The screenwriter who hates “little gems,” buddies and arcsBy
I love good black comedies so I’m looking forward to seeing “The Guard.” In the meantime I’m making do with an interview with writer-director John Michael Donagh on the Den of Geek website.
His first refreshing statement is about indie films that often are described as “little gems.” He says “I didn’t want the film to feel like a small, low-budget Irish film, where they go, “Oh, it’s a little gem.” I hate little gems. I never go to see little gems. They’re just shit movies, basically. [Laughs]”
His goal was to make the movie feel much bigger than the budget and not be constrained by having a character that fits the stereotypes. Of his protagonist, Sgt. Gerry Boyle, he says, “And it’s funny, in a film where you’d think that a character’s so outrageous, and so obnoxious sometimes, that was the one that people connected with. Whereas, in all these screenwriting workshops, would that character ever be created?”
Next to be shot down: the character arc: “Gerry’s just the same at the end – he hasn’t learned anything. He’s going to say the same shit at the end as he did at the beginning.”
Well, surely the two characters who go through the difficult events of the movie end up good friends? “Not necessarily…Just because you’ve been through the wars with someone, it doesn’t mean you like them. You respect them. That’s what we were getting at in the film.”
Hmm, it sounds like there’s a TINY arc.
Finally, one more quote, this one about what he learned in the process of editing the film and getting other people’s reactions to the rough cut: “as a writer director, I was too much in love with all the lines. Scenes go on too long because you’re trying to get five gags in, whereas three gags would be better for the pace. It’s a basic thing of starting a scene later, and ending it quicker.”
So even if the film is lesson-free, the process wasn’t. In fact this last point represents one of the most common errors in screenplays including mine–but I do cut the fat as part of writing the second draft.
(For some friendly guidance in creating characters for movies or novels see my book, “Your Writing Coach,” published by Nicholas Brealey and available from Amazon ad other online and offline booksellers. You can find out more at http://www.YourWritingCoach.com.)