So this blog is really a place for me to develop ideas toward teaching a class on writing—screenwriting, most specifically—and how to do it strangely. I’m gathering references, analyses, examples, essays, quotes, &c.
While directors and writer/directors are tacitly, if not encouraged, then at least allowed (occasionally) to do weird things and go against the grain of accepted form because they’ve got the chops to execute something that doesn’t seem primarily precedent in the Oscar pool (See Holy Motors. I mean Jesus Christ, see Holy Motors!), screenwriters are not afforded that kind of trust.
My feeling—what I’ve gathered from the bit of “biz” reading I’ve done—is that this could possibly be blamed on collaboration actually being supplanted by business relationships established by proxy (i.e., Movies aren’t made my excitable nerds, artists, and intellectuals who share a vision. They’re more often just calculated business decisions.)
Of course this is no surprise to anyone anywhere, except for maybe a few high school freshmen scattered about the world.
But the class that I’m looking to teach—and the blog that I’m developing— will try to prioritize creativity well above salability and collaborations over business transactions in filmmaking.
This is pie-in-the-sky stuff, I am aware, and you should be too. But it’s easier than ever to meet ambitious directors. Spend a straight eight hours on Vimeo and I guarantee you’ll find at least twenty people who inspire an aesthetic glimmer that power the writing of a 90-page script. And I bet half of them are looking for feature-length scripts.
And funding. Well obviously. Much easier, despite the economy. Just involve well-connected people who can hustle on Kickstarter.
And on that count, see below how Noah Baumbach—after a series of frustrating flops and failures—has managed to reinvigorate his filmmaking by going small-crew, digital rogue.
But this isn’t a blog about filmmaking or DIY anything, though when I see something interesting of the sort, I’ll push-pin it up if I think it pertinent.
The rhetoric of screenwriting is handcrafted by dozens of people regurgitating “sound business advice” to people who are (sometimes, certainly not consistently) more interested in art, in creating something new.
So this is where I’ll explore ways to experiment with narrative in general (focusing, of course, on the cinema) ways to do “crazy things” that before 1979 and the publishing of Syd Field’s Screenplay weren’t crazy at all, since that book and the maelstrom of “gurus” that followed only served to narrow a wide open field to an insanely specific thing.
Imagine the concept that light is both a particle and wave, and that actually observing light affects its composition. What screenwriting teachers have done is take a medium that could be any one (or more) of countless things, and they’ve culled much of the obvious contradictions to their arguments and analyses to streamline an argument in favor of an eternity of movies that work basic variations on Jaws and Chinatown and Star Wars.
Every movie down the line that obeys those rules and does well counts as a notch on their belt that they’ve narrowed down to its multi-plot-point core exactly what story is. Disregard the possibility (read: fact) that the writers, directors, and producers of those theory-buttressing movies have read (or been forced to read) the very books that defined a good story (based only on small core samples).
Consider that it’s the big screenwriting gurus that canonized the very core samples that undergirded their increasingly complex formulae for good screenplays.
Consider that this canon influences everyone with regard to their taste, probably especially audiences, and by this point it really doesn’t matter if they know jack-shit about filmmaking or screenwriting; they just know that Fast & the Furious 6 is hella tight, or something.
Consider that movies since the early 80s have just been copies of copies based on blueprints cobbled together by “story theorists” (let’s just agree they’re glorified motivational speakers) who often can’t even write a screenplay themselves.
The 80s! That’s my entire lifetime!
And plenty of people have ignored and/or broken these rules in the name of creativity and the progress of the art. But screenwriting gurus don’t want to talk about them because it compromises their hard work and entry fees to their overpriced seminars.
What I’m not interested in is “proving them wrong,” because these guys offer a lot of sound advice, especially for those just starting out. I do strongly hold that each of their books just be subtitled “For Beginners,” because they offer very valuable training wheels.
We’re going at their blindspots.