Richard Linklater is a DIY filmmaker hero for many reasons. He's self-taught, completely obsessed with cinema and making films, and his approach to telling stories is one that I think many can relate to. And if you were just thinking about what an experience it would be to actually be able to sit in a room and pick his brain about all of this, you're in luck. Linklater answers a bunch of questions from a small group of folks for one of Fox Searchlight's Searchlab lectures, which gives us an inside look into how the director goes about writing screenplays, rehearsing with actors, and working on-set.
The lecture is about 40 minutes long, so if you don't have enough time to check out the videos below, scroll down for a few takeaways that I found particularly helpful for my own screenwriting/filmmaking endeavors.
Spend a week in rehearsal, save a day in production
Linklater spends 3 weeks rehearsing scenes with his actors on every project he does. He does this for several reasons: discovering new things about the project through this creative collaboration and preparing not only the actors, but himself for production. But one benefit to rehearsal he mentions is that every week you spend in rehearsal saves a day in production, and since, as he says, rehearsing is free, that could mean saving a lot of money in the end.
The director in you must fire the writer in you
Ask any screenwriter and they'll tell you that they never actually finish a screenplay, they just kind of -- give up. They relent. I'm sure most of us could spend the rest of our lives rewriting and refining our stories, but if you're planning on directing the script you're writing, Linklater says that the writer in you who fell in love with the words and ideas on the page has to eventually concede to the director in you who needs to find out what works on-screen.
Write your screenplay like you would run the 10,000m -- one lap at a time
Not all writers do things the same way. Some can sit down and bang out a script on the first try -- I don't happen to know any, but I do know they exist.
Some Most writers, however, need quite a bit of prep before they ever write a single word of dialog. Though he says that your approach to screenwriting should be "loose," Linklater suggests approaching each story element, the characters, the structure, etc., like you would if it were a long distance run around a track -- in laps. So, for example, determining who your characters are, their backgrounds, their goals, and everything else would be one lap. This helps organize each piece in your mind, which helps with keeping your sanity, but it also helps to keep you focused on the goal without feeling overwhelmed at how far you have left to go. One lap at a time.
What do you think of Linklater's lecture? What stuck out to you? Let us know in the comments below.