Posts tagged ‘interview’

December 4, 2013

Politics, Love, & Screenwriting: A Conversation with Steve Faber


by Angela Guess

If you’re ever lucky enough to cross paths with Steve Faber, ask to buy him a drink. You won’t regret it.

Steve is the scribe behind Wedding Crashers and the recent hit, We’re the Millers. A fellow UCLA alumnus, Steve started his professional life as a lawyer, then realized it was “a tremendous mistake.” He gave himself one year in Los Angeles to try his hand at writing, and within that year he was able to begin a new career in television. He wrote for a variety of sitcoms–most notably Married with Children–before making the switch to features. Currently, Steve is in pre-production on a broad comedy called Sugar Daddy and is developing a romantic comedy about love & marriage called Backspace. Steve also has his own political column on The Huffington Post called Washingwood.

I met my share of vibrant, creative people at the recent Austin Film Festival & Conference, but the two encounters I had with Mr. Faber were by far the most fascinating.

I asked Steve for an interview in advance of the conference, and he was kind enough to oblige. Ultimately he and I met for a drink prior to our actual interview, and the phrase “This is off the record” escaped his lips a few dozen times. I sincerely wish I could share some of that conversation here, but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for Steve to write his memoir.

Later in the conference, Steve and I met for a formal sit-down, and what follows is a transcript of that conversation. Read on for Steve’s insights on maximizing your creativity, female comedy writers, the key to a successful marriage, and why a sense of “sadness and poignancy” is essential to great comedy.

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October 16, 2013

Diablo Cody on What No One Tells You About Being a Screenwriter

The infamous Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) recently did an interview for Vulture in which she explained seven things that no one tells you about being a top screenwriter.

Now, most writers won’t have to deal with the perks and problems of wide-spread fame like Cody’s, but hopefully we’ll each find a piece of fame within the screenwriting world, and many of Cody’s thoughts apply to that:

1. You will be held accountable for your words.
Writers drink, and therefore we often exhibit poor judgment. In 2007, whenJuno came out, people were wearing rhinestone-embellished trucker caps and I was making bad decisions, too. I said a lot of stupid things in interviews because I figured no one was paying attention — who cares about screenwriters, generally? But my big mouth got me into trouble countless times. As a “visible” writer, you have to learn to conduct yourself like an actor. Say what you’ve been coached to say. Don’t talk shit about anyone. Behind closed doors, I’m still a drunk train wreck, but in interviews, I try to channel Sandra Bullock or someone else the public finds charming.

2.  You will be a big deal for about ten seconds.
Since I “broke through” (ugh) six years ago, countless younger, funnier, smarter writers have flocked to Hollywood and TOOK MY JERB. That’s the nature of this business. Just ask any of the actresses who were on the cover of Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue in the nineties. Believe me, they all want to murder Emma Stone right now. You will be replaced. Keep your head down and work as much as you can.

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September 26, 2013

The Script You Can’t Not Write: An Interview with (500) Days Scribe Scott Neustadter

by Angela Guess

Running LA Screenwriter has its share of perks. Occasionally I get to read a new screenwriting book before it hits the presses. Sometimes I get free passes to events. But far and away the best perk of this job is the chance to interview screenwriters I admire.

Recently I reached out to Scott Neustadter (@iamthepuma) who, with his writing partner Michael Weber, is the screenwriter behind (500) Days of Summer and the new film The Spectacular Now. Scott and Michael also penned The Pink Panther 2 and the upcoming film The Fault in Our Stars, which is due out next year.

(500) Days of Summer is one of my personal favorite films, and The Spectacular Now (which is in theaters now — go see it!) is one of the most compelling and charming high school stories since The Breakfast Club, so you can imagine how thrilled I was when Scott kindly agreed to answer my questions.

In our interview, Scott discusses the challenges of turning a true story into a cinematic experience, how he and Michael sold their first script, and his search for the story he “can’t not write.”

LA Screenwriter (LA): (500) Days of Summer is famously based on one of your actual relationships. Can you talk a bit about walking the line of fact versus fiction when writing a true story? How do you balance realism against what will be most entertaining or cinematic?

Scott Neustadter (SN): The truth is that I didn’t really think ANY of it would be entertaining or cinematic. Not at first. Weber and I had wanted to write a relationship movie for a long time, we just didn’t have the relationship we wanted to write about. And then I had this real-life roller coaster ride which I thought was dramatic enough for a couple of emails to send friends, but certainly not for a movie. And then I got lucky and hit upon this conceit of telling the story in a crazy non-linear fashion, which created a level of suspense that would not have been there otherwise. From there it was about being as real and authentic as I could get away with, because the point of the story was a dissection and a deconstruction of a specific relationship, so the realer the better. 

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May 21, 2013

Learning from the Masters: An Interview with William Goldman

William Goldman is one of the most successful and sage screenwriters currently working in Hollywood. He’s the scribe behind Maverick, The Princess Bride, Misery, Marathon Man, All the President’s Men, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In this interview, he covers the business and the craft of screenwriting as well as his own writing and life.

My favorite line: As a new writer, “you can only write what you give a shit about.”

October 23, 2012

Screenwriter Profile: Charlie Kaufman


The Writer:

Charlie Kaufman is one of my screenwriting heroes. People either hate his movies or love them, and I fall into the latter category. His stories and style exhibit a rare genius not often seen in big screen cinema. He’s one of the few writers who gets to break all the rules — something you’re only allowed to do if you’re a genius. Some of his most well known films include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich, and Adaptation. He was nominated for an Oscar for all three and won for Eternal Sunshine.

Read this great interview with Charlie or watch this wonderful Master Class for more about his writing.

