BOURNE Writer Tony Gilroy on How to Write a H’wood Blockbuster

The BBC loves us. For reals.

This article has caused all of Team TVWriter™ to come down with the warm fuzzies. Who could ask for more?

tony-gilroy

Alison Feeney-Hart met the man whose 2007 film Michael Clayton saw him receive Bafta and Oscar nominations for best original screenplay to find out his Top 10 tips for writing a Hollywood blockbuster:

1. Go to the movies

I don’t think there is anything you can learn from courses or books. You have been watching movies since you were born. You have filled your life with narrative… and food. It’s already way down deep inside you.

Going to the movies, having something to say, having an imagination and the ambition to do it is really all that is required. You can learn how to do anything.

2. Make stuff up but keep it real

This is imaginative work – screenwriters make things up. Everything I have in my life is a result of making things up. There is one thing that you have to know that is a deal-breaker – human behaviour.

The quality of your writing will be directly related to your understanding of human behaviour. You need to become a journalist for the movie that is in your head. You need to report on it; every scene has to be real.

3. Start small

Big ideas don’t work. Start with a very small idea that you can build on.

With Bourne I never read any of the books; we started again. The very smallest thing with [Jason] Bourne was, “If I don’t know who I am and I don’t know where I’m from, perhaps I can identify who I am by what I know how to do.” We built a whole new world around that small idea.

You just start small, you build out and you move one step after the next and that’s how you write a Hollywood movie.

4. Learn to live by your wits

My father was a screenwriter but it’s not some pixie dust creative family thing. I learned from watching how hard he worked and learned about the tempo of a writer’s life – you have to live by your wits.

If you are living with someone who lives by their wits, it seems normal to you, it doesn’t scare you as much and you understand the rhythms of it.

5. Write for TV

It’s getting harder and harder to make good movies. TV is where the ambiguity and shades of reality live, it’s where stories can be interesting.

A lot of writers are very excited about TV right now and it’s a writer-controlled business. When writers are in control, good things happen. They are more rational, they are hardworking, they are more benevolent.

Every time writers have been put in charge of entertainment, things have worked out, so with TV maybe we will see a writer-driven utopia.

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