Hollywood writers spill the ink on their craft

Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:48pm EST
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By Jay A. Fernandez

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Nearly a year after they walked off the job for the Writers Guild of America's 100-day strike, six screenwriters recently met at a Beverly Hills eatery to talk about their work.

In attendance were Dustin Lance Black ("Milk"), Jenny Lumet ("Rachel Getting Married"), Thomas McCarthy ("The Visitor"), John Patrick Shanley ("Doubt"), Andrew Stanton ("WALL-E") and J. Michael Straczynski ("Changeling").


John Patrick Shanley: When I write the first page, I'm fantasizing about finishing, and that is the propulsion that drags me through a screenplay. It makes me keep up the narrative pacing. I also know that if I think about what I am going to write in advance, and then I write fast, you're going to feel that when you read it. You're going to feel the action of forward propulsion. You can do anything once you have a first draft, but if you don't have a first draft, you're screwed.

Andrew Stanton: So you don't go back?

Shanley: I go back. Sometimes I'll write the first five pages over and over again, which is pleasurable to me, to get a deeper sense of the world. But once I get into the narrative of it, I want to get to the end. To establish style, worldview, sense of place, I might really go over the first few pages a lot.

Stanton: My mantra is: Be wrong as fast as you can. Because I have to have the liberty to know it doesn't have to work so that I'll just keep moving.

Jenny Lumet: The nature of my life: There are screaming children involved. I don't have a choice about when I work, so I have to fail really fast. There are three hours in a day when I can write. Those are the three hours where I have to fail miserably.   Continued...