Chernobyl writer Craig Mazin was part of an extensive Reddit AMA on July 12, where the writer of the acclaimed HBO miniseries provided insightful answers regarding his process and inspiration for the project. He also discussed his transition from writer of big-screen comedies like Superhero Movie and The Hangover sequels to one of the year's best TV programs.
Here are some of Craig's answers with a breakdown of the lessons you can take away from them. You can read the entire AMA here, and let us know what you think in the comments.
Craig Mazin's AMA
Reddit's "Ask Me Anything" interview format encourages participants to be brief and honest with their answers to questions we've been dying to know. Instead of just copy and pasting Craig's quotes, we pulled some of our favorite questions and answers in the post followed by our commentary as to why they are important and how they pertain to other writers and filmmakers.
These are in no particular order.
This answer gets to the heart of where storytelling and history meet, and the writer's role in how to service both. The onus is on the writer to find the truth at the heart of the facts, the emotionally honest beats that help the real-life events resonate within a dramatic narrative. That means using real-life to support the argument, but changing the details and timelines you need to keep the audience engaged.
Again, this answer is important. So often we, as writers, find ourselves pigeonholed into what the town wants us to be. That will bring work, but it doesn't always bring satisfaction.
What Craig says here is something most need to understand: If you can write, you can write. It doesn't always mean you get to chase what you want. And that doesn't mean you get credit for the far-reaching work you do that might happen in rewrite or script doctor form. It's important to take care of your family, but it's even nicer to see Craig getting the opportunities he's always deserved, and seeing him succeed now.
It's incredibly interesting to see how Craig developed his characters out of his research around the events. Full immersion was necessary to deconstruct the infamous nuclear power plant disaster, and tell that story using "characters" based on the real-life people involved. So start big and whittle it down. Then work your way into the script and write about the people we'll care about at its core. Character is king, always. Especially in television.
Craig seems to have written his response from both an honest and very humble place. As the accolades came, he stayed true to the characters and the importance of the story.
Still, much like the viewer, he has a favorite episode and his favorite storylines. Also, like the viewer, he, too, shares in their worries about the world we live in.
What are some of your favorite answers from Craig's AMA?
What's next? Read Craig Mazin's Chernobyl scripts!
Chernobyl is the hottest show of the summer. Now you can download and learn from all of Craig Mazin's screenplays.
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