Film Courage: So then an example of a flat character versus a more 3-dimensional character, like even in just a description of something. Can you give me one sentence that is flat versus one that tells you volumes in this one sentence?
Karl Iglesias: Right. So you see this a lot. This is more about cliché writing so you’ve got a character description where I read this all the time “Oh, she’s beautiful or handsome!” You know, it’s the same…
Film Courage: It tells me nothing.
Karl Iglesias: It tells you nothing, right! It’s the same old thing you’ve seen a hundred times. So you’ve got to be a little more creative. It’s all about creativity and originality. I think originality comes from being curious. The more curious you are about something, the more you know about something, the more you can avoid copying something, right? I think the people who have cliché writing because they don’t know what’s been done before, so to them it’s new so they go “Oh!” because they think it’s good. But people who know and have seen it a hundred times, because they’re curious, will say it’s cliché because they’ve seen it a hundred times.
“Originality is very important because if you read the same thing over and over again, you’re not going to respond to it. That is actually the bane of a writer’s existence, especially a screenwriter, to come up with something new.”
Film Courage: Versus a character description of somebody that says “His eyes sparkled…” I mean…oh…that is so cliché.
Karl Iglesias: Right. It’s the whole cliché thing, right. They just don’t bother to go deeper. You know what I mean? You’ve got to be original. Originality is very important because if you read the same thing over and over again, you’re not going to respond to it. That is actually the bane of a writer’s existence, especially a screenwriter, to come up with something new. When you think about, I think in the second edition of 101 Habits: Insider’s Secrets from Hollywood’s Top Writers, Bill Marsilii one of the screenwriters there, talks about doing the 20’s. So for him anything that he thinks about, any event, any scene, character whatever, he thinks of kind of listing 20 different ways of doing it. He talks about the meet-cute in romantic comedy, he talks about how people meet in a cute way. Well he’s going to do 20 different thoughts about it. “Okay it could be this, it could be this…” He does 20 because the first two or three or five of them will be clichés. They will be things that you’re automatically going to think about because they’re the most famous ones that we’ve seen a hundred times. But going deeper (and he forces himself to go deeper) that is where you get the creativity and originality. And eventually when you reach past the 10 to 12 or 15 all the way up to 20, you’ll start getting really original ways because you force yourself. And so that is what the writer needs to do. Force yourself to go deeper in order to create some original writing.
Film Courage: Right…so getting out all…probably number 1 through 5 is just total clichés?
Karl Iglesias: Right. You can try it as a game. It’s a tip that he uses as a habit of creativity to do the 20 for just anything. It could be 20 different ways to rob a bank. 20 different ways to say I love you. 20 different ways to break up with someone. 20 different ways to kill someone. There are all these different things that you’ve seen a 100 times and when you see it over and over again you go “Hmm…” because you’ve seen it a 100 times and it’s only the movies that break out…stories that break out are the ones that are truly original, right?
Film Courage: So let’s take the movie GREEN CARD with Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell. So that probably be further down the list, I would think? It’s a cute movie. It’s original.
Karl Iglesias: Right. It was an interesting movie. That is the thing about what I love about romantic comedies is that it’s such a set story in terms of shape, in terms of structure. In terms of Boy-Gets-Girl or vice versa Girl-Gets-Boy, Girl-Loses-Boy-Gets-Boy-In-The-End. It’s the same thing. All romantic comedies are the same literally. But the ones that I think we pay attention to and that are successful are the ones who have the unique angle to it. [For instance] HOOK, same thing only different. The only different are the ones like GREEN CARD or ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND or even THE BREAK UP which is a romantic comedy where they break up as opposed to getting together. So whenever you come up with a unique angle to that story that we all know, the better for you. That is where originality comes in. And it gets harder and harder because the more romantic comedies there is, the harder it is to come up with something new, you know? That’s the way it is.
Question for the viewers: Have you ever brainstormed a list of 20 ideas? Is this something you will now try?
Watch more videos in this series with Karl here on Youtube
BUY THE BOOK – WRITING FOR EMOTIONAL IMPACT:
BUY THE BOOK – THE 101 HABITS OF HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL SCREENWRITERS:
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VALLEY OF THE DITCHES – A young woman bound in the front seat of a parked car watches helpless as her captor methodically digs a grave in the desert ground. The bloody lifeless body of her boyfriend lies framed in the rear-view mirror, a fate she will fight at all costs to avoid for herself. But this is only the beginning of a brutal struggle where survival could be worse than death.
From The Film Fund – Get up to $10,000 to make your short film by writing one sentence.
The Film Fund is providing funding up to $10,000 for a short film in a way that’s a lot simpler than screenwriting contests, crowdfunding, or applying to grants – read more about Founder and CEO Thomas Verdi’s The Film Fund here via his website.
LEFT ON PURPOSE – Midway through the filming of a documentary about his life as an anti war activist, Mayer Vishner declares that his time has passed and that his last political act will be to commit suicide— and he wants it all on camera. Now the director must decide whether to turn off his camera or use it to keep his friend alive. Left on Purpose is an award winning feature length documentary that confronts the growing issues of aging, isolation and end of life choices through an intense character driven story of the relationship between filmmaker and subject. With humor and heart it provides a rare cinematic look at what it means to be a friend to someone in pain.