Screenwriter-roundtable-224x102Film is a director's medium, or so I've been told. With this in mind, you probably recognized all of the directors by last name in the title of Joe's post the other day on the Director Roundtable from The Hollywood Reporter (okay, maybe you thought Spike instead of Ang, but then quickly realized your error, and hey, you can name two directors with the last name Lee). Beyond Apatow, you may have been hard-pressed to recognize this post's list of surnames as screenwriters at first glance, but you're likely familiar with their current and upcoming work: Judd Apatow (This is 40), Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty), Michael Haneke (Amour), John Krasinski (The Promised Land), David Magee (Life of Pi), and Chris Terrio (Argo). Today, thanks again to The Hollywood Reporter, the screenwriters get their turn in an hour-long roundtable discussion in the video below. And their table, unlike the directors' table, is actually round. Because words are a writer's medium, or so I've been told.

To give you a taste of the entire roundtable, here's a quick clip of Oscar winner Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) discussing the U.S. military's lack of involvement in Zero Dark Thirty:

Here's the full hour-long conversation:

Highlights from the discussion include:

  • One of the most awkward introductory questions ever
  • Judd Apatow's revelation that his story development process for This is 40 was basically coded talk with his wife Leslie Mann about their relationship issues
  • Mark Boal's need for a page-one rewrite of his "failure to capture Osama bin Laden" script in pre-production after bin Laden was killed
  • Michael Haneke's thoughts on Spielberg's Schindler's List and how it will force you to reexamine your own opinion of that film
  • John Krasinski's literal chasing of windmills before focusing on fracking and natural gas for The Promised Land
  • David Magee's use of the book Ulysses as a reference for his adaptation of Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi
  • Chris Terrio's realization that there could be an excellent Iranian film telling the story of the Canadian ambassador's housekeeper Sahar from Argo

What I found interesting during this conversation was the argument that all films must be entertainment at a certain level, and therefore, certain topics should be avoided in narrative film because they should not be reduced to mere entertainment. I would agree that most narrative films are forms of entertainment at some level, but I also think one can argue that a narrative film's purpose can be provocation, and sometimes provocation alone, not entertainment, is the purpose of a particular film (the films of Lars von Trier and Terrence Malick spring to mind).

Can a screenwriter write a screenplay that merely seeks to provoke and not to entertain, or must a screenplay (and its subsequent film) entertain an audience at some basic level? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments.

Link: The Hollywood Reporter - Oscar Roundtable, The Writers: Full Uncensored Interview

[via Go Into the Story]