Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Woody's View

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.

FADE IN:

Consider this from Woody Allen:

“I’ve never been asked to teach filmmaking, and frankly, I’ve never been tempted, either. Well, actually, Spike Lee, who teaches a class at Harvard, once asked me to talk to his students. I was perfectly happy to do it, but in the end, it was a little bit frustrating. The problem is, I feel there’s so little you can teach, really, and I didn’t want to be discouraging to them. Because the truth of the matter is, you either have it or you don’t. If you don’t have it, you can study all your life and it won’t mean anything. You won’t become a better filmmaker for it. And if you do have it, then you will quickly learn to use the few tools you need. Most of what you need, as a director, is psychological help, anyhow. Balance, discipline, things like that. The technical aspect comes second. Many talented artists are destroyed by their neuroses, their doubts, and their angst, or they let too many interior things distract them. That’s where the danger lies, and these are the elements that a writer or filmmaker should try to master first. ...for those who can do it, there’s no big mystery to it. One should not get caught up in thinking it’s some kind of mysterious, complex thing to do. Just follow your instinct. And if you have talent, it won’t be hard. And if you don’t, then it will be impossible.”

That's from the book, "Moviemaker’s Master Class," Interviews by Laurent Tirard, Faber & Faber, 2002, p. 38.

My Response:

Certainly these are truths. But I also believe that those who regularly read blogs on writing and filmmaking, and those who have picked up books on those subjects, in large part, are the ones who have Allen’s elusive “it.” Some instinct within them is moving them to gain these tools. Only the barriers stand in their way. And among those are their own internal arsenal of doubts grown out of among other things, a lack of information about how to access the talents they have.

Allen is right in his dichotomy that some will find it easy and some will find it impossible. But he makes no room for determination and effort and their ability to change who those folks are. For him, here, it will either happen or not, and the implication is that the individual has no effect on the outcome. How many out there will or would "study all their (lives)" before inevitably failing? I have to think that a person's internal spirit will inform him or her if it is a waste of time. So, the mere fact that someone sticks with it is an indicator that they have the potential to make a career out of it. How do I know this? Just read screenwriter interviews for a while. You'll find story after story of how one writer after another just "fell" into his career, never even thinking of becoming a writer. What this means is that it can happen for anybody even if YOU hadn't considered it! I wonder how he viewed that airline pilot who saved his passengers by "landing" on the Hudson River awhile back. Maybe pilot Woody would say: 

"Well, we're gonna crash 'cause there's no runway, so there's nothing to do about it."

The effect of the individuaL is POWERFUL! Hell, it even results in films like ANNIE HALL. 

So, I, here, operate under the assumption that you, the reader interested in writing, really have Woody Allen’s “it.” This blog and others like it (such as those on the right), as well as my forthcoming book on laterally-based story creation can serve as battering rams against those barriers you face. What you do with them, and how long you persist, is up to you. #

FADE OUT

Lee A. Matthias

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