Eight of the town’s top writers — all nommed for Writers Guild of America screenwriting awards — didn’t sugar-coat the agony of successful scripting at a panel Thursday night.
“I approach each script in a panic,” declared Steven Zaillian in describing the process for writing “Moneyball” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”). “I really think that things are easy are probably not very good.”
The annual “Beyond Words” panel discussion drew a capacity crowd to the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, three days before the WGA announces the award winners. Ron Bass moderated the 90-minute event, culminating with Aaron Sorkin (“Moneyball”) advising writers to write, re-write and then re-write some more.
“Just get to the end of it and start again,” he concluded.
Earlier, Tate Taylor said writers should be fearless and be willing to start with a longer-than-required screenplay — noting that his first draft exceeded 270 pages. “Don’t overthink it and don’t eat ambrosia,” he added.
Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”) offered a counterpoint once a writer is willing to show the screenplay to someone else.
“Anything you show to others, I’m a great fan of austerity,” he asserted. “I pound the shit out of it”
“Hugo” writer John Logan told the audience that professional writers have to feel the need to start writing every day. “I wake up every morning eager to put words on the page,” he added.
Annie Mumolo said it took her and Kristen Wiig four years to come up with completed “Bridesmaids” script during the periods when Wiig would be on hiatus from her acting gigs. That led to tight deadlines such as handing in the first draft after writing it in a mere six days.
“We closed our eyes and prayed,” she said.
Mumolo said the box office success of “Bridesmaids” stunned her, particularly after an agent had advised her on opening day to expect the worst. “We were so excited that more than six people went to see it,” she added.
Taylor noted that his script shrank once Viola Davis was cast.
“She’s so powerful,” he added. “You lose so many words because you don’t need them”
Stan Chervin labelled the “Moneyball” script a “dancing bear,” in the people were surprised that the movie even got made. “A lot of people thought you couldn’t make a movie based on a 300-page celebration of statistics,” he explained.
The event was sponsored by the WGA West, the Writers Guild Foundation and Variety.