Question: How did you get into screenwriting?
Rubin: I’ve always done writing as part of everything that I’ve
done in the past, just various creative enterprises. I write songs and
do music and write essays and short plays and sketch comedy and all
these things and during my 20’s, I was living in Chicago and probably
pursuing everything creatively that I could think of all at once and
waiting for something to choose me.
I got a job right out of
graduate school working for a local television show in Chicago and so I
was doing writing for that, but I was also writing music and I was doing
a little bit of performing. I was writing plays and also performing on
stage and doing the music thing and playing coffee houses and blues
clubs and, ultimately, I was just waiting for something to choose me and
what happened was somebody suggested, “Well, why don’t you write a
screenplay for a movie?” and I thought, “I like movies,” and so I wrote
one and l looked at and said, “That was fun.” I didn’t like that
particular screenplay and didn’t do anything with it, but then I wrote
another one and sent it out and somebody bought it and all of a sudden I
was screenwriter and I thought, “That was easy. I’ll do this.” And
so, I just kept doing it and I haven’t had any reason to do anything
Question: What’s the hardest part about
writing a good screenplay?
Danny Rubin: Making it
good, that good part. Writing a screenplay is not so hard. That’s all
about knowing where the margins are. Writing a good screenplay is
I think it - part of it has to do with being
original, trying to do something that feels fresh when there have been
so many movies made and also particularly in Hollywood, a tendency to
try and remake the same movies over and over again. So, it’s writing a
movie that’s original that becomes really difficult and there's
something very formal about the enterprise of writing a screenplay. It
can’t be longer than two hours. So, the kind of story you tell,
whatever it is, it has to be as engaging and as exciting as possible
within that one and a half to two hour period and that forces certain
kind of conventions on you. Places where we really want to have them
gripped in the story by here or else they’re going to leave or change
the channel or walk out of the theater.
There's a certain kind of
efficiency built into screenwriting that’s very elegant, but that makes
it as hard to craft as a very finely crafted piece of sculpture,
furniture, something like that. And making it all come alive when you
just start putting together all the pieces of things that you visualize
that would wonderful. It all seems in your mind to be wonderful, but
then when you look at what you’ve created on the page it’s like a
Frankenstein’s monster. You’ve got a head, you’ve got the hands, you
got the feet, you’ve got the body. You’ve thought of everything and
when you look at it, it’s still just a bunch of dead meat lying there on
the table and you're trying to get a pulse to go through the thing.
What makes it real?
It’s complete artifice. It’s completely
made up. It’s all these things from your head and your desires and
dreams and it isn’t real yet and somehow, something has to spark off the
page that makes you to join the life that’s going on in this world that
you’ve created. And to make that smooth life feel real when the whole
thing is artifice. It all has agenda. It’s all people you’ve created
and worlds that don’t even exist. Making that feel real, that’s the
absolute impossible thing. Being original, making it feel real and
making it all fit. It’s the easiest thing in the world and it’s
Question: Do you consider
screenwriting an art form?
Screenwriting is an art form, but it’s also a craft. It’s both of those
things. It’s a commercial art and both of those things you need to be
good at. If you just know the craft and you don’t have any sense of the
art, that means you don’t have anything to say and you don’t have an
interesting way to say it.
If it’s all art and no craft, then
you’ve got these great ideas, but you aren’t able to articulate them in a
way that makes it all work out as a good blueprint for building a great
movie. So, I definitely think there's a great deal of artistry
involved. I’ve never seen a good screenplay that was nothing but craft.
Recorded on May 12, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman