Ashley Clark at Filmmaker Magazine writes about Whit Stillman’s masterclass that he recently gave at the American Film Festival in Poland. In the article Stillman gives a ton of great advice and it is well worth the read.
I’ve been reading some writers who say that they envy people who aren’t immediately successful as writers, because they do other work and live in other worlds before they become successful. For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald envied the fact that Joseph Conrad had had all that maritime experience — he was made a captain on a ship. Mine was much less glamorous and romantic than Conrad’s but I had a chance to work in several different worlds.
I was desperate for work in the film business, but there was no indie sector when I graduated [from Harvard] in 1973. I eventually got into selling Spanish films, even though it was a very bad business.
At a certain point in writing the Metropolitan script, the actors were creating themselves and saying their own things.
You think that when you’re well-rested and prepared, you’re going to do your best work, but I found that if you’re trying to have silly, crazy stuff in the story at some point, then the opposite is true.
One of the most important things when you’re starting to write your first screenplays is to get a subject that you’re really fascinated with for a long time, and you think other people will be fascinated with — it must have some sexy aspect to it.
Try to have a plan for how you could shoot it for no money. There’s probably a low-budget version of War and Peace out there. A solution to failure is to try to take control of what can happen. Do it yourself and take responsibility.