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Pascal Thomas
Pascal Thomas.jpg
Pascal Thomas in 2010
Born (1945-04-02) 2 April 1945 (age 72)
Montargis, France
Occupation Film director, screenwriter
Years active 1971-present

Pascal Thomas (born 2 April 1945) is a French screenwriter and film director.[1] His 1999 film The Dilettante was entered into the 21st Moscow International Film Festival.[2]

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  • Full Writers Roundtable: Jordan Peele, Darren Aronofsky, Emily V. Gordon | Close Up With THR
  • Making A $500 Movie Vs An $85,000 Movie by Pascal Payant
  • This Mistake Is What Holds Most Writers Back by Gary W. Goldstein


(upbeat music) - Hi, I'm Stephen Galloway, and welcome to Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter, the Writers. I'd like to introduce Jordan Peele, Anthony McCarten, Fatih Akin, Aaron Sorkin, Darren Aronofsky, and Emily V. Gordon. Welcome. I want to start with this, there are hurricanes, there are dictators with nuclear bombs, the world is collapsing, why write? - I'm not sure that writers are the best place people to be diagnosticians, but we certainly, our role I think is to entertain and to inform. Large part of our work is research and trying to look at both parts of any argument. The old dialectic that goes back to Plato showed two sides of an argument. And it's one of my big main ambitions is to inter compleat the situation where there seems to be one obvious answer and put two opposing ideas into conflict and see what happens. And that's really the seed of all drama really, is two equal and opposite ideas colliding. So that's what we do and what happens in the phenomena that result from that collision is not in our control. I think drama's best when it shows their face of that collision and then stands back and allows you the audience to make a judgment. - What do you mean it's not in your control? - You may not be happy as the writer with what the phenomena that results from these ideas. So you might enter a project thinking well I have this fixed position and this is my object of this particular project. And then when you create an antagonist and you charge that antagonist with ideas that are virile and strong and convincing, you start to unhinge and crack open your own certainties. And when you've done your job really well as a writer the perfect sort of emotional state to end up in is uncertainty yourself. - Hitler will not insist on outrageous terms. He will know his own weaknesses. He will be reasonable. - When will the lesson be learned? - When will the lesson be learned? How many more dictators must be wooed, appeased, good god give any mixed privileges before we learn? You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth. - After 9/11 I felt for a while like I had the dumbest job in the world. I felt useless in the face of everything that was going on, and all the heroes that there were. I don't feel that way today. I feel like that the best delivery system ever invented for an idea is a story, and that the stories just represented at this table have been so powerful and so useful and as timeless as they are they speak directly to the time that we're living in. - I think that's completely where I start with my project was I don't often walk into the field of politics and what's happening in the world. I was just feeling tremendous frustration about where we were. It was the eight year of Obama ironically, but just leaning into environmental issues. Everyone was talking about the summer that we just had about to happen. So it was strange to release Mother as all of these travesties were happening. Here first hand, you know there was one viral video I saw of a bunch of tourist in South America carrying around a baby dolphin and taking selfies and they murdered the, and that's reflected exactly in my film for anyone who's seen it where they carry around a baby. So it was weird for me because I'd never really just been like you know what I'm going to make a reflection of what's happening. Most of my things have been character studies and this was the first time I decided to sort of do a reflection. And then it's interesting what you said, because the reactions you get are often from all over the place. - You can't control that. - I think people come in with so many of their own different opinions. I've had everything from this is an anti-immigration film, to this is a portrait of mother earth. To this is about the creative process and releasing your film to the world and having it devoured by audiences and stuff. Which I think is great. I like when there's so many different interpretations and conversations about the work. That's always the goal is you want to continue to have people thinking about it and talking about it. - Has anybody said anything about your work that actually made you see it differently? - I think that one, and it was a lot of female artist came up to me, it started with Marina Abramovic and a couple of female directors were producing and working with, they sort of had a very similar interpretation that it was, the baby was a symbol of creating a piece of art. Which I'd never saw it. I was much more direct to the allegory and the biblical references of it. But a lot of people saw it that way and also the celebrity thing about making something about a commentary on celebrity and fame. I was much more interested in worship from a biblical perspective as opposed to modern celebrity, but I think that had to do with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, and Michelle Pfeiffer who deal with that in their lives. So people start to see that in the film. Things that I didn't expect but they come out. - Emily, why write? - I think my career before this was as a therapist, and so for many years my job was to help clients kind of feel less alone. Like in a room with them one-on-one or in groups and what was fascinating to me is I kind of transitioned into writing was that is another way to kind of help people feel less alone and help people kind of raise their empathy level. To me that is why I write. When I'm justifying why I changed careers. It's to help people feel less alone and to help people feel like they're being seen in some regard. As to what you were saying, I have the same instinct as coming from a therapist and just in general that everyone is just doing the best they can. Even if they're a bad guy. So why does that person think that's the correct course of action and really kind