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robertogreco : screenwriting   5

The Transformative Experience of Writing for “Sense8” | The New Yorker
"A large number of the American writers I know, and I know a few, are involved in writing or developing long-form narrative television. One reason for this was recently provided by John Landgraf, the C.E.O. of FX Network, who said that four hundred and fifty-four scripted original series had aired in the U.S. in 2016; he thought that the number could rise to five hundred this year. Apparently, the industry needs writers and, black-hole-like, is sucking in galaxies of them. Until I was asked to work on “Sense8,” I’d never been interested in that particular black hole, even though I had come to believe that American television had overtaken narrative literature in its ability to deal with contemporary realities. No novel has addressed the Bush years’ crypto-fascist notion of “leadership” with the same clarity of thought as “The Sopranos.” If you wanted to understand the waste laid by the so-called War on Drugs, you wouldn’t read a novel—you’d watch “The Wire.” Television, in other words, offers opportunities to confront and report from the world as it changes.

Before “Sense8,” my screenwriting experience consisted of co-authoring a script with the Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić for her comedy “Love Island,” in 2014. The rest of my writerly life had taken place in the self-imposed isolation of my head. I don’t take part in workshops or writing groups; I don’t share ideas or drafts with my fellow-writers for feedback; I make all the decisions and am responsible for every word in the book that I am writing, acknowledgments included. My solipsistic authorial habits would seem to feed into a common misconception about writing, which is that it is merely a conduit for the writer’s interiority, and that a good writer—or even just a capable one—possesses the skills to transfer the contents of that interiority onto the page with as little loss as possible. Much of the creative-writing industry depends upon that misconception and the promise, implicit or explicit, that the acquisition of those skills is unconditionally achievable. I’ve grown to be suspicious of that notion, as I have learned that writing generates the content and therefore transforms—or even creates—the interiority. Writing is a means of interaction with the world, and therefore it changes the writer. If it doesn’t, it contains no discovery and merely reproduces the already known and familiar. Writing, I believe, should be a matter not of execution but of transformation.

My screenwriting experience confirmed my belief. While Lana, Lilly, and Joe were responsible for the foundations of the show—for all the characters and their narrative trajectories—my role was to make proposals that would be taken up by the other people in the room and spun around a few times. The version of the proposal that emerged would have little to do with the original, yet belonged to me as much as to everyone else. In the course of one of those spins, I realized that, whenever I spoke or listened to someone, I was looking at the center of a circle that was delimited by the participants. Somehow, we started calling this space, and the collaboration that it housed, the Pit. A whole Pit-related phraseology soon emerged: “I’m going to throw this into the Pit.” “Let’s spin it in the Pit.” “The Pit concurs.” “The Pit needs a pendulum.” I enjoyed losing myself in the process, which felt all the more fascinating for the fact that the distinguishing characteristic of the heroes of “Sense8” is an ability to inhabit someone else’s mind. All this may be yesterday’s news to the film, television, and theatre people out there, but I’d never experienced the pleasure of temporarily losing my intellectual sovereignty—of watching my bright idea be destroyed, only to be transformed into something entirely different.

After that week in 2015, David and I went back home. (My home is about five blocks away from Kinowerks; David’s is in Ireland.) For the rest of the year, we were regularly assigned scenes to write on short deadlines. Cognizant of their place and role in the larger narrative, we were tasked with working out the dialogue and the details, tossing in our suggestions for a remote Pit spin. “The Wolfgang and Lila dinner, 2-3 pages, tomorrow,” Lana would write in an e-mail. The following day I’d submit the requested two to three pages. Lana and Joe would perform the bulk of the Pit work, developing, amending, or just rejecting the pages we sent in. Over the course of three months or so, I sent in some hundred and twenty pages, happy in the knowledge that not a single one of them would make it to the final seven-hundred-page script in the form in which I had written it."



"In my literary projects, the plotless structures I gravitate toward allow me to seek connections and meanings that emerge primarily not from characters and events but from language and the potentialities of thought within it. I think inside endless semantic, syntactic, rhythmic variations. Both David and I were continuously tempted to apply our respective colored pencils to the pages of the script (David’s grammatically persnickety alter ego is named Lawrence and likes to use a green pen), but there was little time and even less need to attend to the language in the way we were accustomed to. We did, however, often discuss the structure of individual events and their positioning in the larger plot. For instance, the second season of “Sense8” ended with a cliffhanger, the resolution of which would necessarily prohibit certain future plotlines. There was, nevertheless, an infinite number of possibilities for the plot that would follow; not unlike language, our plot was a discrete combinatory system, in which from a finite number of elements any number of combinations could be made. From our respective couches (which Lana, David, and I named, for reasons that I cannot explain here, “Illumination,” “Ireland,” and “Doom,” respectively), before making any notes, we spent hours reshuffling the abstract, as yet nonexistent structure of the story.

During one of those sessions, I had a near-Proustian involuntary memory of a time, some thirty years ago, when I was a freshman at an engineering college. My friend and I were studying together for an advanced-differential-calculus exam, solving tough integral problems, until we ran into one that we could not break. For two days, for at least twelve hours a day, we sought a solution; the process required reducing the integral to some identifiable type and then applying a preëxisting algorithmic protocol. (We finally called in a math-genius friend, who looked at the unbreakable integral and solved it in just a couple of steps.) The memory made me realize that plotting a narrative is a logical, algorithmic operation, albeit one that has an infinite number of possible outcomes, rather than one correct resolution. Building a plot is like creating an algorithm from scratch, starting before the problem is even defined and then backtracking after the desired solution has been selected.

