My Viral #Screenwriting Tweet
It only got around as fast as it did—in the relatively small screenwriting community—because I tagged a screenwriter named Nathan Graham Davis, who has been video-blogging his adventures breaking back into the business.
When I found Nate’s videos, I saw that he works in Amherst, where I went to college in the 1990s, and reached out and he’s been generous with his time and advice. And now I dragged him into being tagged on hundreds of replies to the above, which he was very gracious about. Sorry!
As I’ve been writing a lot over the pandemic, I noticed I was telling the same story over and over again—the Faustian bargain.
I wasn’t literally doing it with the devil, but I was trying to write more sophisticated good guys vs. bad guys, and there always ended up being that scene, or character relationship, where the bad guy was like, “Hey, you’re pretty good at this, why are you fighting me? Work for me and I’ll take care of you.”
The good guy sort of considers it, but in the end chooses the side of good, no matter the personal consequences.
It happens organically if you have a protagonist and antagonist who are evenly matched, who come from the same world. Think 006 vs. 007 in GoldenEye. Or, of course, Darth Vader and Luke.
Wait, I know! It’s that one amazing scene from The Third Man—not as famous as the cuckoo clock line, but to me it’s even better:
Watch it online:
I think it comes from my own life because, being the son of a doctor on Martha’s Vineyard, let’s face it, I was born into a pretty good situation. (I was aware of that from a very early age.) And yet if you have eyes and ears, let alone a brain and a heart, you see that obviously the world is a horrible, unequal place.
So I’ve always been torn by my privilege. I definitely have reaped the benefits of it—attending the aforementioned Amherst College, creating my own fan-business about movie music (because I didn’t have student debts or family obligations)—but I am not proud.
It is interesting to see other writers’ responses as to what their “one story” is that they write over and over again. Go over to Twitter and check it out.
And it makes me regret the Twitter format because I’d like to know more about some of the responses: both to expound on the answers, and to explain how they came to their theme, and to what extent they are aware of it.
Incidentally, a screenwriter named Ian Shorr mentioned that Kubrick’s thing was really the failure of institutions, which I agree with. And somebody mentioned that Spielberg’s thing is really daddy issues, which I also agree with.
You can only do so much in 280 characters!