Listen to the Audience - Complications Ensue
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Friday, July 08, 2011

William Goldman:
Learn how not to be dull. It costs no more than a handful of movie tickets and an afternoon of your time. It works like this: “Go see one movie all day long. Go to the 1 o'clock show. Think of it what you will. Go to the 4 o'clock show. You'll see the movie, but you'll start paying attention to the audience. Go to the 8 o'clock show and you'll hate the movie, but you'll listen to the audience and you'll notice they laugh and cry at exactly the same place. And when they go pee and go buy popcorn, that's when the screenwriter is failing. You have to listen to the audience.
(Quoted in this Globe and Mail piece about how screenwriting careers suck more and more, but more and more people are teaching it.)

Goldman's advice sounds like the sort of advice that is obviously right, yet most people probably won't take it, because it is not necessarily fun to do. I put in the same category my own advice that you pitch your movie over and over without notes, to random people: there is really nothing that will improve your plot more, but it is a scary exercise, so everyone is resistant to actually doing it.

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3 Comments:

Why buy a handful of tickets? Buy one and hang out in the bathroom while the clean up crew is in the theater.

By Blogger David, at 7:00 PM  

"Goldman's advice sounds like the sort of advice that is obviously right, yet most people probably won't take it, because it is not necessarily fun to do."

I'm not sure I agree with the "not fun to do" part.

I do 100% agree most people will overlook the gold that is this advice.

But I think it is because there is no formula that spells out "how not to be dull." One can write an entire book on grammar and punctuation, on story structure, and plot development, and yet that still doesn't tell anyone "how not to be dull."

P.S. -- Not a knock at you, Alex. I like your book(s) a lot and think they are hands down the most insightful screenwriting books on the market.

I just think most people gravitate towards screenwriting because of the perception it is easy. There's only one career that I think people find even easier, that's actually even tougher to do --

Singing.

Now if only there was a writer's equivalent of American Idol auditions.

By Blogger James, at 7:29 PM  

I did it. It works.

Also -- that's what dabbling in theater does for you. Get the audience in, move em out, see how they react, see what the commonalities are, etc, etc.

By Blogger DMc, at 12:04 AM  

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