of digging into that and then coming out to the uncertainty of like, "Oh well you think you're right also." And that kind of taking you back and causing you to rethink everything that you know. I think that's such a lovely thing for me personally. If I can ever create anything that helps other people feel that way, that's why I write. - Is writing therapeutic for you? - It can be, it depends on what your writing about. I think some days you don't want it to be, and some days, yeah, you feel like you're kind of exercising a demon but you don't also want everything you have to be, at least for me, connected to this very intense cathartic experience. You want to connect to it emotionally but not kind of wring you out. - You're film is actually an autobiographical. - Yeah, that one rang me out a little. (panel laughing) - Was it tough to bring yourself to write it or was it actually helpful? - It had been five years since the events of the film and I think that helps tremendously because you're far enough away that you can kind of look at it and still kind of feel it but not so much that it's overwhelming you. Because I think if you see someone create a piece of art while they're still in the throws of going through something, you can always kind of tell because it feels to vulnerable for you to be watching. Which can be beautiful, but we didn't want this to feel like an overly intense kind of movie that you feel in danger while you're watching. We wanted you to kind of see that we've gotten a little bit of emotional distance. And so I think to me that's where this movie came from as us having enough emotional distance but not so much that it felt like the distance past. - I didn't heckle you. I just woohooed you, it's supportive. - Okay, that's a common misconception, but yelling anything at a comedian is considered heckling. Heckling doesn't have to be negative. - So if I yelled out like you're amazing in bed that would be a heckle? - Yeah, it would be an accurate heckle. - Whoa, bye. - Don't go. - I'm going. - You scared my friend off now. - You can't be precious with your own history. Because if you saw a movie what actually happened to my husband and I, it would be a terrible movie and you would not enjoy it. So taking this actual real-life event that touched you and was very important to you and creating a story from it is always a challenge. And also realizing that just because something was important to you personally that doesn't mean that it belongs in the movie, and that doesn't mean that it's going to translate. So what we would try to do was if there was a scene that was incredibly important to us. It happened like three or four times, like this moment was like oh it meant everything to us. And we would either write it and it didn't work. Like one of them we filmed and as we were filming we were like, "This is so stupid. "This will never been in this movie" Finding a lateral move like what were the emotion, why was this so important, what were we feeling, what was happening? And then can we craft a scene that accomplishes that. Because this exact moment of you coming into my hospital room and watching Groundhog day with me on a laptop is not really giving us the awe that we need on screen. And finding other ways to kind of show that. So I think that was the most challenging thing was understanding that your story just because it's your story is not gospel. - Did you write because you like the thought of doing a horror story or because you wanted to convey ideas about racism. - It began as the fun of a horror story. It's my favorite genre, I wanted to have fun while riding. In the middle of the process it turned into something more important. The power of story is that it is one of the few ways we can really feel empathy and encourage empathy. Built into the idea of story is the idea that you have a protagonist. When you have a protagonist the whole trick that all of us are trying to do is bring the audience into that protagonist's eyes, behind their eyes. And so this is a well crafted story and a good story is one of the few ways we can really not tell somebody you have to feel for somebody else, but make somebody feel because they're experiencing it through entertainment. - [Police Officer] Sir can I see your license please. - Wait why? - Yeah I have state ID. - No, no, no, he wasn't driving. - I didn't ask who was driving. I asked to see his ID. - Yeah, why? That doesn't make any sense. - Here. - You don't have to give him your ID because you haven't done anything wrong. - Baby, baby, baby it's okay. - Anytime there is an incident we have every right to ask. - That's bull. - Ma'am. - That's the power of cinema that you can make a film about a six year old girl in Iran or an 80 year old guy in the UK, and if the filmmaking is working you can completely connect with it. - I think when I was watching Get Out in the theater the first time and it was an audience mostly white people, and at the end of the movie when the police car rolls up and the lights go on I heard the audience go, "No!" And I thought what a great thing that we gotten an audience of mostly white people to be upset about seeing a cop car because they know this is not going to be good until Lil Rel pops out and then you're like, "Everything's fine." But I thought that's a great exercise in empathy that everyone suddenly got why that was such an awful thing to happen in that moment. Where as normally the police car means everything's going to be fine, like the problems are solved. I thought that was such an amazing exercise in empathy. - Thank you. You know I was worried at several stages during the writing of the movie that this would be this horribly divisive project where I thought maybe I'd lose Black people because we're victims in the movie and that's hard to watch. That's not fun. Maybe I'd lose White people because White people are the villains in the movie and that would be an assault. But I stuck with it and one of the most fulfilling and validating things to see was how an audience would sort of go in with their different preconceived notions of what the film were. But by the middle they were all Chris. They were all the main character. And that's kind of the-- - It's a really good horror movie. I'm curious, I had heard that there was a time in your writing process when the police car showed up and it was the police and it was the bad ending that we all feared, is that true. - So that's true. I wrote the movie primarily during the post racial