25 August 2011

Who's Tyrone Power!?

Why do you want to be a screenwriter? Most likely it has to do with the fact that you love movies, you've always loved movies. They're in your blood, in your genes. You know so much about this make-believe world that sometimes you feel like you could burst, right? Unfortunately, all of that is wishful thinking on my part - so many young writers know diddly about film history.

Move over Natalie, this is
The Black Swan - Tyrone Power style
The title's question "Who's Tyrone Power?" was once posed and I still remember it - and it still pisses me off thinking about it. People in this business should know, should want to know, should strive to know. This business is what it is because of everything that's come before. We should know because it gives us:
  1. foundation > There's a wealth of stories out there, from silent films on to this day. The more we watch them, the more we get a sense of story - the more you get to a point where "three act structure" isn't a pain in the ass, but instead something you do naturally - it becomes part of your writer's fiber.
  2. inspiration > Learn, analyze and enjoy everything from "His Girl Friday" to "Nosferatu", Eisenstein to Romero, whatever the time period, whatever the country or origin, whatever the genre - be interested. Everything you take in will give you plentiful inspiration for your own scripts.
  3. jobs > When you sit across a producer, you don't want to come across as somebody who just happened to wander into the film industry by chance. Be a vibrant conversation partner, talk about films, about your inspirations, spitball scenes, actors, directors, camera angles, dialogue, etc. etc. - the producer wants the guy with the knowledge and the passion - show him that you live and breathe film.
Basically, I consider every movie watched time well spent (even crappy ones, I always have useful take-aways). But watching old movies is even better. Soaking in everything from the classics to obscure B-movies does all of the above. Now, you of course know Tyrone Power - you didn't have to IMDB him. You know about "Jesse James", "The Long Gray Line", "The Mark of Zorro" (doesn't your heart just leap at the mere mention?), "Witness for the Prosecution" - or, one of my all-time favorites, "The Black Swan".

Watching movies is never a waste of time - and that goes ten times as much for the classics. Watch any interview with Quentin Tarantino, who references movies with every sentence he motor-mouths. You get a great sense not only of his knowledge - but of his passion for the world of movies. Talking film, he's the kid in the candy store - and boy does he ever know his candy.

We should all aim for at least half of that Tarantino passion.

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