I've been thinking a lot about creative originality lately - well, more than usual.
As a script consultant I read so many screenplays that have followed the Hollywood guru formulas so strictly it makes me weep. These 'experts' will have you believe that the only way to write a script is to follow a pre-determined set of rules. "Get that Dramatic Question on page 10 or else!" "You must never ever use lengthy dialogue!" Make sure you get your Plot Point II to land on page 88!" The technical instructions are so prescriptive the poor writer is strait-jacketed into a state of fear and trembling, individual voice smothered, creative impulse strangled.
The writer who may have started out with potential for bold, innovative, exciting work is in danger of becoming timid, tame, and crushed.
But it's heartening to see how Hollywood is responding to screenwriters who dare to take risks and create screenplays of outstanding originality. Movies like Adaptation, Pulp Fiction, No Country For Old Men have been winning Best Screenplay Awards. Charlie Kaufman, writer of Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and his brilliant satire on the screenwriting gurus, Adaptation, is one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood now. The Coen Brothers have been writing and directing some of the most exciting movies of recent times - Fargo, O, Brother Where Art Thou? No Country for Old Men, and Burn After Reading.
None of these ground-breaking screenwriters followed the outdated movie-writing template. And yet the How-To books that peddle the rigid Hollywood paradigm are still selling in their millions. And even worse, are still on the reading lists on screenwriting university courses.
What you rarely find in these books is any substantial focus on what a writer really needs to create something original - a way to express the individual, unique voice of the storyteller.
The courage you need to stay with your own voice, to trust your storytelling instincts, and to take creative risks is hard enough without having your self-belief crushed by so called 'experts' who treat creativity like a mathematical equation.
Ground-breaking screenwriters inspire you to write screenplays of originality and cinematic power.