QUESTIONS PEOPLE ASK ME RE: MY EMPLOYMENT
Inspired by @zoe's list, questions I'm routinely asked about being a screenwriter.
- •Have you written anything I would've heard of?I don't know, maybe? Typically the response is "Oh, yeah, I think I saw the ads for that" and occasionally "Wait, you wrote that? Like, all by yourself?" Once a very sweet girl on a train burst into tears and told me I wrote her favorite movie of the year, so that was nice.
- •But, like, the actors make up a lot of their dialogue though, right?Well, no. I mean, I love using improvisation. I actually wrote my masters thesis on improvisation in filmmaking. Many actors are genius ad-libbers. But performing written dialogue to sound spontaneous is, like, part of what makes acting acting.
- •Does it bother you if actors change your dialogue?No. Not at all. Not if they make it better by saying it in the way that feels right coming out of their mouths. But mostly because dialogue is only one part of what I do as a screenwriter. You can ad-lib dialogue, it's pretty hard to ad-lib structure, plot, character, tone, pace, theme, allegory, and so on.
- •Do you ever go to set?Yes. I'm typically on set for the entire shoot. It depends on the relationship I have with the director, but since it's usually a positive, productive dynamic between collaborators who trust and respect each other, yeah, I'm on set all the time.
- •Where do you get your ideas?Something happens in my life and I think about how I would've reacted in other circumstances. Sometimes those circumstances are grounded and realistic. Sometimes they're fantastical and weird. But it always comes down to a conflict from my everyday life abstracted into a story. Also, occasionally elves pour them into my ears while I dream.
- •Will you get invited to the premiere?Yes. I wrote the movie so, yes.
- •Is it hard to just give your script to a director and they can do whatever they want to it?I mean, sometimes? But when you're in a creative partnership, that's not how it works anyway.
- •So, like, they give you an idea and you just write it?I write both original material and also do "assignments", where a producer or studio or director or actor brings me a piece of material (an idea, book, play, article, et cetera) and we discuss how I'd adapt it into a movie.
- •But you're not, like, writing the way, you know, a playwright or a novelist is writing, right?No, it's the same. It's a different form obviously, an inherently interim one, but a screenplay still had to be a compelling literary experience for the reader long before it can a compelling filmic experience for the viewer.
- •Hey, I wrote a screenplay too, can you read it and give me, like, feedback?Uh... sure. But do you actually want real feedback, writer to writer, or do you just want me to tell you it's great because you're not in an emotional or professional state of mind to hear genuine criticism? What's that, the latter? Okay then IT'S GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!