How To Write An Awesome Movie, According To Some Of Hollywood's Best Writers
All aspiring writers have experienced the conception of a story, that little atom of an idea that explodes into a vision of a journey in a big bang "aha!" that rattles the brain. But the difference between the daydreamers and actual filmmakers starts right after that revelatory moment, when the disparate strands of an idea either begin to take shape — and, at some point, migrate over to Final Draft — or just fade away.
BuzzFeed spoke with some of the industry's top writers and directors to learn how they develop a tiny germ of an idea into award-winning screenplay. They discussed everything from how they get started, to how to sit down and write, and how to balance dialogue and structure.
Here's the roster of advisers: Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise trilogy, Dazed and Confused); Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks, Bridesmaids, The Heat); Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult); Richard Curtis (Love Actually, About Time, Four Weddings and a Funeral); Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said, Please Give); Michael Weber and Scott Neustadter (500 Days of Summer, The Spectacular Now); David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models); Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick); Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter); Lake Bell (In A World); David Gordon Green (Prince Avalanche, Pineapple Express); Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha); Mark and Jay Duplass (Jeff Who Lives At Home, Cyrus); Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Descendants, The Way, Way Back); and Brian Koppelman (Rounders, Oceans Thirteen).
How Ideas Are Born...and Then Stashed Away in Drawers
Richard Linklater: There are a million ideas in a world of stories. Humans are storytelling animals. Everything's a story, everyone's got stories, we're perceiving stories, we're interested in stories. So to me, the big nut to crack is to how to tell a story, what's the right way to tell a particular story. So I'm much more interested in narrative construction.
I have a lot of subjects I'm spinning around on that I like and I take notes and read books and have files of things that interest me, but it's like, What is the movie? How do you crack it? So I like that search.
I think you have to be forever intrigued with the subject matter, the character, or something you're digging into, you're rummaging around, something that fascinates you. That process can't really ever end. If that ends, the movie is over.
Diablo Cody: I envy writers who have their shit together! You should see my computer desktop. It's like 9 million Final Draft documents, pictures of my kids, and photos of haircuts I wish I had.
Paul Feig: I'm big into notes. I always try to keep a small pad of paper in my pocket and write down any idea that seems interesting. I also type notes into my phone and computer. I basically have ideas written down everywhere. I've spent my life reminding myself that, even though I always tell myself I'll never forget an idea when I think of it, I always forget it, sometimes a minute or two after I've thought of it. So, I always force myself to write any idea down. The downside is I have little notebooks scattered around the house and in storage boxes that I never think to look through. Not that any of the ideas in them are gold; most of them are pretty lame. But occasionally, I'll find a few that link up and create the basis for something worth thinking about.
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