Two posts in two days, I’m spoiling you. No seriously, I am. If you haven’t read the latest breaking news a.k.a Phill Barron’s blog. Then you won’t know that screenwriting teacher Blake Snyder passed away from Cardiac Arrest on August 4th. Phill pays a better tribute to him than I can and I echo (or link to) his comments on the man’s work.
It all brings me to a common topic that seems endless and unresolved. Can you learn how to write? My answer is: yes. If you’ve never watched a film or read a script you won’t be able to write a decent one at first attempt. We’re humans, we learn 99% of everything we can do.
Can you guarantee a decent script through learning? No. Not if you had all the lessons in the world from the best teachers, writers that ever existed.
So there we go, solved. Thanks for reading bye…
Oh ok… I’ll digress more. John Cleese says he wasn’t schooled in comedy when he started but spent all of his childhood watching comedy, he even said that he didn’t realise it at the time but it was his training. Now, lots of people watched comedy growing up but what Cleese did was unconsciously pick up how it works and later on produce some of the best stuff ever seen on YouTube. So he was self-taught, but also naturally analytical, creative and had a sense of humour that was shared with millions. He had other qualities too, ones that you can’t really learn and some that you have to be blessed with.
I know some smart, high-flying people who’s sense of humour and tastes are comically bad. Yet they think there is genuinely nothing wrong with them. And there isn’t. We all have different tastes but some just won’t cut it on screen – I mean really bad taste here.
Its a very general post here, I’m deliberately being so as its a long argument, but my view is that you need to learn (by what ever means: life/books/tv/courses) how to write YOUR way. What ever works for YOU. You might already know how to create characters. Why learn how McKee does it, if you already have a method? But the books and lessons are good if you need guidance in an area you’re not so hot on. You can take bits from this book, bits from that lesson, a little seasoning from that post – whatever works. You might not need any of this, you might have already picked it up from watching shit loads of tv and from life itself.
Snyder gave me a great starting point in outlining a feature film. The beats I should aim for to get me started. It helped me get stuff on the page and then I went in and changed it using ideas of my own. No one book has taught me how to write but a few have helped me get my stuff broadcast and seen. Snyder’s Save The Cat was one of them and I’m grateful.
RIP Blake Snyder.