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Danny Rubin is a screenwriter whose credits include "Hear No Evil," "S.F.W.," and the cult classic "Groundhog Day," for which he received the British Academy Award for Best Screenplay and[…]

The biggest mistake young screenwriters make is “over-reliance on dialogue” when, in fact, a screenplay is really about setting up the visual scene.

Question: What are common mistakes of novice screenwriters?

Dannyrn Rubin:
The biggest mistake is over-reliance on dialogue.  They rnremember their favorites lines and come into the enterprise thinking rnthat it’s about writing lines of dialog for the actors when, in fact, rnit’s really about the structure.  It’s about setting up the visual rnscene.  It’s about putting the scenes together in what order actually rntells the story and really taking advantage of the visual medium and thern dialog often comes after that.  It’s - the beginning writer will rely rnvery heavily on dialog to give you all the information you need.  So, rncharacters are constantly telling each other things.  “I think this, I rnintend that, I like that.” 

Where it’s much better to find a rnvisual way to get that idea across.  It’s more elegant and it’s more rnfilmic and it’s very, very obviously amateurish to an experienced writerrn to look at a screenplay that is all reliant on dialog.

Question:rn Does the development process tend to help or hurt a script?

Dannyrn Rubin:
  In my experience, I’ve spent a lot of time in development rnon various projects and I’ve seen screenplays get worse and I’ve seen rnthem get better and it’s the structure is the thing that usually has to rnchange and when you change the structure you wind up having to change rneverything else too because what would happen in a scene changes, so thern dialog changes.  Everything does. 

Sometimes it winds towards rnthe juicy center and the notes you're getting are helping it become the rnscreenplay it need to become.  But, there's some point where it becomes rnlike a hail Mary and it just has become very jumbled and messed up and rnmixed up themes and different peoples’ stories and you wind up with rneverybody looking at it.  It’s not just you anymore.  It’s you and a rnroom full of people and everybody has a different opinion and sometimes rnthey just say, “Well, try this,” because they just don’t know and then rnyou realize the project is gone.  It’s somehow gotten away from rneverybody.

And that’s not unusual and it’s not too hard for that rnto happen and it’s not really the fault of anybody.  I found that rndevelopment executives and producers are actually very smart and rnalthough there are have been many, many stupid and clueless and rndifficult and impossible notes I’ve gotten that I had to somehow solve, rnmore often the notes are quite good and make a lot of sense and have rnbeen helpful.

Question: What’s the worst advice you’vern ever been given as a screenwriter?

Danny Rubin:
I rndon’t know.  I don’t know that I can think of anything.  Quit?  Give up?rn
rnRecorded on May 12, 2010
rnInterviewed by Paul Hoffman