This week, we don’t make it through our usual three topics – we get stuck on the first one! Pete takes us on a great journey discussing how he sold his short film to RADA before it was even written and then wrote 16 pages in one sitting, finishing a pack of cigarettes and a carafe of wine at an old French cafe in Soho. We talk about the dangers of writing in isolation and how difficult it can be for a shy writer to get his work seen. The romantic notion of the creative “lone ranger” is definitely a myth and something Paul admits to. This leads into a discussion of story and Pete talks about tragic figures in Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth. What are the lessons the audience is meant to absorb from these tragic heroes? Shakespearean dramas are very satisfying stories, and their dramatic structure obviously works. But how do we know when a story is broken? What are the elements, when missing, that make a narrative fail? Peter and Paul discuss. Pete’s childhood immersion in theater and literature shaped his current interest in storytelling and film: he is engaged with the big themes of life, such as ambition, betrayal, jealousy. Paul, on the other hand, had an early affinity to the sciences and mathematical endeavor. He loved the payoff of a problem solved, the immediate feedback of a solution. And, until college, Paul viewed the humanities with skepticism, as a lot of “arm waving.” The men discuss these attitudes and Pete makes the point that the study of science often delivers quicker rewards, whereas art and literature are initially inscrutable and need to be pried open to reveal their treasure.

  • Sally Z

    I’m a novice LA script writer, sitting in on three screenwriting classes at UCLA. I loved your podcast. What I’m learning is pretty formulaic, but helpful. Today we practiced developing a Logline, which is a one-sentence pitch that tells what the movie is about without disclosing the end. It contains the NAME of the movie, the GENRE, the name of the PROTAGONIST with a ONE OR TWO-ADJECTIVE CHARACTER DESCRIPTION , the STRUGGLE that ensues when our character tries to reach his GOAL.

    While these loglines are used to sharpen the pitch, our teacher said that they are very useful to use before or during your script writing to tighten the story. The thought is to work them over, edit them many times, to say exactly what your film will be about. It can also help with tone.

    THE SHINING is a HORROR film where a PSYCHOLOGICALLY UNSTABLE WRITER ISOLATES HIS FAMILY IN AN ABANDONED RESORT HOTEL TO WRITE THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL.

    My favorite scriptwriter says that for the story element, it is great to have a lot of people throw stuff at it, when you get bogged down.

    Congratulations, Pete!
    Today, in class, we saw “Kitchen” by Alice Winocour. It is a short film, about 15 minutes. I couldn’t look away. You might find it on the internet.

    Sally Z.

    • Peter McSweeney

      Thanks loads for this…

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