Film Courage: How important is it for a writer to know their own personal story? Not simply the story they’re writing but who they are? Their own life journey?
Karl Iglesias: So if you’re talking for a writer, I would think it’s not that important?
Film Courage: No?
Karl Iglesias: No. I know it might be surprising to hear, but to me it’s not that important?
“The thing you [as a writer] should be aware of is human dynamics. You know, psychology, emotions, character relationships. That you should be well-versed in. Now, lucky is the writer that has had an amazing life experiences and has had all those experience that he can write about. That makes it easier. But it’s not necessary, if you’re a highly curious person.”
Film Courage: Why not?
Karl Iglesias: The thing you [as a writer] should be aware of is human dynamics. You know, psychology, emotions, character relationships. That you should be well-versed in. Now, lucky is the writer that has had an amazing life experience and has had all those experiences that he can write about. That makes it easier. But it’s not necessary, if you’re a highly curious person. I mean you could be a great writer that has had a very mediocre life. I’m not a believer of the Hemingway thing, you know, where if you want to write about adventure, you’ve got to go and be adventurous. Maybe there is some truth to it but I think it really depends on your mind and your curiosity. And I think we can all find…it’s all in your imagination. If you’re highly imaginative you can write about anything, whether you experience it or not.
If you write science fiction, George Lucas didn’t experience going on a ship in order to be able to write about it, right? Or James Cameron? Do you think all that stuff about Pandora and AVATAR that he experienced that in his own life…no! It’s all imagination, right? So that’s what you need to know. You need to have high imagination, obviously. But then you need to be well-versed in character relationships. So yes. If you had experience with character relationships, that’s great (character conflicts). But if you haven’t, you can always learn it. And if you’re highly-curious…I mean I have a psychology degree, so if I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a psychologist. Because that is what fascinates me. I’m fascinated my human interactions, psychology and especially the reason why people do what they do, which is what characters do in stories.
So really, that works for me. But my life story, as much as I consider it very unique and different from most people’s life stories, I don’t have the desire to write about it. So it doesn’t affect me at all in that sense.
Film Courage: So someone shouldn’t totally…well…let me just rephrase that.
Karl Iglesias: I think I understand what you’re saying. Maybe it might be different for actors because that is usually what you’re taught, you have to use your sense memory and that kind of thing. But for writers, I don’t think there is a Yes or a No. For me, I don’t think it’s important. It doesn’t have to be. For others it might be. And I’m aware that if it did happen to you and you want to write about it, then of course that makes it easier as it happens, you’ll me a lot more realistic.
Film Courage: Well you talked about today that when you gave your class, many people noted that they wanted to write their own story.
Karl Iglesias: A lot of people are writing that. That’s because they think that their life stories are interesting.
Film Courage: Everyone thinks their life story is interesting.
Karl Iglesias: Right. Everyone thinks they’re the hero of their own story and there is a little truth to it. But I have to say if I’m talking from experience from hearing people’s stories that they want to write as movies, I would say that 90 percent of them are not that interesting. The writers themselves think it’s interesting. I don’t think it’s interesting and audiences don’t think it’s interesting. So they’ve got to learn that. That’s where feedback comes in. If the feedback is “Okay, well you know?” I mean I always bring out Hitchcock’s quote about “Drama is real life without all the boring parts cut out.” So a lot of people feel that just because they’ve had a few interesting experiences (maybe unique) that it warrants them to making a movie. They may be right, but a lot of times they are not.
Film Courage: I’ve found that some people who have had incredibly interesting (albeit hard lives) actually don’t think they are that interesting. And that the reverse is actually the case. The people who have had “Oh yes and this person said this and this happened.” etc. and that [easy or charmed life story] is not actually that exciting. But I’ve talked to several people and their lives have been very difficult and challenging and they don’t really see it as anything interesting. And I’m always encouraging them [to write about their lives].
Karl Iglesias: That’s where feedback comes in!
Film Courage: And these people are like “No. This is boring.”
Karl Iglesias: Because if they hear everybody telling them, eventually they will believe it. So…get feedback.
Film Courage: Interesting…
Question for the Viewers: What are your thoughts on a writer knowing their personal story?
Watch more videos in this series with Karl here on Youtube
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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.