The Tarantino rule

If you are scribbling away at a screenplay or manuscript and someone tells you that you can't do such-and-such, it does not usually help your case to say, "But Tarantino did it that way!!"

The response from your critic is generally, "But you're not Quentin Taratino." Is that a fair response? Well, yes and no.

What it really means is that you, as an unknown screenwriter or novelist, have a panoply of obstacles to cross to get someone to even read your full script, and even if it gets read, you can't have anything in the beginning that will further lead to the powers that be rejecting you.

The other thing is, Quentin T. gets to MAKE his movie. So he can show you personally how it works, without all the red tape. You, sitting in your room in your Fruit of the Looms, cannot.

There are exceptions, of course; Kevin Smith's script for "Clerks" was 140 pages, which is 20-40 pages more than the standard for scripts these days (it's about a minute per page), largely because of all of his rapid-fire dialogue. And he was an unknown when he wrote it. But the thing is, he MADE his movie himself. Now, if ol' Silent Bob had sent it to Hollywood without making it, would some agent seen the brilliance and scooped him up for representation? It's hard to tell. But it's likely that the minute they saw something that hefty, they'd leave it near the bottom of their pile (unless they flipped through and saw all the white space).

In fact, when "Clerks" was entered in the festival, it was only one woman sitting in his sparse crowd who saw it and made it a hit. Otherwise it might still be something in his videotape collection to amuse his friends. This woman saw something in it.

All of this leads me to another rule I'm fond of sharing, which is, don't put music into your manuscripts and screenplays. Song tastes are too arbitrary, and 99.9 percent of the time, the person reading your script is not going to feel the same joy that you are via the accompanying music.

But more importantly, beginners tend to listen to certain songs while they set up their scripts and stories, and then they think their story is better when in reality they are enjoying the music. Your script or story should work even if all the music is taken away. If it's lame without the musical accompanyment, then you got a problem. (And yes, I used to do this, too, but I don't anymore.) Let's face it, many of us have dream soundtracks for our oevres, but you're unlikely to get to pick yours...unless you're Tarantino.

There are too many obstacles to overcome when you're an unknown writer. If you feel strongly about bucking the conventional wisdom, go for it! But don't intend to defend it by saying that Quentin got away with it, because his bar was lower than yours is gonna be.

And that's one to grow on. ;)

P.S. Today's entry is most enjoyable if you read it while listening to "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with yooooou..."

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