lie. So the Obama era, when everyone was saying, "Hey we're past racism, right?" - We did it. - We did it. And the notion of sort of bringing up racism was almost thought of as perpetuating it. So the movie was originally meant to be a more direct brutal wake up call to say, "No the horror movie, "guess what, the horror movie with a Black protagonist, "the cop showing up at the end is a different thing." And it became very clear by showing people the movie that they needed a hero. They needed the movie to be an escape. What I love about the current ending is that moment you're talking about where the police show up, the audience does all the work of the original ending. So it's have my cake and eat it too. - [Emily] Yeah you really do. - [Aaron] That's exactly right. - When you go into a story, do you know the ending in advance? When you start writing. - Well I think you ought to in a perfect world. Because the rest of the writing work then becomes a preparation for that perfect ending. I often find that writers who disavow the importance of an ending, they're just not very good at endings and so they fudge it and they try to raise the quality of other elements of storytelling. But to me it's critical to know what you're working towards so that you can fade and faint away from that. And take the audience a way and mislead and do all those craft things that are so important to a great story. - Do you agree with that Fatih? - It's different from screen play to screen play. Depends on the material. With the last film, with In the Fade, one of the first images I had was the ending. It was like, how I'm going to have to write this to get to there. So it was kind of like writing it backwards. But sometimes it's completely different. Sometimes it's the opposite. Sometimes I start because I have a great idea for an opening but I don't know how to end it. - You've made very political films. Which inevitably must be divisive. How do you react to hate mail, people who disagree with you? Before this round table began we were talking about on of your films. You're Turkish-German, but you made a film that was very sympathetic to the idea of of the Armenian genocide. How did your family and friends react to that? - My family loves me. (panel laughing) - Right. - My parents still love me and they don't want me to get in any trouble, and I'm curious about trouble. I like to be involved in kind of like trouble, not trouble in the street, but like writing something and I don't know, provocate something. I definitely believe in discussions. If you go to the cinema and you come out and two people have two different opinions and they talk about it so you create a dialogue. I think you can solve everything with a dialogue. The Armenian genocide is something which is based about fear. There's a film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the German film maker, Fear East the Soul, Angst essen Seele auf, and I believe in that. So I don't want that my fears be eaten. So hate mails and stuff, they don't really, I force myself that I don't let them fear me. (loud chatter) - You couldn't have made that film in Turkey I don't suppose. - No I couldn't. But that was not the film I get the most trouble for. I just posted something on Instagram. - You mean The Cut was not the film with the most. - [Fatih] It was not the film. - Which one was? - I haven't shoot it yet. I just put something on Instagram. - And what is that? - About Kurdish freedom fighters in North Syria. I would like to do a film about that because you have these female characters and they fight against ISIS and this is somehow fascinating me. - Would this be to advance the idea of a Kurdish state? - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - [Anthony] Well that's provocative. - Yeah, they freaked out. So the Armenian genocide was a joke for that. - Do you ever go back to Turkey? Are you ever threatened by anyone? - My parents live there. I cannot go there right now. Right now not, maybe in the future. - Because of Erdogan and the regime, or? - Yeah. (panel laughing) - [Stephen] But you feel safe in Germany? - Yeah, yeah, yeah. There is this past because there is a lot of Turkish immigrants. Like somehow the conflict in Turkey swept over to the Turkish monitors. It's not that dangerous how the press or the media in Germany describes that. There is not a real conflict between, I don't see or feel that conflict between Turks in Germany yet. But I'm an artist, I'm writing. I'm at home in front of my computer so sometimes I'm a bit out of the streets. So sometimes I don't really know what's going on. - Darren, did you think that your film would be as divisive as it is? - Yeah, I think we did. We knew it was always going to be an assault of the senses, and very intense. But you know, then again if you read any record any paper of record and you actually look past the headlines what happens in any A section of a newspaper is a lot more messed up than anything that's in my movie. But I think once you put it into a house and put movie stars in front of it that you're empathizing with, it becomes a different level of intensity. And that was the idea behind it. But we know it would be all over the place and a big explosion. And we were excited about that. We were excited to make a film that would have conversation and would have big debate. - No, no, I didn't abandon you. They just lost a son, they lost well two sons. I was helping them. This is not about us, it's about them. - No, it's not about them. It's about you. It's always about you and you're work. You think that's going to help you write? Nothing does. I rebuilt this entire house wall to wall. You haven't written a word. - I know, I know, I'm sorry. I can't, I can't write. - How do you handle the critiques? Do they hurt? - I don't fully plow myself in front of them. My mentor Stuart Rosenberg always said, "Bad reviews hurt, good reviews are worse." (panel laughing) And I thought that was very smart. - Great line. - Yeah, it was a good line. I sort of live by that but in today's world, because of just how connected everyone is you can't sort of escape information coming from different places and bombarding you. So I have a sense of what's going on. I doesn't upset me, it excites me that people are arguing and discussions. I think those are the films that inspire me. The ones that people leave and you're just breaking down and figuring out and seeing different layers. Seeing all the different ways of thinking about