Monday, November 9, 2009

The Wisdom of Christopher McQuarrie

Christopher McQuarrie is, of course, the Oscar winning writer of The Usual Suspects. If you haven't heard the podcast of his interview with Creative Screenwriting Magazine's Jeff Goldsmith I would highly recommend it. Not only is it enormously entertaining, there is a vast wealth of knowledge about how the film industry works and the screenwriter's place within it.

One of the insights that is starting to increasingly resonate with me, even in the tiny fish bowl of the Perth film industry (if there even is such a thing), is that the director is paramount in getting a film made. McQuarrie cites his personal experiences which are clearly on a much larger scale but the lesson, I believe, holds true outside of Hollywood.

For example, the short film Kanowna - the director (and in this case, writer) wanted to realise his vision so he basically made the film (okay, I'm simplifying an enormously challenging task given there was no budget and it is a period piece, set on location in quite difficult terrain, with, amongst other things, horses and a baby!).

In contrast, my short script, Immortal, which I am very fond of, wasn't even short-listed for a recent local funding round and will now basically fade into obscurity. Why? Because, as a writer, I can't make the film.

Which leads me to feature scripts. If your director loves the material and has a passion to shoot the film, then you'll both find a way to make it happen. If your director loses that passion for the script you are dead in the water and the project will be on life-support, shortly to die. You may not even know it until the project is terminal. All you can then do is decide whether to find another director who embraces the script and brings a new wave of energy and passion ... or you call Dr. Kevorkian and administer the last rites.

Enough with the medical analogies!

You will find a link to download the McQuarrie podcast here:

or do a search in ITunes for 'Creative Screenwriting Magazine' and look for the Valkyrie Q&A. Trust me, the Benicio Del Toro anecdote is worth it alone!

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