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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Expo Wrap-Up (Part I)

I had a great time at Expo 4 this weekend, and I'm sure many others will be posting their experiences as well. But here's where I stand (broken into a few parts for ease of reading).

So, I was only at Expo for part of the day on Friday, and then the whole day on Sunday. First person I saw at Expo whom I knew was Shawna, at the registration area on Friday.

Then I headed over to hear Jeff "The Dude" Dowd speak. As I mentioned, he's a producer and producer's rep who was also the inspiration for the character of "The Dude" in The Big Lebowski. I'll be honest. The Dude was not the greatest speaker. He seemed to know his stuff, but wasn't very organized about delivering it. Still, I don't regret going, and I think he did make some good points. One was stressing the importance of creating a great entrance for your lead character(s). He illustrated with the openings of Cool Hand Luke (which I'm embarrassed that I've never seen) and (a personal fave of mine) L.A. Confidential. A good entrance, said Dowd, is one of those things that helps attract actors, along with extreme behavior and complexity, and attracting actors is a key element to getting your film made.

He mentioned a conversation he had with the Coen Brothers where he was discussing their writing process. Joel writes a scene and makes it as difficult for the main character as possible, and then Ethan comes in and tries to make it worse. Then Joel tries to top it, etc. It is driven by sibling rivalry. I found this a good way of working, especially if you have a collaborator, and I may need to talk to MLee about that!

Dowd also spoke about using anticipation as a means through which we can draw viewers into a scene, rather than keeping them as outside viewers. After the intros of L.A. Confidential, we very clearly anticipate the way these characters will all lock horns. Dowd also reminded us of McKee's point that a good third act should not present a choice between good and bad, since any character will have an easy time choosing good. Rather it must be a choice between bad and different bad.

Lastly, Dowd's big pushing point was that, especially now in the digital age, when things are cheap and still high quality, and easily and quickly mutable, we have the benefit of making movies via a truly dramaturgical process. We need to get actors to read our scripts, accept and listen to feedback from regular people (since they know films better than anything else), tweak and change as appropriate, etc.

More to come in Part II.

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