December 19, 2011

Shawn Ryan on Writing for the Screen: 'Lead as Interesting a Life as Possible'

Shawn Ryan, creator of The Shield and now The Chicago Code, is probably the best-known filmmaker to graduate from my alma mater, Middlebury College. Shawn broke into the industry after writing "thirteen or fourteen spec scripts," a testament to his drive as a writer. In a pair of interviews I found myself reading and watching recently, Shawn gives excellent advice for aspiring writers. The first interview is actually by a classmate of mine, Astri von Arbin Ahlander conducted by Evan Dumouchel, who asked Shawn, "What advice would you give to young people as they develop their craft?":

It wasn’t until I did more with my life that I think I became a better writer. My advice is to lead as interesting a life as possible, to surround yourself with as interesting people as possible, to do as many interesting things as possible. You don’t necessarily need a lot of money to do those things. You can sleep on people’s couches. You can backpack across Nepal and eat Ramen noodles for a month. I also really believe that you have to keep writing and work on your writing. You have to be, I think, more brutally honest about your writing than other people are.

When starting this site I felt the same way Shawn did, which was that I didn't have enough life experiences on which to draw, and I thought the best thing I could do would be to put myself through "life school" as opposed to film school. Thus the name of this site. Writing is challenging for everyone, but I think it's especially difficult when you're young, and I'm only now starting to feel like I've logged enough miles to have a sense of where I'm going. And of course I agree with his "sleep on people's couches" advice since I did exactly that for a year.

Here's Ryan's appearance on the Fox Movie Channel show Life After Film School from a couple of years ago:

Link: Shawn Ryan Interview - The Days of Yore

Your Comment

6 Comments

Koo,
Thanks for all your posts on your website. As a filmmaker I try to write as much as possible so I can hopefully direct my own projects. It's true that life experience helps you draw up characters and plot devices. My scripts are never exactly what I went through, but they are sometimes the catalyst of the script. Keep up the great work!

December 19, 2011

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Kareem Kamahl

Bah! Damn you, Hulu, and your region locks!

December 21, 2011

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get yourself an OpenVPN client, works like a charm. I use Viscosity through Witopia. Its not free but worth it, and I can tell you that the whole "life after film school" series thats on the Hulu archive is a NICE resource.

December 21, 2011

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TSM

oh you backpacked to napal for a year, i guess you just floated there on your good vibes. worthless advice less grounded in reality than most hollywood movies.

December 22, 2011

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yeah