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responds, “What I love about what I do; I make my own hours. I write when I want. I don’t
have to get up and schlep to an office by 8 AM. All of those things are great benefits.
When there’s 12” of snow outside, I don’t have to drive to downtown Cleveland. Or, if I’m
in L.A., deal with social politics. When I go to L.A., I have to deal with it for a short period,
but then I can take off that hat and walk away from it.”
I am curious about how Alan shifts his persona when he visits Los Angeles. He says, “You
have to become that high-energy guy. What I learned when I first came to Los Angeles is
that it’s not just about the writing. No. Pitching you have to become a performer. So you
have to become an actor. I would tell screenwriters to take an acting class -- because you
have to learn to present yourself in a meeting. Executives will tell me that great writers will
come in who can’t tell their own story. Pitching as performance. That’s the thing that’s not
lost in the writing process. People want you to come in, sit across from them and tell you a
great story. Transport you. If that happens when you have them and they’re in that
moment, then you have the job. I did this project called ‘Valet.’ I originally had to go in and
pitch these two executives at Alcon. I’m pitching this project for them and watching them
it’s a thriller I’d reel them into a moment and watch them react. Literally this one guy
would jump in his seat shocked. Or they’d take a breath and you know you got them.”
The Takeaway: Recognizing The Audience As Relational
As a screenwriter, I can attest to the fact that the construction of a script is not just about
plotting, developing characters, and pitching at meetings. For screenwriters, they are
acutely aware that their writing is designed to engage, challenge, excite and surprise an
audience themselves included. The writer definitely enjoys the subliminal undercurrent
that drives them to cathartically connect to a subject but there is the relational idea that
other folks would find this interesting too. The awareness that we are interfacing with an
audience is critical to the success of a screenwriter as we write. Who doesn’t want to be
surprised, stimulated and delighted in every day life? The screenwriter realizes that telling a
good story, with complex characters, and an intriguing plot requires a sophisticated and
receptive audience that can relate to and identify with the story.
The great films are not driven by explosions and special effects, but by relatable
conversations that bond us to the characters. This does not require perfection or
redemption but exposure to their innermost thoughts. The information we glean about the
character, through dialogue and body language, sets the stage for caring about their
subsequent actions and outcome. It does not matter if the character is good or bad as
long as we understand their motivation and can relate to their humanness (e.g. Tony
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