Incredible Insight on Tarantino's Writing Process

Quentin Tarantino is one of the greatest living writers. But even he struggles with first drafts. 

There are few more enigmatic people in Hollywood than Quentin Tarantino. He makes deeply personal movies that we spend hours and articles dissecting over and over. But it seems like when he sits down for a straightforward interview, he just spouts answer after answer. 

Which is...amazing? 

Recently, Tarantino sat down with his longtime friend, Lynn Hirschberg, to do her Five Things podcast

You can listen to the entire conversation below, but I wanted to pick out a few talking points to highlight as well. 

Let's go! 

Tarantino's First Screenplay Drafts Never Made it Past Act One

As No Film School's resident writer, my main takeaway is how relatable Tarantino was when he talked about screenwriting endeavors. When talking Hateful Eight, it was interesting to hear that Tarantino wrote it from a place of anger. 

While not going into the reasons for that anger, whatever he felt in his private life drove him to tear into these characters and show a world comprised of evil and anger. By the time he went to make the movie, he was in such a good mood that he had to return to the screenplay over and over to remind himself of what would be hateful. 

Another sense of vulnerability goes into what his career was like at the start. 

How he would sit to write ideas and stall on page thirty over and over again. 

He had the titles, he thought he had the stories, but he'd burn out. Mostly because he was chasing fragments of movies he had just seen and not movies that meant anything to him or were born out of what interested him. 

So how did he bounce back from this line of thinking? 

Tarantino spent time figuring out what he was interested in and why he had to write movies. 

This kind of failure would derail most people, but for Tarantino, it became his driving force. That meant that whatever he sat and wrote next, he promised himself he would finish it. 

That script became True Romance

And the rest is history. 

He says, “Everything else was just so depressing by comparison that I had no choice but to live my dream,” he says. “It was the only outlet I had.”

On his love for Pauline Kael

One of today's most common sayings is "Don't read the comments."

But Tarantino says in lieu of going to film school, he sought out reviews from Pauline Kael on some of his favorite movies and filmmakers. Even when they disagreed, Tarantino understood her writing could make him reorganize his thoughts and made him sharpen his own skills. 

He also saw them as gateways to movies he had never heard about and used them almost like a guide to Hollywood. 

That was his film school. 

So it's no surprise that to this day, he loves quoting her work, which is basically his Shakespeare. Tarantino explains:

"When people are constantly quoting Shakespeare and saying it perfectly to the letter, this phrase or this stanza. I never, never bought it. But the reality is now by the time I'm in my fifties from reading Pauline Kael as much as I have that I can quote her like that. Things happen, things come up and a thing she said or a thought she had will pop into my head and now all of a sudden I'm like spouting it like it's Confucius.

So, did Tarantino ever meet Kael? 

Only on the phone. 

While he doesn't go into details, they did speak on Jackie Brown, and Kael gave him her honest thoughts: 

"Okay, I mean the scene of her going through the airport...not only it's that from The Graduate, she's costumed designed so much out of a Pedro Almodovar film, there might as well be quotes around the shot."

While Tarantino tried to explain she continued, "It's a very wonderful opening sequence, deary...and I really enjoy you talking about Blow Out on talk shows."

Amazing. 

On his love letters to Hollywood...

Now that Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood is out, Tarantino spends a lot of time on whether or not he thinks the movie is a love letter to Hollywood

We thought it was. 

Lots of other outlets think it is. 

But not the guy behind it. 

Tarantino tells Hirschberg: “I reject this whole, ‘This is your love letter to Hollywood.’ It was almost how every interview started at the press junket. When they sat down with you for 20 minutes. ‘So this is your love letter?’ Or ‘It's a nostalgia piece.’ Love letter became the two words that everybody said. I don't think it's a love letter. I wouldn't find that really interesting.

While I believe art to be subjective, so, therefore, the only thing that matters is what it means to you, it's interesting hearing his authorial intent behind the film. 

Again, what I love about these interviews is Tarantino's honesty and inspirational thought process. 

What's your favorite part of the podcast? 

Let us know in the comments. 

What's next? Tarantino's love letter to Hollywood...

The cast and crew of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood share details of how Quentin Tarantino brought his "love letter to Hollywood" to life.

Click for more.      

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2 Comments

A great listen! Thanks for making me aware of Lynn Hirschberg's podcast, I'm always looking for more shows that directly converse with writer/directors like The Q+A with Jeff Goldsmith and the DGA podcast.

January 31, 2020 at 9:25AM

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Tom Doherty
Filmmaker
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In a podcast with so much new and interesting insight you only pick up stuff that has been well known for 20 years. *Sigh*

February 6, 2020 at 3:58PM

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Joe Sand
Actor, Writer, Director, Editor
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