Monday, January 26, 2009

Is There an Author in the House?

While Saturday's Writers Panel at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival might have suggested only white males wrote screenplays (at least moderator Anne Thompson from Variety was a woman), it did manage to hit 4 of the great screenwriter stereotypes. Robert Knott (Appaloosa) was the cranky, cynical drunk, Tom McCarthy (The Visitor) was the spacey artiste, Andrew Stanton (Wall-E) was the populist/humanist, and Dustin Lance Black (Milk) was the wide-eyed youngster. Add it up and it was an entertaining and informative 90 minutes, as these panels tend to be--writers are the ones good with words, after all, so coming up with a quick quip is easy compared to creating believable characters and charting story arcs we find compelling.

So there were the tidbits of filmmaking stories, like Stanton came up with the initial idea for Wall-E in 1994, before Pixar had even made Toy Story, and that Steve Jobs didn't like the title. (But, as McCarthy joked, "What does Steve Jobs know about marketing?") And that Dustin Lance Black wrote an entire sequence about the 1975 San Francisco mayoral election that Milk had to scrap for focus; Black said it would make a great movie all on its own, with characters like Dianne Feinstein, George Moscone, and Jim Jones. (McCarthy joked, "It should be an animated film.")

And there were the moments when the panel stressed how much work writing was--McCarthy talked about over 20 drafts of The Visitor; Anne Thompson said, "If you just want to write and not re-write, blog;" Stanton explained that "my motto is to be wrong as fast as you can...I assume my first five or six attempts will suck but it's like puberty, you have to go through it to get to the good stuff."

And then an audience question, as always at these events, was "How do you make it in the business?" which really meant "how do I make it in the business?" for the guy even had his screenplay in his back pocket.

There was the gooey, the obvious is said and we all appreciate how it moves us so moment, too. Stanton, discussing the themes of Wall-E, actually said, "What's the point of living but to love one another?" And people, of course, applauded. We love thinking we're so loving, after all. Ah, people are good.

As one last side comment, something really needs to be done about the pricing for these events. The base ticket cost $39, which is steep enough given that the hour and a half had a sponsor (Pacifica Institute). Such a cost probably helps make the audience demographic reflect that of this particular panel, at least. But then on top of that $39 the Lobero charges both a $4 fee and a $5 fee--that's $9, or over 20%. For a will call ticket ordered via the web. For that much money, Dave Asbell should shine my shoes personally. Or they should hire out to Ticketmaster, since everyone hates them and then our rage can be focused on a long-time enemy.

Update (5:06 pm): Alas, the economy comes a-calling and it's got its sickle in tow--Anne Thompson was one of 30 people laid off from Variety today. It's ugly and getting uglier.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shhh! The Writer's Panel is always my favorite "hidden gem" of the SBIFF and thanks to Pacifica Graduate Institute for sponsoring it.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

If you just want to write and not re-write, blog

Good one.

3:42 AM  
Blogger DMcClureDVM said...

I love the Writer's Panel and was sorry to miss it this year. Thanks for the post!

1:52 PM  

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