Listen to Intimate Stories From Some of Today's Best Screenwriters

Want to hear advice from some of the writers of the greatest movies of last year?

Awards season is my favorite time of the year. When everyone's campaigns start, you get the best interviews, behind the scenes looks, and access to all the stuff you wanted to see about your favorite movies of the year. My absolute must-watch every year is The Hollywood Reporter's Writer's Roundtable

There's always something to learn about your favorite scribes, their movies, and how they'd treat a movie about Donald Trump. But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

The Writer's Roundtable 

This year, John Krasinski (A Quiet Place), Peter Farrelly (Green Book), Tamara Jenkins (Private Life), Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade), Eric Roth (A Star Is Born), and Paul Schrader (First Reformed) join the 2019 Writers Roundtable. They answer a medley of questions and give some sound advice. I wanted to pull some of my favorite quotes AND link you to the writers' screenplays. 

First, I wanted to pull some quotes that I found particularly helpful to me and my process (and I hope they help you as well).

Let's look at some of the films that influenced these writers. 

Is there one film that strongly influenced you?

BURNHAM A Woman Under the Influence [1974] and John Cassavetes. The way that people speak to each other feels like they are not only surprising the viewer, they are surprising themselves.

ROTH For years it was Giant [1956]. I believed I was doing Giant with every single movie — till I saw Giant again.

KRASINSKI The Verdict [1982] for me is the seminal movie. I grew up very Catholic, and there was this idea of redemption that felt more spiritual than actual religious teaching.

FARRELLY Something Wild [1986] inspired me in a huge way. It felt like rock 'n' roll, it felt great. That's why I fell in love with Jeff Daniels. After that, I was begging [the studio] to use him. It just had such a fun, happy, cool feeling to it. And for years, every time I was going to do another movie, I'd watch it again. Someone recently said we have a lot of road trips in our movie, and I don't consciously do that. And then I thought, Something Wild. There is something about being on the road in America that feels a little Kerouac-y. You feel like you're alive.

JENKINS Dog Day Afternoon [1975] is brilliant. And it's about dropping characters into action without any backstory and then figuring out why they're there when you find out they're robbing the bank.

What advice would you give a starting writer?

BURNHAM I feel there is a specific struggle of being young and creative now—because of social media, because the internet's creative process has collapsed in on itself. The line between writing something, testing it out, revising it, has collapsed into a single moment. If someone has an idea for a film or a book, maybe they'll tweet out a little bit of it and see what the reception is. There's a constant temperature-taking at every moment.

JENKINS I read a book about Twyla Tharp and her creativity process. She writes ideas down on index cards and just throws them in a box.

SCHRADER I tell young writers, "Don't confuse screenwriting with writing. Screenwriting is part of the oral tradition, it's not part of the literary tradition."

ROTH It's really a bastardized form, screenwriting. You're not a novelist.

SCHRADER And our jobs are not made easier by people who say, "You shouldn't do that" and "trigger alerts" and all of that. It's not very good for the creative process.

Do the older writers here agree? Do you ever feel out of touch with the zeitgeist?

KRASINSKI I feel like I'm 92 years old all the time. I thought I was pretty hip, and then I found out the iPhone has 10 versions.

SCHRADER I used to think we were going through a period of transition. Now I realize we've entered a period of constant transition.

KRASINSKI But I hope romance and romance stories are always a [part] of the zeitgeist. If we lose that, we're out of it. I don't know the last time I saw a classic romance [other than A Star Is Born]. People are afraid to do that type of beautiful, honest story about two people.

JENKINS Love stories come in lots of different packages.

ROTH A good love story will always have a heartbreaking ending or at least an ending where people's dreams are not quite fulfilled, so there is a bittersweet quality. But people are cowardly about doing it; it's not branded.

The Writer's Roundtable Video 

Those quotes are great, but spend your next hour listening to the writer's talk more. Hopefully, it can help your process! 

Read the Scripts from the Writer's Roundtable

John Krasinski ('A Quiet Place')

Peter Farrelly ('Green Book')

Tamara Jenkins ('Private Life')

Bo Burnham ('Eighth Grade')

Eric Roth ('A Star Is Born')

Paul Schrader ('First Reformed')

Summing up the Writer's Roundtable 

We're dedicated to making your writing better. So whether it's tips on dialogue, scope, or avoiding cliches, we're there for you. 

Check out our Free Screenwriting Seminar to get your screenplay on track. And read all of the best screenplays of 2018 as well. 

We look forward to seeing what you'll write next.      

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