Film Courage: From what you’ve seen with the screenplay competition, what would you say most new writers (baby writers) have trouble with? Poor opening or a weak ending?
Gordy Hoffman, Founder/Judge of the Bluecat Screenplay Competition: Well I think writers in general struggle with endings. I think that’s why there are a lot of television shows that have been developed or pilots because it’s like “Well I don’t know where this is going so let’s just write a television show. Let me just write a pilot and then I’ll figure out the ending later.” Because the ending is probably the hardest thing, it’s probably the most elusive thing for even films that have won best picture to not be able to wrap things up in a truly classic way with some sort of magical, imaginative, powerful, cathartic, surprising, revelatory ending. I think that in general endings are always tougher so I imagine probably people starting off I think they are able to get started more easily than finish something absolutely.
Film Courage: For yourself which of the two in the beginning did you think was one of your traits?
Gordy: I think that I have the ending and that I know what the ending is and I have an idea what the ending is and I don’t really know other things and I don’t know what the ending is and I struggle with like “How is this going to end?” And then you are still trying to solve that. So it goes project-to-project and I don’t think it’s an automatic “I could never have an ending.” With LOVE LIZA I always had an idea what the ending was but with the short that I made called DOG BOY I didn’t know where it was going and the two projects that I’m working on right now that I want to direct that probably one or the other is going to happen in 2019, one has an ending, the other one doesn’t. So there is not set pattern to that it’s just some time you have a vision and you go “Ooohh, there’s an ending. Awesome!” And then other ones it’s like you don’t really know what the kind of clicker at the end is.
I have not found that writer-to-writer people are good at one thing versus the other. I have found that writers tend to struggle with endings. It’s obvious that when you watch movies that great first act, great second act (sort of) and then what? Where’d this go in the third act. So you definitely have some problems with that so the ending is very difficult and I think that writers need to embrace that. It’s good to be like “It’s really hard and that endings are difficult.” And again that’s that humility to hang in there and be like “Okay, it’s difficult but I’m not going to settle for less and I’m going to hang in there until I have a good ending. I’m not just going to sign off because this is too uncomfortable. Because I don’t know how to solve this and I want this to be over. I’m sick of this script so I’m just going to use this ending.” That’s not how you move forward and the audience is going to know what happened. There are countless movies that have come out (best pictures) that don’t know how to end a movie and you clearly understand as a writer for me and for someone who has judged a screenplay competition for 20 years, who has taught on the University level (blah, blah, blah, blah), who has advised people on screenwriting, I can look at a movie that just won best picture and be like “They didn’t have the ending. The did not have an ending.”
And I’m not going to…I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus but like SHAPE OF WATER which just won (I don’t know when somebody is watching this video)…but it had an ending didn’t it? It had sort of a revelatory ending. I did not expect the ending. Maybe some people guessed the ending (maybe)? But there was an ending and it was sort of a surprise and it brought things to a close. It was an actual proper ending to a movie that was actually kind of ascended and nice but that often doesn’t happen. It’s very difficult.
Film Courage: Why screenwriting versus novel writing? When you talked about getting bored with something it reminds me of a book I was reading about [the late author] David Foster Wallace and how he did not like the screenplay format but he loved novel writing. So why choose one over the other?
Gordy: I don’t know? It just happened that way. I think it’s because I wrote theatrically as a young person and then going forward it went into screenwriting because I loved movies and stuff and maybe it was because I was an actor for awhile. I never thought about writing a book ever. And I understand that writing a novel I guess you can just write anything you want? It’s a very different form of writing. Screenwriting is very difficult. So I imagine somebody that is a novelist would feel a little challenged by that and would rather write a novel where you just explain every thought and feeling of every single person and explain everything.
But a screenwriter has to describe only what a camera can shoot and some how that’s going to be used as a document with a bunch of other collaborators to create a motion picture. But I’ve never had impulses to write a novel but I can understand why. And there’s not a lot of transfer. Stephen King doesn’t write screenplays and not because he can’t, he probably has no interest. I don’t know what he wants to do. But it’s not like “Oh you can write a novel.”
Or because I’m a screenwriter and have been writing screenplays for more than 20 years, that I can sit down and write a novel or a short story or whatever. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to just sit down and even write a play if you’re a screenwriter.
It’s very different. All these things are very different.
Questions For The Viewers: Do you struggle more with beginnings or endings?
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¡CALAMBRE! is a 53 minute episodic black and white film about a poet who returns to his hometown of New York City to rekindle an old flame, only to complicate his return with new women in his life. A film by Carlos Renaso.