something. The fear for me is to be a disposable piece of cinema that it's like a McDonald's meal an the wrapper goes in the trash and two hours later your like what did I see. - And there's a lot of that. - Definitely. - Is this a golden age for the movies or is it the rust age? - I feel like were-- - It's the golden age for us right? - Well I feel like that we're sort of entering hopefully a new renaissance. - In film? - In film where our tours are embraced. Obviously we've been in this, in a bit of era of the huge big special effect movie. We all remember sort of I think better times for us as artist in the film industry. So I think we're heading in a very good direction. I think Darren, what I really cherish about your films and your craft is that you are able to show how diving into something complete stressful, completely uncomfortable, completely assaulting can still be entertainment and can still be fun. - Thank you. - And it's one of those things that-- - But does it have to be fun? - It should be entertaining. - [Emily] It helps. - I think rule number one is you don't bore an audience. You have to, even if they're not enjoying themselves or they're off, as long as they're engaged and they're with the character and they're following the plot and they're not sort of staring off into space or thinking about their second screen. That's our goal. How do we keep people from watching our movies at home without a second, sometimes third screen. Which is happening everywhere. The only way to do that is to keep it coming and to engage them emotionally. - I also don't like medicine movies that are like I'm supposed to get this lesson out of this movie. That's why I want them to be entertaining. Whether or not I'm enjoying it or not enjoying it I want them to not just be like, "Here's your lesson for today." I want to be wowed. (upbeat music) - You took a real life story and adapted it. What did you have to lose in the translation? What changed the most? - Listen when I do non-fiction, it's not a documentary still. I think I've used this metaphor with you before that it's still a painting and not a photograph. I use the parts that I need to tell the story that I kind of saw when I first started learning about this. I don't use the parts that I don't need. - I can see you're getting warmed up but really don't have the emotional bandwidth to defend my, as usual, irresponsible behavior. - I know, I got your email. I get that I'm not welcomed in your life right now. As your father though, you should know I can give a shit if I'm welcomed or not. But I'm not here in my capacity as your father. I'm indifferent to whether your father lives or dies. I'm a very expensive therapist and I'm here to give you one free session. - You think what I need right now is a therapist? - Yeah. - I read a review of Molly's Game in fact, and it was a positive review and a critic noted that I've done a bunch of non-fiction movies in a row, but what I really do is that I use these characters for parts and I make my own thing. I read that and I went, yeah I think I do that. I'm not sure if that was meant as a compliment or not. (panel laughing) I'm pretty sure I do do that. - But is it okay to take a real life person and reinvent that person with the same name on screen? Is that morally okay? - I do ask myself that question. I'm not indifferent at all to that question. I think that all of us have a kind of internal moral compass that we use. I have faith in mine. In this particular case, in the case of Molly Bloom, she was very involved in. I spent about six months talking to her before the writing began. - Do you still talk to her? - Oh yeah, I talk to her everyday. - [Stephen] Did she like the film? - She did. She saw it for the first time at the Toronto Film Festival. Obviously I said we'll set up a screening room for you and for your family. Because her father plays a big role in the story too. She called me and she said, "We all," meaning the whole Bloom family, "We'd really love to see it "with an audience, have a real movie experience." And I said sure. I had been cautioning her for a couple of years that there's nothing that's going to be able to prepare you for this experience. For someone as you said, up on the screen, named Molly Bloom, only it's Jessica Chastain and listen we all know that life doesn't play itself out as a series of scenes that form a perfect narrative. People don't speak in dialogue. These are movie things that make it a painting instead of a photograph. So she and her family they're big fans of the movie. - What changed the most in bringing Churchill to the screen? What did you not convey about him that you would have liked to? - There's a really fine line between artistic licensing and artistic licentiousness. (panel laughing) And there's history is a lousy filmmaker. It doesn't give you all the ingredients you need and no story will quite fulfill that structure as Aaron's saying. However you're compelled to apply your imagination to a real life story. And if you don't it will be inert or it will just be a sequence, like a vast action sequence of the known. And it won't tell you anything we don't already know from documentaries. But however, there's a really fine line because if you say that Napoleon won the Battle of Waterloo you're movie collapses. The tolerances of history are very similar to the tolerances of audiences. In that if you breach that faith and you got that before your movies starts based on a true story, and you go over that red line which is indistinct and every writer will draw in a different place. You're really bravely saying, I'm going to go impressionistic with my portraits. I dear not do that with Winston Churchill. He's too beloved. He's too iconic. You can't do it with Lincoln. - I agree. I wouldn't if I were writing all the presidents men, I wouldn't make anything up about the fall of a president of the United States. - This goes to really the conversation about genre as well. Because I find completely fascinating that we all think of, we all have a structure in mind when we write a movie. Three act structure, four act structure, whatever it is, but there's also conventions and ideas surrounding every genre. With a thriller for example, there's a contract with the audience before they even come in that they're going to see something fucked up, that they're going to be scared. - Jump scares, probably some jump scares. - There's going to be some jump scares, and so genre does sort of does dictate a lot