5 Lessons From the Guillermo Del Toro Interview with the Coen Brothers

There's nothing better than watching 3 master filmmakers chat for 40 minutes. 

I daydream a lot about my friends and I becoming the kings and queens of Hollywood someday. A day when we aren't struggling and we're making art. But until those days are here, I have to enjoy other famous friendships. 

Right now, I am geeking out on the Coens and Guillermo Del Toro chatting about their love of Hollywood, each other, and their work processes.  

Take a look at this video from the Inside Llewyn Davis special features and let's check out 5 takeaways after the jump.

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaJVm1j_mfA

They used Mad Max: The Road Warrior to inspire Blood Simple and Raising Arizona. 

A fun one to start off... the Coens and Del Toro begin the conversation talking about Hollywood and movies. I loved hearing why they enjoyed the simplicity and reality of the first Mad Max movie. It's a revenge film with a punishing drive and simple motivations...things that will echo across our other 4 points. They also loved the changing aspect ratio in the movie and how slow the cars went in some scenes. It's a really fun part of the movies. Also, they shot their original films wide because they couldn't afford that many choices!  And it inspired them to stay wide for many of their other films. 

You can capture a time period without making a "real life" movie. 

We often think about biopics as the only true way to capture a time period. They focus on what's "real" and "authentic" about certain eras, but that's the wrong notion. The Coen brothers have been attacking a varying array of time periods in their films. While Fargo was the only one actually built around a "true story," all of them contain authenticity and certain elements that allow them to embrace the world. There's a mindset of the characters, a way each person talks, and facts about how the story functions.  

When you write your own screenplays, try to dial in on what makes what happens so special. Then highlight that in the theme

It's okay to meander. 

Usually, I'm the one telling you that every scene has to matter, but I think the Coens do a great job of making long scenes feel like they meander while sneaking in character detail. Think about the courtroom scene from True Grit. We get a lengthy scene to set the stage for Rooster Cogburn. We also get to see how the old west functioned and the hierarchy in town. Cogburn not only relays a case to us, but we can see he is ruthless. Also, we see our protagonist learn how to deal with Rooster: be firm and call him out. And these lessons pay off for her as the story unfolds. 

Figure out what your character needs. 

The story of Inside Llewyn Davis is fairly simple. He's a musician who needs a coat, a place for the cat, and the ability to get to the recording studio and back. That's a simple list of necessities, and we see the drama of that life unfolding. What the Coens do better than many other people is keep the needs of a character clean. The audience always knows what they want and we always know the scene will be about them trying to get it. This adds excitement and drama into even the smallest conversations. 

Write what you're interested in. 

One of the hardest things to come to grips with in Hollywood is writing what interests you instead of writing toward the trends. If a script gets heat, you might live in its story for the next few years. You better hope you care about the subject. Also, you'll need to do research and plan things out. Those kinds of things will only pay off if the reader can tell you care about the subject in question. So only tackle what you care about and the fruit of your labor will be shared with your creative partners. 

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2ZqFFFcXmg

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There's nothing better than watching 3 master filmmakers chat for 40 minutes.

July 10, 2020 at 8:21AM, Edited July 10, 8:21AM

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