This article is PART ONE of a 2 part series. PART TWO can be found here.
This entire video interview is fantastic and I highly recommend watching it in full, not only once but several times to really absorb their incredible advice for your own benefit and future success.
The summary of this entire article is, “If you want to become a great writer, director, producer or actor is to simply, ask great questions and listen.”
What you will learn:
- The value of asking questions
- The importance of collaboration
- Resolving differences or changes
- Script writing tips
- The power of fear and courage
- Developing the character with the actor
The Value of Asking Questions
As a screenwriter, when you are confronted by the director about making a change or disliking a specific area of your story, don’t immediately begin defending it. Instead, ask questions. Ask the director why they think that? Where in the story did that thought come from? How do you see this character or story? By asking questions, you open up the doors to a much more collaborative creative process in solving the issue at hand where both the writer and director can feel satisfied with whatever solution may come about.
For first-time screenwriters who have never been in the trenches of filmmaking and collaborating with a director, it’s a good idea to start with questions. Get an idea of where the director or producer or actor is coming from. Understand the script from their perspective. Then, you can begin to see where and how you can help address any issues or concerns.
The Importance of Collaboration
Storytelling by design is all about collaboration. It’s important the screenwriter, director, actor and producer are collaborating together to achieve the same result.
One of the elements that destroys collaboration is fear and mistrust. One of the reasons why these elements exist is based off the fact that the individual believes they do not know enough or are afraid of asking to increase their understanding.
A typical fear from a director’s point of view is that they don’t want to ask for help or to collaborate with the writer of the story because they want to be perceived as the all-knowing leader. A director may believe that if they begin collaborating with others and asking for people’s opinion, it may make them look unprepared or someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. So they decide to let their fears control them.
Another typical fear a director may be challenged with to avoid collaboration is the fear that someone else on their cast or crew may have a better idea than them. A secure director encourages great ideas from their cast and crew and may run with the new idea entirely or partially and still feel that their authority over their film remains intact. Whereas a weak director may feel self-conscious about this greater idea and will avoid it altogether to remain “in control” or “in power”.
If the screenwriter, director, producer and actor are able to collaborate well with one another, and being open and honest to all ideas for the ultimate goal of creating the best film possible. Then, the film will most likely outperform any ones expectations, had they gone at it alone. The challenge for these 4 individuals is giving up control and being open and accepting to all ideas.
As a director, when you discover resistance to change or some aspect of telling the story, don’t try to attack it, since that resistance is based off of fear. So, understand where that fear is coming from and see if both parties can come to an agreement.
A good strategy for two individuals who are at a disagreement with something regarding the storytelling, is to step back to a point where they ARE in agreement with how to tell the story. Then, slowly work towards the point where the two begin disagreeing. And then, you’ll begin to understand exactly what is causing the conflict.
Script Writing Tips
Never lose sight of what your movie is about. As obvious as that sounds, sometimes when you have been developing your movie for months or years, you get tunnel vision and begin focusing on specific aspects of the story rather than serving what the story is ultimately about, the premise, the theme, etc.
Many directors dread the first 10 pages of a script, because they are hoping that the script will capture their imagination and they completely forget about how they will be directing the script because the story and the characters are so fascinating. They just want to keep reading, page after page. That’s what makes a great script/story.
Within the first 10 pages of a script, you must introduce the hero and build empathy during the first 10 minutes. This allows the audience to develop a psychological connection to the hero. By actually caring what happens to this individual, good or bad. An audience becomes hooked into your story is the emotional connection you’ve set up that allows the audience to walk in the hero’s shoes. It’s not about having experienced a similar action or setting as the hero, but what the hero is going through psychologically, emotionally, in their heart and soul that allows an audience to be in the movie.
When trying to improve a scene during the writing stage, it’s important to ask questions. Such as, is this scene helping the hero towards their goal or overcoming an obstacle? If not, then the scene should be removed or heavily re-written. Then, you want to establish your goal as a writer, what it is you want this scene to accomplish? Once you know that, then you ask, “What will the hero do in order to achieve that goal at the end of the scene?”