of the rules in a weird way. And I hate using the word rules because there are none, but if you look at something like Inglorious Bastards, which is theoretically a historic movie. - And changed the end of World War II. - And completely changed the end of World War II, but it works because it existing in its own genre of pulp entertainment. So that's part of the reason the thriller genre to me is so alluring is because you're almost not doing it right if you're not pushing the boundaries of good taste and darkness and sort of challenging an audience. - Why did you turn to me about that? (panel laughing) - Does Mother belong to Sean? - Yeah, I don't think so. I don't think I've ever really sort of sat in a genre too well. You know Pi was sort of an independent film, sort of sci-fi. The Fountain was I don't know what it was to this day. The Wrestler, my biggest let down, was the ESPN-- - You mean let down commercially? - No, my biggest let down personally because ESPN wouldn't call it a sports movie so I couldn't get their trophy. I'm like it is a sports movie. They're like wrestling's not a sport. - [Emily] Wrestling is definitely a sports movie. - And Black Swan was like people were horror fans don't like ballet and ballet people don't like horror. - Also a sports movie. - And also a sports movie to but ESPN didn't recommend. So I don't think I really fall into a genre. But I do love genre and I love creating genre moments for an audience. Because I think audiences have expectations and when you sort of present them jump scares or thrilling moments intension they completely go for it. So literally throughout Mother I kept falling into genre films but I think when it added up to everything it doesn't really fit neatly into any of them. I just don't, I think when it comes out of me personally that's where my passions lie is to tell that type of story and just be truthful to the allegory and to the emotion of the story. And not necessarily fully service the genre. - Did you ever think of doing your film as a drama, straight drama not a comedy? - We talked about it. We actually didn't think that our movie was a romcom until the marketing people started talking to us. And they were like oh okay. We started seeing cuts of trailers and we were like, "Oh I guess this is a romcom." I always thought of it as sort of a funny family drama. That's kind of how I thought of it. We had the same thing of like if we go into this like this is a comedy now comedy means four or five big huge set piece actions scenes. Comedy means a very specific thing now unfortunately drama also means a specific thing where maybe you can't make a 9/11 joke. So I think for us we tried not to think about that but in my head it was always like a very funny family movie about families. And then when we saw all the marketing we were like, "Oh romcom, okay." Which to me is a very different set of expectations. It's just interesting and my friend by the way, Pi was one of my favorite movies, and my friend described it as brain horror, rather than body horror, which is a great genre. - That might be my genre. - Brain horror. - Fatih, anything you would not do on film that you're scared to touch? Any subject? - No, there are no limits. I would try everything. Everything what somehow touches me. Whatever it is, can be porn, whatever it is. (panel laughing) - Have you ever tried porn? - I'm thinking of writing something about it but I didn't tried it. - Have you ever asked that question in one of these round tables? (panel laughing) - I actually think I asked the same question. - I watched some but I haven't. - [Stephen] When you got In the Fade off the ground, was it a difficult film to get made? - Well actually it wasn't because the previous film I did before, it was a film called Good-bye Berlin, was a genre film. It was for like a German audience, was based on a German novel. It was box office in Germany. So I could do In the Fade very easy. It was a very quick financing. I financed the film, wrote the film and shot the film in six months. That was kind of like the fastest film I ever did. - What's been your toughest moment as a writer? - Sometimes you spend years writing something. - Give me one moment that you found really, really tough where maybe you thought of giving up? Did you ever think of giving up? - When there was no iCloud thing, you know once I wrote something for 18 months and I had a problem with my computer - Oh shoot. - and I lost the whole file. That was like you had a very old wine like 200 years ago and the bottle broke. It was something like that. - It's much worse than that. - What has been your toughest moment Aaron? - Listen most of the time, I really struggle with writing. People ask if I have writers block. That's my default position. So most days I go to bed not having done anything except kind of climb the walls because I don't have an idea or I'm stuck at where I am. You really do think, even though you've been there many, many times before and it's worked out, you really do think in that moment you're not ever going to write again. Those are tough moments. Another tough moment is when you see something in your head that's good that's really beautiful that can work and you were just not able to transfer onto the piece of paper. - But I want to know if your fairly long career as a writer was the one moment where you thought I'm going to give up. - No, no. - [Stephen] Did anybody ever tell you that you should give up? - That I should give up. (panel laughing) - No, no I've been lucky. I haven't had that in my life. - Darren what about you? - There's so many struggling moments during making a movie. The amount of nos you get as a film maker are everyday endless. That's why the only films I know how to make are films that I just couldn't live without making them. They're just burning from deep inside and no matter what they are I just know I have to follow that feeling. Another thing Stuart Rosenberg said is, "You just try your hardest and then when you look back, "you can respect yourself for having "tried the hardest at the time." That's kind of the approach. - Would you ever do a franchise film? You at one point were talking about doing Batman. - Yeah, I've always been intrigued and interested in those. I guess I've been lucky enough to have enough success with each film that it allows me to find an angle to make these films that I can sort of guarantee that no one else on the planet wants to make. Which has always been for me, the filmmakers