The memory also suggested that my subconscious was following a logical algorithm. My dreams are usually amorphous, featuring a field of confusingly connected events—a description that also applies to most of my work, as well as to my waking mind. The subconscious authority governing my dream life, however, had lately begun to insist that the events and the characters in my dreams be logically connected, that they follow one another causally. In recent dreams, I’ve struggled to connect discrete events, so much so that I’ve woken in despair. Once, I dreamed that I was a screenwriter trying to untangle a plot knot. Some dreams have featured “Sense8” characters, others those from the New Project, who sometimes act like real people in my dreams and are sometimes just structural problems that I have to solve.

Back in my early years in the U.S., at the time when my English was in transition from tourist to survival mode, I’d catch myself dreaming in English, and noticing, in my dream, that the people who shouldn’t be talking in English were doing so. Even more bizarrely, I would recollect English conversations with my family or friends, which would certainly have taken place in our native language. I interpreted those dreams and memories as my subconscious mind welcoming this non-native language. If I hadn’t absorbed the new language in that way, I wouldn’t have been able to write any of the books I’ve written in English, or to have lived a full life in this language. I am writing this on the last day of the Pit’s screenwriting session, overwhelmed by the feeling that the sandbox is about to be dismantled, that my friends will go back to their separate lives and careers, and that, very soon, I’ll be returning to my former, stark, monastic literary practices. What the experience of exultant plotting at Kinowerks may have done to my mind, I cannot begin to know, at least not yet."
aleksandarhemon  2017  writing  sense8  collaboration  collaborativewriting  english  languageacquisition  dreams  dreaming  memory  kinowerks  television  screenwriting  howwewrite 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Charlie Kaufman Gives 70-Minute Screenwriting Lecture - NoFilmSchool
It’s important to free yourself in any way you can so you can do your work.
It’s a massive issue because the business I’m in is the same business that politicians and corporations are in.
I think craft is a dangerous thing.
thinking  playlist  charleikaufman  screenwriting  via:litherland 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Charlie Kaufman: Screenwriters Lecture | BAFTA Guru
"we try to be experts because we’re scared; we don’t want to feel foolish or worthless; we want power because power is a great disguise."

"Don’t allow yourself to be tricked into thinking that the way things are is the way the world must work and that in the end selling is what everyone must do. Try not to."

"This is from E. E. Cummings: ‘To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.’ The world needs you. It doesn’t need you at a party having read a book about how to appear smart at parties – these books exist, and they’re tempting – but resist falling into that trap. The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying, ‘I don’t know,’ and being kind."

[Giving up, too much to quote.]
danger  risktaking  risk  failure  simplification  fear  fearmongering  materialism  consumerism  culture  marketing  humannature  character  bullying  cv  meaningmaking  meaning  filmmaking  creating  creativity  dreaming  dreams  judgement  assessment  interpretation  religion  fanaticism  johngarvey  deschooling  unschooling  unlearning  relearning  perpetualchange  change  flux  insight  manifestos  art  truth  haroldpinter  paradox  uncertainty  certainty  wonder  bullies  intentions  salesmanship  corporatism  corporations  politics  humans  communication  procrastination  timeusage  wisdom  philosophy  ignorance  knowing  learning  life  time  adamresnick  human  transparency  vulnerability  honesty  loneliness  emptiness  capitalism  relationships  manipulation  distraction  kindness  howwework  howwethink  knowledge  specialists  attention  media  purpose  bafta  film  storytelling  writing  screenwriting  charliekaufman  self  eecummings  2011  canon 
august 2012 by robertogreco
David Mamet's Master Class Memo to the Writers of The Unit | Movieline
"THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. NOT TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT JUST HAPPENED, OR TO*SUGGEST* TO THEM WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

ANY DICKHEAD, AS ABOVE, CAN WRITE, “BUT, JIM, IF WE DON’T ASSASSINATE THE PRIME MINISTER IN THE NEXT SCENE, ALL EUROPE WILL BE ENGULFED IN FLAME”

WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO REALIZE THAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS THIS INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND THE NEXT SCENE, BUT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WRITE THE SCENE BEFORE US SUCH THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INTERESTED IN WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

YES BUT, YES BUT YES BUT YOU REITERATE.

AND I RESPOND FIGURE IT OUT.

HOW DOES ONE STRIKE THE BALANCE BETWEEN WITHHOLDING AND VOUCHSAFING INFORMATION? THAT IS THE ESSENTIAL TASK OF THE DRAMATIST. AND THE ABILITY TO DO THAT IS WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE LESSER SPECIES IN THEIR BLUE SUITS.

FIGURE IT OUT."
advice  writing  tv  television  screenwriting  storytelling  filmmaking  film  fiction  drama  creativity  davidmamet  howto  teaching  information  leading  leadership  tcsnmy 
march 2010 by robertogreco
The Wire: Writing Into Your Arc | 43 Folders
"In sum, The Wire pays back the attention you invest in it like few pieces of art created in my lifetime. It’s vicious about telling every letter of the story with muscular precision — even when it chooses to do so at pace many would consider pointlessly deliberate: “dull.” And, because the story rarely stops to explain what’s happening for the folks who just wandered in from the first segment of Family Feud, it demands that you bring the same care and thought to watching the show that its creators brought to making it. Thinking, on both ends of the art. That is engagement. Like great literature, yes, you can return and enjoy this series on many levels and based on whatever you have to bring to it at a given time. It’s not only smarter than anything else that I’ve seen on TV, it’s also smarter than I am. Which I love."
43folders  merlinmann  thewire  storytelling  television  tv  culture  writing  blogging  hbo  screenwriting  creativity  advice 
october 2008 by robertogreco

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