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March 9, 2012

Talentville: Taking Up Residence in the Virtual Screenwriter’s City

Writing is a lonely profession. Most writers come up with their ideas alone, write them alone, and rewrite them alone. If we’re lucky, we get some knowledgeable friends and family to read our stuff. If we’re really lucky, we get contacts in the industry to take a look.

Benjamin Cahan, co-founder and former CEO of Final Draft, has come up with a better way.

Over the last several years Ben has been building Talentville, the Screenwriter’s City. The site is a virtual community in which writers can read fellow writers’ scripts and give them feedback. In exchange, writers earn TalentDollars which they can then use to “buy” coverage for their own work.

I recently spoke with Ben to get an inside look at the City.

LA Screenwriter (LA): What have you been up to since leaving your post as CEO of Final Draft in 2001?

Benjamin Cahan (BC): When I initially left Final Draft, my intention was to take a break of a year or two and come back. Building a company from nothing but an idea was a huge responsibility that was both exciting and stressful. When the company was to the point of running itself to a large degree, my own gas tank was running close to empty.  So I packed up and moved to Boulder, CO, to get reenergized in the great outdoors, then I moved to Miami. It was there that I decided to relinquish my stake in Final Draft and seek other ventures.

As you can see from my creation of Talentville and my return to Los Angeles, I have come full circle. But I hope I have returned a bit older and wiser, ready to once again roll up my sleeves and make a difference. 

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February 17, 2012

John Truby on Story

Inktip recently interviewed John Truby, one of the most highly respected and sought-out screenwriting instructors / script consultants in the business. Here’s what they talked about:

Question: What questions should a writer ask him or herself prior to crafting their story?

John Truby: Most writers can’t tell at the premise stage whether they’ve got a good story because they don’t have the training to see the deep structural problems in the idea before writing it as a script.
The extraordinary fact is 99% of writers fail at the premise. This is the great unknown gatekeeper that keeps most writers from being successful. If you screw up the premise, nothing you do later in the writing process will make any difference. The game’s already over.

The biggest mistakes writers make at the premise:

1. The idea is not original.
2. The idea doesn’t have a clear desire line for the hero that extends throughout the story.
3. The idea doesn’t have a strong main opponent.

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February 2, 2012

Choosing the Right Screenwriting Competitions

Screenwriting competitions are a dime a dozen – or at least writers wish that was how much they cost. The fact of the matter is that there are hundreds of screenwriting contests out there, each promising to launch the winner to ‘professional screenwriter’ status, and each with a hefty entry fee.

But which contests can really deliver? And which ones are worth the (often substantial) cost of entry? How do writers separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to this potential avenue to screenwriting success?

I recently spoke with David Outram, Head of Administration at the Shoreline Scripts Screenwriting Competition, a UK-based contest with the goal of getting the best screenplays into the hands of the producers and production companies that have the means to get them made.

Looking over the Shoreline Scripts website, it quickly became apparent to me that Shoreline is a different kind of screenwriting competition – even before the competition is completed, the contest promises to pass along the best scripts to people who can get them made (after obtaining the writer’s consent).

Here’s what David had to say about choosing screenwriting competitions that can actually deliver on their promises.

LA Screenwriter (LA): With so many screenwriting contests out there for writers to choose from, how can writers determine whether a contest is everything it claims to be?

David Outram (DO): A writer should look at not only the monetary prizes offered but the people and companies involved in the process. A good set of producers, industry judges, and production companies connected with a contest will really help a writer get his or her work out there. These connections should be the main reason for entering a competition. If you have questions about the contest or concerns about its legitimacy, you should always contact the contest before entering. If your query goes unanswered for more than a week, that’s probably not a good sign.

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September 28, 2011

Charlie Kaufman’s Take on Screenwriting

Charlie Kaufman is far and away one of my favorite working screenwriters. He’s written such meta masterpeices as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich, and Adaptation. In this recent interview, Kaufman offers his perspective on screenwriting and the business of film:

On studio filmmaking…

‘In a lot of movies, especially big studio ones, they’re not constructed in any other way than to get people to like them and then tell their friends. It’s a product. It’s like building a Buick. I don’t think the studios would even argue with that. It’s a very big business, a very risky business, and they want some sort of certainty that they’re going to succeed. They push certain buttons. But those movies aren’t interesting to me.’

On being seen as a ‘mathematical’ screenwriter…

‘I’ve heard people say that, and I don’t approach things that way. It often does come down to imagining different permutations of events. But I’m certainly not mathematical by training. I have a personality that tends to be somewhat compulsive, and I do tend to think in a circular way. I dwell on the same things over and over and I try to figure out different ways of looking at the same issue.’

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May 10, 2011

An Interview with Frank Pierson, Scribe of Cool Hand Luke

This great interview from the WGAW gets into the mind of screenwriter Frank Pierson, the writer of such greats as Dog Day Afternoon, A Star is Born, and Cool Hand Luke:

Many of you know Frank Pierson’s work as former President of the WGAW or his stint as the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Others of you may know of his remarkable writing resume, starting in the ‘50s with television shows such as Have Gun – Will Travel and Playhouse 90, followed by five decades of films like Cat Ballou (Screenplay by Walter Newman and Frank R. Pierson), Dog Day Afternoon (Screenplay by Frank Pierson), A Star Is Born (Screenplay by Joan Didion & John Gregory Dunne and Frank Pierson), In Country (Screenplay by Frank Pierson and Cynthia Cidre), and Presumed Innocent (Screenplay by Frank Pierson and Alan J. Pakula).

But odds are, all of you know the famous line he came up with while writing 1967’s Cool Hand Luke (Screenplay by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson):

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”  

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