I like are the filmmakers who clearly made the films that only they wanted to make. Whoever, even if they weren't successful films or popular films, if they just come from the singular voice and singular vision that sort of expands what cinema can be, that's always been an inspiration. - I want to go back to what we were talking about which is this idea of you're saying we're entering a golden age. And I want to separate film from television because I think everybody recognizes this is and great in television. Is it really a great age in film? With the Harvey Weinstein story we're dealing with sexual harassment, we're dealing with abuse. Writers are kind of the lowest person on the totem pole historically. Have you been abused by producers, by the system any of you? - I know a film director who said he had an anti-shout clause included in his deal with Harvey. He said, "I'll do the movie but if that guy shouts "the rights revert." And apparently that was included. It was unprecedented. - That's an amazing clause. - [Emily] That is a great clause. - No, I haven't been abused by a producer. - You've worked with some tough producers. - [Aaron] Scott Rudin. - [Stephen] Scott in particular? - [Aaron] Yeah. - [Stephen] Has that ever become contentious? - Listen I think Scott is a great producer in the three phases where you need a great producer. He is, at least for me, a terrific script editor. I think I've done my best writing with Scott. And he gets the movie made and he get it made for the budget that you need. And then he rides herd over a very sophisticated marketing campaign. I've worked with Scott many times before and I hope I get a chance to work with him again a lot. But where you need a Scott any of us at this table would have an easier time getting $100 million movie made than a $10 million movie. Studios are just much more comfortable making a $100 million movie than a $10 million. They're not quite sure how to market the $10 million movie. And the Scotts and the Harveys are experts at marketing those $10 million movies. - Have you dealt, Darren and Emily, with bullying, with a conflict, with situation you didn't think were ethically right in the business? - I've been pretty lucky, I guess I had one very publicized fight with a studio over the final cut of Noah. There were a lot of pressures coming from not just commercial ends but personal religious beliefs as well and that was a rough journey to get through. Eventually because I get the films I make are so I guess strange in how I put them together, they're very hard to sort of rejigsaw puzzle them into anything else. So ultimately I ended up getting the film I wanted to make but you know I thought there were questionable ethics when you go into something very clear about what you want to make and everyone's upfront about it with incredible clarity that this is what we're making and it's signed off on and the screenplay is green lit and you deliver that, and then you have to deal with pressures. But I understand that that's the game of making a film for $115 million, that's a lot of money and people need to get their money back. There just was no way, I mean it comes down to testing for me. That's where I have ethical issues because my films do not test. I mean Black Swan didn't test. I just make these films that you know will you definitely recommend Black Swan. You know it's not going to happen because there's a lot of people who are just going to be that's too freaky. And I think my films need a little bit of a market place and critical response to sort of set it up in the world. So that's the only thing I've run into in my. - Emily? - Very sad to say I've been lucky. I guess I hate to say. - [Darren] Sad to say? - No I guess I'm saying it's a bummer that I have to say well I've been lucky. I've been lucky in that I have not experienced any direct personal harassment or abuse. I mean I especially for this film, which was my first film I realize now looking back and talking to other people that we were taken on, both my husband and I, were taken on as like we were part of the team that was doing everything. And I know that that's rare, and I'm imagining that that probably won't always be the case. - I mean you deal with the ethical issues that your husband had to deal with in the business. - [Emily] Oh absolutely. - Meaning? - My husband's Muslim. - So there's tons of issues. And the film address that straight on. - [Stephen] In the entertainment business? - Well it's beyond that probably I would think. Definitely in the entertainment business. - I think this and to the Harvey question, it goes to this great question of this systemic problem as well. I think the industry is just part of the system and its shortcomings as the system at large. The larger system itself. You now I based the movie pretty much on the Stepford Wives, which what does for gender, what I wanted to do with race. And it got me thinking about a lot of things, but there is this systemic issue that holds many of us back and many of us behind. I've never met Harvey Weinstein, I know he's one of a kind but I know there are many other people who are similar out there. It's part of the problem with why we haven't seen stories, why we haven't seen people, more women get ahead in this industry is because that's happening all over the place. Everyday and on all sorts of levels of the industry. So I think he's a bad guy, but its completely systemic. It's everywhere. - And you know, you can work in an office and there could be a Harvey Weinstein in your office. It's not a Hollywood issue, as much as it is a anytime there is a power structure this can be an issue. And that's literally everywhere. (upbeat music) - I'd like each of you to name one screenplay that has particularly influenced you or stuck out for you. - I'm fascinated by Apocalypse Now. The whole writing process with not finding an end. Life is be like that, life can be like that. Writing can be like that. Not finding the end. That's why what I said in the beginning I was very thankful that once I have the end, like it will not be Apocalypse Now. That was very inspiring that writing process. - Fascination or is it a film who's screenplay you particularly admire which one? - Both, both, that makes the screenplay for me so special. - Anthony, what about you? - I'm trying to separate it in my mind, great films from great screenplays. And it's probably are to do because great screenplays usually end up as a really great film. - It's interesting