’re shutting the world out to live in a fantasy. You don’t really appreciate that until you have a family.
2:18 This could possibly suck
One of the main reasons we procrastinate is to give ourselves an excuse for why things might be terrible: “I know it’s not great, but I wrote it in three days.” Suck early and fix it.
3:30 Writer’s block
You know who gets writer’s block? Non-writers. They think it’s cool and romantic to struggle to make Art. They make sure everyone knows how torturous the process is, so when they finally squeeze something out, it won’t be judged on its merits but rather the emotional anguish involved in its creation.
Hacks Posers whine about how hard it is.1
4:09 Heavy lifting
The twenty minute timer actually works. Do twenty minutes of solid work, then give yourself ten minutes of freedom.
Ideally, you want finesse: a combination of strength and dexterity that uses a scene’s natural momentum to make everything look effortless. But sometimes, that’s not possible: there isn’t time, or there’s some major impediment. With enough craft, an experienced screenwriter can often muscle a scene that shouldn’t otherwise work.
4:35 You can always cut something
I’m obliquely referencing a meeting for Charlie’s Angels, during which the studio president ripped ten pages out of the script and told me to write around what was missing.
5:10 Most people aren’t screenwriters
If you want to work in film or television, you need to work on films and television shows. Screenwriting is mostly writing, but without experience in how stuff is actually made, you’ll never be very good at it.
- “Hacks” was really the wrong term, because there are some very prolific hacks. There are also some genuinely talented writers who go through spells of low productivity. I find stories glamorizing their travails really tedious, however. ↩