The screenwriting is everything. The process is the job.
Frankly, I would much prefer to see people go online and read a free public domain copy of Aristotle’s Poetics, which I think has more actual philosophical meat behind it about what the point and purpose of drama is, both good and bad.
John: I went to a university, I went to a film school. I went there to learn how to make movies. I had screenwriting classes. They were genuinely helpful. I’ve been a guest lecturer at screenwriting classes.
Craig: John, I have it. It’s — look, I just did, yesterday or two days ago, I guest spoke at Howard Rodman’s class at USC. I came there in good faith. You go to these things in good faith. And I think that for well-credentialed, respected academic programs, they’re offered in good faith.
I want to be clear, because a lot of times, people who are aspiring to be screenwriters feel that people like you or me are saying this stuff because we’re trying to keep them out, or hide the truth from them.
Quite the opposite. I want more and better screenwriters. I want many, many screenwriters, better than I am, to come and make better movies than I make. Books aren’t going to make that happen. Talent is going to make that happen.
I really, more than anything, I’m actually trying to be very prosocial about this and say, “Please, save your money.” Screenwriting is free. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that by spending $3,000 you’re going to exercise a control that you so desperately want to have. I want that control, too. I don’t have it either. None of us do. Sorry.
John: One thing that occurs to me as we’re talking: While I didn’t honestly read a lot of the screenwriting books growing up, I have read a ton of programming books, because I love making apps, I enjoyed programming since I was a kid. I’m not especially great at it. I can do it, if push comes to shove. But I have real blind spots towards it. It’s not something that comes very naturally to me.
You look at actual real programmers, Nima Yousefi, who does the programming for our stuff now, it’s just — it’s good and it’s natural for him. It’s just the work. He didn’t get to be good at it by reading a bunch of books about it. He got good at it by doing a bunch of it.
Craig: Yeah, the fabled 10,000 hours of doing something, it really does. I empathize with anybody who, faced with writing their 1st screenplay, or their 3rd or their 12th, who is seeking to be recognized for their work. I empathize with the pain and the fear that they have. Certainly, I empathize with their psychological craving for some kind of secret trick, control, leverage point, anything. It is a terrible drowning feeling when you don’t know if you’re doing it right. You desperately want to do it right.
It is discouraging to say to people, “There is no lifeguard on duty. The only way you will survive this drowning is by swimming through it.” But, unfortunately, there is no lifeguard on duty. These books will not help you. These people who charge you money will bleed you dry.
Think about this for a second. You are, let’s say, somebody who has a modicum of talent. But you’re raw. You are craving some assistance, some help. You spend money on a professional script consultant. They read your script.
They have a choice, they can say to you, “This is very far off the mark, you need to go write two or three more scripts and really figure out what this is about. Then, spend your money with me.” Or, they may say, “You have no talent, stop.”
Or they may say, “Wow, there’s great potential here. Here’s a bunch of notes,” that by the way, anybody could have given you. “They’ll make your script better. You go work on that, then come back, I’ll read it again, or I’ll read your other script, or I’ll read your third script. You’re the one. If only you, three or four more of my amazing sessions at $1,000 a pop and you’ll make it.”
They’re always going to do that, because it’s a scam. It’s a scam. Don’t do it.
John: Seminars, I am opposed to seminars. I am opposed to seminars where the masterful instructor comes in and teaches you how to write a screenplay.
Craig: Mm-hmm, me, too, yeah.