Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Pulp Screenwriting Philosophy

In addition to "Mad Pulp Bastard" (which no one has yet to challenge me for in the ring or back alley), I am going to add the title "Philosopher" to create a new legend, "Mad Pulp Bastard Philosopher." Here's why.

I just got back from the Moondance Film Festival over at Raleigh Studios where I watched a few films and panels, and I don't think people "get it." There are so many "filmmakers" out there who are trying to put out an important message that they lose sight of why they are making a film in the first place. That's not to say that you can't have a message in your movie, it's just that's not the primary reason to make a movie.

The primary reason to make a movie is to entertain people by telling a story using the medium of film.

I'm going to write down my little philosophy of movies - just so everyone knows where I'm coming from. I'll add to it occaisionally and repost it. This is going to come off as a bit of a rant.
I don't apologize.

1. Pulp screenwriters learn best by doing. That means writing - a lot. That means making mistakes, learning from them and moving on. The more movies you write and get made, the more you learn.

2. Simpler is better.

3. You write to sell. By that I mean you write something in order to get it produced. That means selling the concept, selling the story and selling the script. Before you write one word - ask yourself - Who is going to want to see this story and why? If you can't answer that question - don't write the script.

4. Good scripts come from good outlines, that come from fully developed concepts and ideas. If you don't have a good outline - don't write the script until you do. It's far easier to change something on a three page document than it is on a 90 pager.

5. Time = money. Don't waste it.

6. Don't try and justify your work - if it doesn't make sense it needs to be rewritten.

7. Don't ever apologize for your writing or qualify it somehow. "Oh, well it's just a B-Movie." First off, there are no B-movies anymore. Second, be proud of anything you have accomplished.

8. No matter what - Don't ever be boring.

9. First drafts are the forest; Rewrites are the trees.

10. Don't make a horror movie without the horror in it. It is a waste of time (see #5 above).

11. Another way to get better as a writer is to work with people who are better than you are. Cream rises to the top.

To be continued...

11 comments:

Chopped Nuts said...

I don't believe this belongs under a philosophy heading, but it is a pet peeve of mine, gained from watching a myriad of indie films:

We need far fewer stories about a scrawny white guy having sex problems. These fall into two categories:

1. Scrawny white guy is having too much sex, and seeks advice from his somewhat mysoginstic jock friends, or:

2. Scrawny white guy hasn't had sex in three months, and complains to a girl, who is his friend, but not his girl-friend (this shows that he is sensitive).

I'm not sure why, but there's dozens of these films floating around. My wild guess is that it gives scrawny white guys like myself the chance to feel up hot actresses.

Bill Cunningham said...

Or the wonderful, "I'm going to graduate soon, what am I going to do with my life?" film.

I see another one of these - I'm going homicidal.

I wish someone would make one of these movies about a guy who decides his career path is serial killer or hitman or gigolo or something that says "originality."

James Moran said...

Couldn't agree more. People can get all artyfarty until the cows come home, but at the end of the day, you're asking people to pay their 8 quid to sit through your movie - and wanky, experimental coming of age dramas are not particularly enjoyable to anyone except the writer-director-producers who make them. It's entertainment! Entertain me!

Piers said...

Please god we're going to see a sea-change in the films that get made over here.

I live in the UK at the moment, and let me tell you the outlook here has been bleak for many years.

Another dull period drama.

Another story of poor people growing up on a council estate, and oh no, their dreams of escape have been shattered, shattered I tell you.

Fuck that shit.

But it feels different right now. It seems to me that British screenwriters are at last having a conversation about making entertaining films that people all over the world might actually go and watch.

Good. That conversation is overdue.

And if there's a message in your film too, then that's just fine, but if the message is the film then you are a failure as a film-maker and a communicator.

RogerRmjet said...

There's another UK-trend that needs to be stopped (amid the hundreds of US-trends that need to be stopped):

Poor town is down on it's luck. Things are bad. But, hey, we can turn it around with SEX! -- e.g., male strippers, nude women (young or old), boots for transvestites, etc. Fun for the whole family!

I think it's time to put these to rest. Or at least make a good "Airplane"-style satire.

DecoderRing said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DecoderRing said...

... Not just Pulp Screenwriting, but ALL screenwriting - and with a little modification, all writing, but let us not o'er reach our grasp, but simply write this on our souls in letters of fire:

The primary reason to make a movie is to entertain people by telling a story using the medium of film.

Oh, yes please!

James Moran said...

Rock on, Piers. Although I think us UK screenwriters have been shouting that end of the conversation for a while, it's only now that the money people are actually listening, and thank Christ for that. Well, that's my experience, anyway, and it's certainly the case for the other writers I've met.

Hey, that might make for a great movie: sensitive, troubled screenwriter trying to get people to film to his movie drama idea, held back by circumstance (living on a council estate), so he turns to stripping/kinky boots to finance his writing. Tender comedy hi-jinks ensue! Don't any of you bastards steal that, it's mine. I'm thinking Ross Kemp for the lead.

Aric Blue said...

hahahaha...I've had a conversation very much like this with many people. They wanna do an "important" artsy film.

I just want to entertain.

So then they get pissed when my stuff gets distribution and their stuff gets a critical rave from Film Threat.

What're you gonna do?

But good post. Keep 'em coming!

Jonathan Walter said...

Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union - Samuel Goldwyn

It's the quote on the top of Bill's Blog and I couldn't agree more. Plus all of these message films are mostly left wing propaganda. If I want that I'll watch CNN.

Curt said...

I often wonder if people who make art films or write literary fiction actually enjoy similar work from their peers. It's hard for me to imagine that they do, but who knows? If you couldn't enjoy something if it were someone else's work rather than your own, I think that's very telling--and what it's telling you is that you're wasting your time on self-indulgent crap. I try to write stuff that I'd be glad to shell out a hundred bucks for in a heartbeat, then eagerly devour, if only it were out there already.