Excerpts: The Portable Film School by D.B Gilles

So here’s another book post. This time it’s D.B Gilles, “The Portable Film School,” which sounds like a Film School For Dummies caliber of book, but is actually quite fresh and informative. I was able to pull a number of nuggets out of this one. Most of what I got out of this one was a list of other books to read (which I’m excited about), and movies to watch (which I’m really excited about).

So without further adieu, here are my notes/excerpts:

The bitterness of studying is preferable to the bitterness of ignorance

“…write about what you’ve experienced, but make sure you take the emotional essence and not the actual experience or you’ll be making a documentary, not an engaging film.”

The hero must fail before he succeeds.

In real life people may not change, but in art they must.

Talent is not a function of money

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London

Get the script as tight as can be

You’ll have a gut sense that no more constructive work can be done.

A lot can be done with a little money

“If an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, “It’s in the script.” If he says, “What’s my motivation?” I say, “You salary.” -Alfred Hitchcock

Some actors give great auditions and go steadily downhill after that.

“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of you life” -Lawrence Kasdan

“Write the story, take out all the good lines, and see if it works.” -Ernest Hemingway

Editing is where the filmaker is most vulnerable to showing whether or not he has taste and talent

“I am a bear of very little brain, and long words bother me.” – Winnie The Pooh

“Every line of dialogue should either reveal character, advance the story, or get a laugh.” – Augustus Thomas

“What a character is grows out of what he has been and done.” – Kenneth Thorpe Rowe

Tell nothing. Show everything.

Character should speak in what appears to be their natural everyday language. What they say must be carefully designed to move the story forward

Characters who are comprised of various aspects of real people are often the best. There are few figures in real life that can be transplanted bodily to a screenplay and yet remain believable and effective.

A compelling, complicated, three-dimensional main character with shadings, contours, and internal conflicts will hold an audience’s attention. But only for so long. There must be a story.

We don’t have to know everything about a character, especially the main character, right away.

An overwritten scene is like a conversation with a stranger that goes on too long.

Save the best detail for last. Always aim for the unexpected surprise, the huge revelation, the big finish.

“Strong reasons make strong actions.” – Shakespeare

The more you rewrite, the more you get in touch with your characters and the story you want to tell

Bad things do happen to good people and within a good person’s crisis there is drama and because you’re a screenwriter it’s to you to find the story

Keep your eyes wide open before you decide to marry someone and keep your eyes half-closed after you’ve gotten married

You’re either sailing full speed ahead or drifting. People who don’t have a plan get in the way of people who do.