I am very excited about this section of the blog. I’ll be sharing screenwriting resources, my story analysis of popular movies, and an easy summary of the eight-sequence method of screenwriting so that even those of you who are brand new to screenwriting can learn the basics of how to do it. But before I get to that, we need to cover something else important: a sense of confidence and purpose. Today, I am going to share with you wisdom from some of the best writers and directors in Hollywood to prove that your voice and your creativity are important.
Many people feel that they are not talented or creative. However, if you’ve found this section of my blog, odds are good you already have a story you want to tell. In the preface to Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, screenwriting guru Robert McKee says, “In short, if the Muse exists, she does not whisper to the untalented.” If you have been given an idea, you also have within you all that you need to see it through to completion. You are already talented. And your voice is unique. There will never be another like it. If you withhold it, you are depriving the world of your gift.
If you don’t think your voice is unique, read these words from Justin Simien. This is from his acceptance speech at the 2015 Independent Spirit Awards for Best First Screenplay (for Dear White People). "If you have a story, if you don't see yourself in the culture, please put yourself there because we need you. We need to see the world from your eyes."
Steven Soderbergh echoes these sentiments in his Oscar acceptance speech for Best Director for Traffic in 2000, affirming that your art matters. “I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating. I don't care if it's a book, a film, a painting, a dance, a piece of theater, a piece of music... Anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us. I think this world would be unliveable without art, and I thank you.”
Our stories are powerful and have the potential to change lives in ways we may never know. This is from Dustin Lance Black’s Oscar acceptance speech for Best Original Screenplay for Milk in 2009. “When I was thirteen years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas, to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married.” This speech shows the power of story, how one man’s story inspired Dustin and later inspired him to share that story to inspire others. Whether you are LGBT or not, set that aside. The point is, your story is powerful and has the potential to touch lives.
The very theme of Graham Moore’s Oscar acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game happens to be “you are enough.” In this beautiful speech, he demonstrates not only the power of story but the responsibility of sharing our stories to inspire others.
“So here's, here's the thing. Alan Turing never got to stand on a stage like this and look out at all of these disconcertingly attractive faces, and I do. And that's the most unfair thing I think I've ever heard. So, in this brief time here, what I want to use it to do is to say this: When I was sixteen years old I tried to kill myself, because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now I'm standing here. And so I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she's weird or she's different or she doesn't fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. You do. Stay weird. Stay different. And then when it's your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along. Thank you so much. I love you guys.”
I named this section of the blog “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of.” It’s a reference to the classic line from the movie The Maltese Falcon. It’s also my metaphor for screenplays. If movies are our dreams and the things we dream of, then screenplays are the stuff that dreams are made of. In Michael Blake’s Oscar acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay for Dances With Wolves, he reminds us that his win is proof that dreams come true, that we are capable of what we dream of. “My success began when I started to read books. Dreams come out of books. And the dream that came to me was to do something beneficial for as many people as I could. The miracle of "Dances With Wolves" is that it proves this kind of dream can come true. Hold on to your dreams. Don't let anyone take them away. Never give up.”
Finally, one last quote from one of my favorite filmmakers. Director Kevin Smith constantly inspires me. He often tells his fans to go out and write screenplays, to make movies, to create podcasts, to be creative. In this quote from his book Tough Sh*t, he talks about why artistic failure is impossible. “Only someone who doesn’t understand art tells an artist their art somehow failed. How…can art fail? Art can’t be graded, because it’s going to mean something different to everyone. You can’t apply a mathematical absolute to art because there is no one formula for self-expression.” If that isn’t artistic license enough for you to pick up a pen and start writing, I don’t know what is.
There you have it. A pep talk from some of Hollywood’s greatest. You matter. Your words matter. Your voice matters. Your stories matter. You have permission to write and use your unique voice. Go out there and do it!