Question: What are common mistakes of novice screenwriters?
Rubin: The biggest mistake is over-reliance on dialogue. They
remember their favorites lines and come into the enterprise thinking
that it’s about writing lines of dialog for the actors when, in fact,
it’s really about the structure. It’s about setting up the visual
scene. It’s about putting the scenes together in what order actually
tells the story and really taking advantage of the visual medium and the
dialog often comes after that. It’s - the beginning writer will rely
very heavily on dialog to give you all the information you need. So,
characters are constantly telling each other things. “I think this, I
intend that, I like that.”
Where it’s much better to find a
visual way to get that idea across. It’s more elegant and it’s more
filmic and it’s very, very obviously amateurish to an experienced writer
to look at a screenplay that is all reliant on dialog.
Does the development process tend to help or hurt a script?
Rubin: In my experience, I’ve spent a lot of time in development
on various projects and I’ve seen screenplays get worse and I’ve seen
them get better and it’s the structure is the thing that usually has to
change and when you change the structure you wind up having to change
everything else too because what would happen in a scene changes, so the
dialog changes. Everything does.
Sometimes it winds towards
the juicy center and the notes you're getting are helping it become the
screenplay it need to become. But, there's some point where it becomes
like a hail Mary and it just has become very jumbled and messed up and
mixed up themes and different peoples’ stories and you wind up with
everybody looking at it. It’s not just you anymore. It’s you and a
room full of people and everybody has a different opinion and sometimes
they just say, “Well, try this,” because they just don’t know and then
you realize the project is gone. It’s somehow gotten away from
And that’s not unusual and it’s not too hard for that
to happen and it’s not really the fault of anybody. I found that
development executives and producers are actually very smart and
although there are have been many, many stupid and clueless and
difficult and impossible notes I’ve gotten that I had to somehow solve,
more often the notes are quite good and make a lot of sense and have
Question: What’s the worst advice you’ve
ever been given as a screenwriter?
Danny Rubin: I
don’t know. I don’t know that I can think of anything. Quit? Give up?
Recorded on May 12, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman