Rosamund Pike for W Magazine May 2014, photographed by David Fincher
Our friends at No Film School posted a great lecture with Richard Linklater: “Richard Linklater is a DIY filmmaker hero for many reasons. He’s self-taught, completely obsessed with cinema and making films, and his approach to telling stories is one that I think many can relate to. And if you were just thinking about what an experience it would be to actually be able to sit in a room and pick his brain about all of this, you’re in luck. Linklater answers a bunch of questions from a small group of folks for one of Fox Searchlight’s Searchlab lectures, which gives us an inside look into how the director goes about writing screenplays, rehearsing with actors, and working on-set. The lecture is about 40 minutes long, so if you don’t have enough time to check out the videos below, scroll down for a few takeaways that I found particularly helpful for my own screenwriting/filmmaking endeavors.” —V Renée, NFS
Spend a week in rehearsal, save a day in production
Linklater spends 3 weeks rehearsing scenes with his actors on every project he does. He does this for several reasons: discovering new things about the project through this creative collaboration and preparing not only the actors, but himself for production. But one benefit to rehearsal he mentions is that every week you spend in rehearsal saves a day in production, and since, as he says, rehearsing is free, that could mean saving a lot of money in the end.
The director in you must fire the writer in you
Ask any screenwriter and they’ll tell you that they never actually finish a screenplay, they just kind of — give up. They relent. I’m sure most of us could spend the rest of our lives rewriting and refining our stories, but if you’re planning on directing the script you’re writing, Linklater says that the writer in you who fell in love with the words and ideas on the page has to eventually concede to the director in you who needs to find out what works on-screen.
Write your screenplay like you would run the 10,000m — one lap at a time
Not all writers do things the same way. Some can sit down and bang out a script on the first try — I don’t happen to know any, but I do know they exist.
SomeMost writers, however, need quite a bit of prep before they ever write a single word of dialog. Though he says that your approach to screenwriting should be “loose,” Linklater suggests approaching each story element, the characters, the structure, etc., like you would if it were a long distance run around a track — in laps. So, for example, determining who your characters are, their backgrounds, their goals, and everything else would be one lap. This helps organize each piece in your mind, which helps with keeping your sanity, but it also helps to keep you focused on the goal without feeling overwhelmed at how far you have left to go. One lap at a time.
Click here for more articles by V Renée.
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I’m watching Fargo for the first time in god knows how long and this movie is just sooo elegantly shot and put together. Carter Burwell’s score is really great too like you’d never in a million years expect such a grand score like that to work but it totally does. This was the first film I ever saw too that really made me take notice of script writing, like just the rhythm of the dialogue and the plotting. Plus it’s the film that introduced me to the Coens who have generally had such a huge impact on me ever since so there’s that too and shucks I just love this movie.
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84. Dead & Buried (1981) Dir. Gary A. Sherman
This is an intriguing little horror movie from the early 80s. It’s quite unconventional in the way it unfolds, right from the very first scene I was surprised at the turns it took. The central mystery is fascinating and going in cold, like I did, it’s not immediately obvious as to where it’s all heading. It has a much subtler tone than most 80s horror films, quite muted and sedate, more reliant on slow-burning tension than rapid-fire shocks. It also helps that the horror moments are genuinely quite horrific. The make-up effects were done by Stan Winston and they’re just fantastic. This is early Stan Winston too, so they might not be as slick as those found in his later films but they’re still lovingly created. There’s one stand-out sequence involving a rotting corpse being restored back to life by a mortician and it’s shot from one angle and is all done through time-lapse. It’s really striking and easily one of Winston’s finest moments. Check it out.
83. Basket Case 2 (1990) Dir. Frank Henenlotter
By adding an actual budget and production value to his Basket Case story, something is lost between Henenlotter’s first movie and this sequel. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a really wacky fucking film. It goes off in a direction you wouldn’t expect and really ramps up the “rubbery freaks” aspect of the first movie to breaking point. It’s really funny too in a silly kind of way. It’s undoubtedly played more for laughs than it’s predecessor but the simplicity and tight focus of the earlier movie is sorely missed. I like that Henenlotter really did everything he could to avoid repeating himself by making a totally different movie the second time around, it’s just not as satisfying sadly. Still, in it’s own bonkers way, it’s just as memorable.
Mark Abrahams - Joaquin Pheonix
First poster for David Fincher's Gone Girl
82. Greetings (1982) Dir. Brian De Palma
Similar to Scorsese’s Who’s That Knocking At My Door?, Greetings is an example of a cinema-lover throwing his hat into the filmmaking ring for the first time. This pre-Sisters effort showcases Brian De Palma - the radical. Very much a film of it’s time, it evokes a feeling and an attitude of the late 1960s: free love, military paranoia, conspiracy theories, literature and sexual awakening, it’s all here. Featuring jarring jump cuts and music cues, it’s an extremely expressionistic and playful movie built largely of funny little vignettes. There’s also an early performance from a young, bookish Robert De Niro. It’s quite amusing to see him play such a shy and timid character when you think in just a few years time he would be exploding off the screen as Johnny Boy in Mean Streets. Greetings might be miles away from the tightly constructed formalism of his most celebrated work but it nonetheless establishes De Palma’s interests in voyeurism and anti-war concerns. It pre-dates his signature style but the voice still feels consistent with his later work. A TV show idea mentioned by De Niro in this movie even pops up again in Sisters. It’s definitely worth a watch for De Palma and De Niro completists even if it’s provocative elements feel slightly dated and tiresome by today’s standards.
81. Rabies (2010) Dirs. Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
After being so impressed by Big Bad Wolves I immediatley set out to watch this, Keshales and Papushado’s previous film. Now this isn’t really in the same league as Big Bad Wolves but as a slasher film it has a really unusual structure. Essentially three stories unfolding at once in the same stretch of land, the film introduces you to all the characters early before splitting them up and sending them off on their own tangents. They’re connected by sound effects and consequence, a gunshot fired in one sequence is heard in another and motivates movement for instance, but the intercutting is sometimes uneven and the focus scattershot. The three stories never really converge in the climax either but instead reach their own bloody conclusions which is unexpected but ultimately disappointing. I like and admire the approach, it’s definitely refreshing to see a slasher film dissected in a fresh way but it often deprives you of the genre’s basic pleasures. I really, really like these directors. They’ve got a voice and a clear vision. Successful or not, I’ll be first in line to see whatever they do next.
Everyone should just go and watch Big Bad Wolves immediatley cos I finished watching it at 2am this morning and I’ve been thinking about it alll day.
80. Basket Case (1982) Dir. Frank Henenlotter
Underneath it’s dirt-cheap aesthetics and awful performances there are actually a bunch of great, subversive ideas at work in Basket Case. I love the splattery, paint-like violence and how rubbery the shitty effects are. It’s clearly seen through the eyes of an innocent too, there are numerous shots of hands excitedly quivering towards a woman’s breast and the violence is depicted in a gleeful, almost adolescent way. It’s so excessive, like a cartoon, that it becomes humorous. It’s as if Henenlotter was relishing the forbidden fruits of the horror genre by indulging in some dark corners of his imagination but couldn’t help blushing at the same time. Perhaps the most endearing thing about Basket Case however, is that it’s characters and their relationships work. Even the little rubber monster sitting at the center manages to achieve a personality. You understand why Belial is doing the thing’s he doing and actually sympathise with him like you would a living, breathing actor. It’s a curious achievement but a satisfying one either way. It’s the perfect midnight movie fully deserving of it’s cult following. Like William Lustig’s Maniac, it’s one of those unmistakable low-budget New York splatter movies that somehow manages to resonate beyond it’s shoddy production values. Quite a terrible film as far as surface values go but you can’t help but be charmed by it’s rough edges and shlocky heart.
79. Big Bad Wolves (2013) Dirs. Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
I loved this movie. Right from the first scene I knew I was in good hands. Shot completely in slow you motion you see a bunch of kids playing hide and seek around an old cabin in the woods until one of them is mysteriously abducted. It’s a beautiful and haunting opening, evoking the imagery of grimm’s fairy tales. It then shifts gears into it’s main plot about a missing girl, a hot-headed cop, an estranged father and the bookish man they think is responsible. The tonal shifts in Big Bad Wolves are incredibly impressive. It fully embraces gallows humour with the laughs coming at the darkest, unexpected moments. There’s a lot to chew on and it’s simplistic narrative is offset by a cleverly twisty plot which is constantly throwing a curve-ball into the mix. Everything is set to this terrific, spooky score too reminiscent of early Danny Elfman which isn’t the sort of approach you’d expect for this material but ultimately works wonders. If I saw this last year it would have easily been in my top ten of the year. Entertaining and cruel with a sick sense of humour. If I ever get to make a film one day, I hope it looks something like this.
Who’s on letterboxd? Come on lets be friends!