The one thing Robert Downey Sr. knows about screenwriting

May 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

Here is a clip that I stumbled upon some time ago that I kept to heart because… jeeze, it’s rather great, honestly. This is Iron Man’s father — Robert Downey Sr., who is a wonderful director who some may or may not know. He’s cult filmmaker and there’s a good reason why. If you have a chance, seek out some of this works like: Putney Swope or even Moment to Moment (Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight). Definitely great for those who like a more experimental/surrealistic approach to filmmaking.

Anyway, the main goods…

In case the clip gets torn down in the future… I will paraphrase it. The people at Criterion Collection really like having filmmakers pimp their high quality DVD/BD of classics and rare films. But in this particular clip, within the first 40 seconds, RD Sr. drops the only thing he knows about screenwriting that took him 50 years to figure out.

This advice pertains a lot to that dreaded first draft — dubbed the “vomit draft” by me and some others (although, I do call it the “shit draft” occasionally). If your story has a main lead, compared to an ensemble cast, make that character as if they’re in a HURRY. Whether they’re physically or vocally expressing it, or just a psychological mindset, rather than having scenes of people sitting around and chatting up hot air, this will give them a personal agenda and give the script that propulsion. Plus, you can always go back to break up the pacing later in the next draft or shooting script.

Expanding  — if you want to go more complex — you could try working on what every character wants in each particular scene. Because everybody seems to be wanting to get somewhere and usually want something from someone. But, I’ll let you meditate on that alone.

Cheers and have a wonderful long weekend.

That is, if you’re Canadian…



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