Monday, July 25, 2011

In Conversation with David Stevens

This afternoon I had the absolute pleasure of listening to Oscar nominated screenwriter David Stevens talk for a couple of hours at the Subiaco Arts Centre. David, who is also a director, playwright and novelist, is in Perth for a reading of his new play The Beast and the Beauty this Wednesday.

If today's prelude, organised under the Association of Screen Professionals banner, is anything to go by then we're in for a corker of a read. David is a consummate storyteller and today's topic, loosely "How to make it in Hollywood", lent itself to a funny, entertaining and eye-opening session.

This is a man who wrote Breaker Morant (nominated for a screenwriting Oscar, 1981); the play and subsequent script for The Sum of Us; the mini-series and novel (with Alex Halley) Queen; and the mini-series Merlin among many others. I think you would agree, a substantial talent.

He was very generous with his time (and brutally honest anecdotes) so it didn't take much prompting to hear more about his experiences with Alex Halley (Roots), the Hollywood studio system, Dustin Hoffman, the Oscars experience, and how his play The Sum Of Us has still never been performed in Melbourne.

One of the key messages from the talk, for me, was David's belief that a story idea will have an optimal form - be it a screenplay, a play, novel etc and it's the writer's job to figure out what that form is. That's not to say an idea can't work in other formats but there will be a perfect way to "cut the diamond".

Interestingly, there is a play and screenplay version of The Beast and the Beauty and part of Wednesday's reading is to gain feedback on what its best format might be. I can fully understand this - feedback from a synopsis I sent out during the week is that the story might play better as a mini-series rather than a feature script.

Thank you to Annie Murtagh-Monks for organising the talk and upcoming reading; Mark DeFriest, the director of TB&TB, who had the easiest moderating job I can remember (after a pithy intro he wisely let the man talk!); and David Stevens for the fabulous stories and resultant discussion.

I strongly recommend you get down to the Subiaco Arts Centre Wednesday evening to hear the reading of David's latest work!

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