What's left to say? Only this: Having stressed the importance of craft in screenwriting, I have to be honest: Craft can only take you so far.
"The rest," as William Gibson so wisely said, "is art and up to God."
"Young screenwriters forget they're writers," Mark Spragg told me. "They believe too much in craft—form—and not enough in the art of the piece. It is organic."
Messy. Mysterious. Ultimately, creating a screenplay and film that connect is a mysterious process. And the act of connecting with others, Peter Weir suggests, may be more unconscious than conscious:
You have to remember that the audience is sitting in their seats dreaming and if you can connect with their unconscious, you really have a powerful connection between viewer and screen. You want them to let the stuff come up from their unconscious, provoked by your energies with just enough logic to feel like you know what you're doing and the picture is under control. That's the challenge, to have enough logic without inhibiting the unconscious.1
Enough logic, yes, but not rules, as Academy Award winner, Nicholas Kazan, says in American Screenwriters:
In essence, there are no rules with film. It's like a dream: it can take many different forms. The important thing is that what happens should be continually surprising and in retrospect seem inevitable. If you have that it doesn't matter what your structure is.2
Learn the craft, then give yourself permission to go beyond it.
"Research, think," as Mark Spragg says, "then turn the dogs loose and see where they go."
So the last thing I'd like to say is what I've been saying all along: Play. Or, as Seamus Heaney says in "Station Island":
You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous. Take off from here. And don't be so earnest, so ready for the sackcloth and the ashes. Let go, let fly, forget.
You've listened long enough. Now strike your note.3
1. Linda Seger and Edward Jay Whetmore, From Script to Screen: The Collaborative Art of Filmmaking, Henry Holt, New York, 1994, p. 145.
2. Karl Schanzer and Thomas Lee Wright, American Screenwriters: The Insider's Look at the Art, the Craft, and the Business of Writing Movies, Avon Books, New York, 1993, p. 248.
3. Seamus Heaney, Selected Poems 1966-1987, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 1990, pp. 211-212.
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