So this is how it goes on the Montclair Film Festival screenwriting panel. The great novelist and screenwriter Richard Price (Clockers, Freedomland, Lush Life, The Wire) slouches in his chair, looking as if he’d rather be somewhere else, anywhere else, and delivers bon mot after bon mot, pearl after pearl, about writing, about writing for the screen and the difference between them.
What makes a good story? “It’s all about what happens next, what happens next, what happens next. It’s speed chess, not chess.”
On characters: “I have to love the characters I am writing about. Even when they’re horrible animals.”
On film and TV: “I used to bitch about screenwriting all the time. Now after TV, it’s like the Elysian Fields of writing.”
On actors: “The scariest words from an actor are ‘I think we’re missing an opportunity here.’ But when an actor comes to you and says ‘My guy wouldn’t say this,’ you gotta listen, because he is now on more intimate terms with your creation than you are.”
On the difference between novel dialogue and movie dialogue: “You write this great dialogue, or you read it in authors like Robert Stone or Don DeLillo. And everybody loves it and tells you how much it sounds like real people talking. Then comes the table read. And all your gems are falling like pieces of lead crystal from the chandelier overhead.”
AMC executive Joel Stillerman moderated. The producing and screenwriting team of David Levien and Brian Koppelman helped fill the stage, but Price was the star. And only one question from the audience about how can I get someone to read my students’ brilliant screenplay!