you as a writer blend the two and don't separate them. - Yeah, I mean from a pure, when I watch I'll avoid the question completely and just say when I watch recently right. It was a very stagey kind of production but Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet and I just could not, my admiration for the writing of that I think it's one of the great American plays but it turned into for me, and people would say, "Oh it's too theatrical." but I think it's just a terrific movie. - What did you admire most about the writing? - It had, and Aaron's writing has this too, it's not realistic it's a notch above realistic. And it creates a new poetry in the vernacular. So people aren't being poetic, it's not Shakespeare, but there is a poet element to it. So the rhythms then become musical. Arthur Miller did this with Eugene O'Neil it liberated diallage and Tennessee Williams, they lifted it one notch above real. And to me, I love words. The Churchill movie is about the power of words to get the right words and discover that they can enlisted to change the world. And they really can. And so great writing, great screenplays achieve that. They create a poetic. - Aaron, what about you, one screenplay you particularly admire? - Network, for the reasons we've heard it. It's Paddy Chayefsky filled that screenplay with great theatrical language. Every bit is meaningful as any image in the movie. For a little kid siting in a move theater who really loved plays. I grew up in the east coast and I went to see plays all the time. Often times they were plays that I was too young to understand even. So I loved the sound of dialogue, it sounded like music to me and speeches sounded liked arias. It's the first time I think I can remember thinking you can do that in movies too. I was not at all interested in what Sidney Lumet was doing. I thought I want to be the guy who's writing that. - Darren? - I think the first thing that popped in my head is probably The Social Network. I couldn't put it down. I read a lot of scripts and it's rare I do one sitting type of thing. It drove you through it. I think the musicality of it, of the dialogue realizing it's not fully real yet it is real and it is grounded but it's kind of in a different level. It's something I could never write or get to. I'm just very connected just trying to make stuff as real as I hear them. But to actually create your own kind of language but it's still connectable to all people. I remember where I was when I read it. - Thank Darren. - Emily? - I tend to go dialogue. I tend to be really appreciative of dialogue and so that's why the screenplay of Moonlight kind of struck me. Because it is not the most dialogue heavy but it was just really gorgeous for me to kind of watch that screenplay unfold. Having read it after seeing the movie which is always kind of an odd thing to do, but I was really impressed by the way it was laid out. - How about you Jordan? - You know, I want to go back to the Stepford Wives, Rosemary's Baby as well, both Ira Levin stories. - [Emily] Good Lord. - For me those movies were both extremely inspiring because what they did within the thriller genre was this very delicate tightrope walk. That sort of honored the protagonist in a way that you rarely see in the genre these days. I guess what I mean is the characters in that movie, the protagonists are smart and they're investigative. And they're on the trail, and there's never a point, every step into weird town that those movies makes, it doesn't equal, there's an equal effort to justify why the character doesn't run screaming. And that to me that sort of dance between showing something weird and over the too and then showing how easily it can be placed with how weird reality is. That's the technique I brought to Get Out. - You're throwing a dinner party, and you're allowed to have three guests, who would they be? - Any time period? - Any time period, and would they be writers? - At least one of them would be a writer, Mark Twain. - [Panel] Oh yes. - [Stephen] What a great choice. - Yeah, and here's another writer, Martin Luther King. - [Stephen] Who also knew how to harness words like Churchill. - Yeah, and you know what I'll take a third writer, and I think this might be the best American writer of all time, Thomas Jefferson. - [Darren] That's a dinner party. (panel laughing) - Fatih, three people at the dinner party? - It's difficult. - [Stephen] You can pass. - I'll go filmmaker, I'll go director since you went writer. Herzog, but the problem is when we did the director table. - [Stephen] He had a round table. - And it was like why are any of us talking. Let's just listen to Herzog. - [Stephen] He also has that great voice. - Herzog kind of fills up a table. - I always wonder if in German, Herzog has the same effect as when he speaks English. - No apparently he doesn't. - I don't even know what it is. - Werner Herzog. - Then I have to Werner Herzog. - [Emily] We were saying it wrong. - But even for the German it's Bavarian accent and that's what has that wonderful sort of maliflous quality. - You can roll the r's more if you want. Werner Herzog. - [Stephen] So who would you fill this table? - I'd do Herzog, and I'd do Terry Gilliam, it would be fun to be with him. And I guess I'd bring back Fellini. - Oh wow. Emily? (panel laughing) - Fellini would be doodling the whole thing. He'd be doing pornographic doodles the whole thing. - Of all of us. - I think I'm going to go John Hughes I think I would like to just have a conversation one at dinner also. Who else, I think I'd want even though it's a little cheating because I know her, Holly Hunter. Because I could listen to her stories endlessly about working in this industry for so long. from so many different angles. Maybe, maybe Stanley Kubrick. - Interesting mix. Jordan? - Yeah, that's fun, that's a fun table. I'd put Hitchcock in there. Just to pick his brain and hopefully get wryly insulted by him. It would be an honor. Spike Lee, who I do know. I'm producing a project of his and he is also I just soak up everything about filmmaking that he has to offer and he's so fun and boisterous and engaging. And you know, I would say, Steve Martin, who I just love Steve Martin. - Keep it going, the conversation. - Keep the conversation going. - [Emily] I didn't think of that stuff. - I have to have Churchill to find out how close I got. - Would you want him to have seen your movie or not? - Preferably not. - Do you think he would have liked the movie? - Well