Posts tagged ‘writing an adaptation’

October 9, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Deborah Moggach’s List

E.B. White wrote that there are “no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.” With this in mind, we’ve asked working screenwriters to share a list of the “un-rules” that they find most helpful in their writing careers.

Our latest list of un-rules comes from the talented Deborah Moggach. Deborah is an English writer whose career has spanned television, film, and novels. She wrote the screenplay for the exceptional adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and wrote the novel, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

With her rules, Deborah noted, “Rules, of course, are there to be broken. Screenwriting in particular seems enslaved by ‘three-act-structure’ rules and so on, which I think can put a straight jacket on a writer. Another trope is ‘whose story is this?’ When Billy Wilder wrote Some Like it Hot, nobody asked him if this was the Tony Curtis character’s story or the Jack Lemmon character’s story – and THAT film did ok.”

“However,” she added, “here are some tips:”

  1. Be adaptable. A good screenwriter is not precious – listen to criticism and take it on board. After all, it’s a communal activity and, besides, it’s somebody else’s money at stake. Be adaptable, but fight for your corner if you believe in it.

  2. Screenwriting is re-writing. Again and again and again. If you haven’t the fortitude and resilience for this, don’t get into it. With each draft, however, you’ll learn something. I’m learning all the time.

  3. If you’re adapting a book – and many films originate as books, of course – first read the book a couple of times with your screenwriter’s hat on – noticing the dramatic, filmic moments; the great speeches; the narrative thrust. Then write your first draft. This will closely resemble the book.

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April 26, 2011

Shut Up and Write

This great article by Jeanne Veillette Bowerman talks about her personal experience with balancing having the necessary patience to carefully peice together your story and the productivity to start writing the damn thing already. It’s a tricky balance even for experienced writers, as Jeanne shows us:

Last week, I declared patience is paramount when it comes to both getting a project produced and learning your writing partner’s habits. But patience can also be the killer of a project – a slow infectious cancer that will suck the energy out of your work and your soul.

Sometimes you have to put up or shut up.

After a year of outlining our adaptation of Slavery by Another Name, we were dancing dangerously on the talk-is-cheap line. People kept saying, “So, how’s that adaptation coming?” Gulp.

In writing, and in life, you have to carefully walk a line between patience and productivity. My writing partner, Douglas A. Blackmon, and I were struggling getting this script written. We lived in different states yet functioned best in person. This was quite a dilemma.

I took a good hard look at what drove both of us. Then it hit me. Doug is a newspaper guy – he needed a deadline. I’m a competitive freak – I needed a contest.

Bingo! Sundance Screenwriters Lab.

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