I had the experience of doing the Stephen Hawking movie and we showed the movie to Stephen and I was terribly anxious about what he would say. He dialed in his response, he twitches his cheek, there's a camera on his cheek and he said, "Broadly true." - [Darren] Fair enough. - [Emily] That works. - So I'd have Mr. Churchill. I'd have William Shakespeare, and I would say, "William did you write all those plays?" I want to know whether he wrote all those plays. - What do you think? - Maybe Napoleon. - [Stephen] Do you think he did write them? - Yeah, invertibley. If you know anything about theater its a collaborative thing. He would have done the first draft. - They've done computer analysis of some of the last ones like Two Noble Kingsmen where they've actually confined other language. - We all know that actually. - If he only wrote one of them. (panel laughing) - Shakespeare writers room. - Napoleon would be the other one. Very riveting conversation. - Since it is a dinner party you said, I would invite three women you know. I would invite Marlene Dietrich. - [Stephen] Marlene Dietrich? - I would invite Marilyn Monroe definitely. And I would invite Audrey Hepburn. These three ladies. - Can I come? - You're all welcomed. - Last question I want to ask each of you. For one piece of advice that you would give to a starting writer. - What is the line of Beckett? - Yes, this fail again fail. - [Fatih] Fail better. - The piece of writing advice that I would give them is intention and obstacle, cling to that like a life boat. - What do you mean? - That's what drama is. You can't do anything if you don't have, somebody wants something, something's standing in their way of getting it. Intention and obstacle, once you have that it's the drive shaft of the car and you can. Let me use a different metaphor, it's the clothesline you can hang on that. - Structure. - All the cool stuff that you like doing. Whether its a nifty dialogue, imagery, whatever you want. You have to have intention and obstacle. I would recommend that they read Aristotle's Poetics. - Anthony? - I think every new writer, this was certainly true of me stands on this border of this undiscovered country called the arts. And you don't know whether you've got anything to offer. And you really question do I have any talent. And this question of talent, we don't know where creativity comes from in our brain, but my experience is that the writer I was when I began was only a fraction of what I feel capable of doing now. And that you can grow your talent and don't stand on that threshold saying, I'm uncertain about my talent. You can grow that part of yourself. - I think tell only the story you can tell. That's what I tell, you know I teach, and that's what I tell students. If you're trying to tell stories for a largest audience possible, the best way to get to them is by telling the story that really connects with you. That means something, that you think people closest to you can relate to that's the driving force. And the second thing I think I've learned is that screenwriting maybe not for Aaron, but screenwriting at least for me is more like sculpture. And it's a type of thing you slowly have to carve away at to get to that final destination. - Emily? - Somewhat similar to what you were saying. I know a lot of writers who are just trying to write because they're like, "Oh this would be "a cool thing to write." But I think the best work comes from when you are really grappling with something that you are personally, like a thing you've been thinking about. Something ethically or morally that you've been kind of debating in your own head or kind of debating about your own family or about your own place in the world. I think that's where the best work comes from, not just like, this would be a cool thing. So I think if it could speak to something that you're personally going through, not literally, but emotionally, I think that always make a better piece of work than this might be cool. And also just get the thing done. I think that so many people are just like, "I keep starting and I don't know." like just get it done and then you can go back and work on it. - [Aaron] Get to the end. - Get to the end and then keep working on it. Don't get yourself bogged down. I know people that have like a perfect 15 pages of something and never get anywhere else. - Coppola said to Lucas, or Lucas said to Coppola, that you have to go through a full pass and then go through, and that's the sculpture idea. It's like if you focus on the hand of David, you just get a beautiful perfect hand, then the rest of the body will be distorted. But you slowly dig away at the clay until the form emerges. - [Stephen] Jordan? - I would say with writing everybody, we all deal with writer's block, we all get in our own way. My sort of mantra was follow the fun. So that means, if I'm not having fun, I'm doing it wrong. If you get to a point where you hate what you're doing, it's up to you to figure out, how to have fun while doing it. - Really? - To look at it from a different angle. - Is writing fun? - It's very fun. - [Emily] It's super fun. - If it's going well and follow the fun should be on a t-shirt. - At a certain point in the middle of questioning what am I doing, no one's going to want to sit through this awful sequence. And that's when I would say, you know what put that down, let's go and I get to design a secret society. Like that's the most fun way I can spend my afternoon work on that and then eventually that gives me enough space to come back and deal with what the scene is. - That's good. - Thank you all. This is an excellent first draft. We're not going to do it all again. Thank you so much for taking part in - Great pleasure. - Close up With The Hollywood Reporter Writers. - Thanks very much. - Thank you. - Ready? - [Man] Okay, quiet on set. - And I look down the lens. - Let's do it. - Hi I'm Margot Robbie. - Bryan Cranston. - Robert Pattinson. - John Boyega. - I'm Sam Rockwell. - Willem Dafoe. - Emma Stone. - Allison Janney. - Guillermo del Toro and thank you for watching. - Thank you. - Thank you for watching. - Thanks for watching The Hollywood Reporter. - The Hollywood Reporter. - The Hollywood Reporter. - On YouTube. - On YouTube.

Selected filmography



  1. ^ "Pascal Thomas". 
  2. ^ "21st Moscow International Film Festival (1999)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-03-22. Retrieved 2013-03-24. 

External links

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