The Quotes Archive . . .
More Quotes on Craft


Order 'All my fiction -- short stories, novels or plays -- began as personal experiences. I wrote those works because something happened to me, because I met someone or read something that became an important experience for me. I am not always aware of the reasons why a particular experience remains in my memory with such vividness, nor why an experience gradually becomes a source of encouragement to invent or fantasize about.'

--Mario Vargas Llosa


The revised and expanded paperback and e-book editions including new Quotes on Craft.

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  An expanding archive of quotes on the craft by folks who've been there -- mostly playwrights and screenwriters with a few ringers . . .
  1. '. . . what drew me to theatre was precisely the opportunity it provided to join word and image, word and action, to force language to encounter the three dimensions of the theatrical space.'
    -- Beth Herst

  2. 'People's relationship to what they want from theatre is changing. People, including me, are still looking for the next STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. And people can't or won't write that anymore.'
    --Austin Pendelton

  3. 'If I find myself still writing large plays when productions will perhaps one day soon be all but impossible, why continue writing for the theatre? Love of theatre, obviously. . . . the reason I go on, is that every new play is the first time out. And because it is always the first time, it is always the next one that might prove to be the experience of a lifetime, the one which to miss would diminish me, the one everything before it was aiming at . . ..'
    -- Michael Weller

  4. 'In five days we had the [TV series] pilot pitched out. We had seven characters fleshed out. . . . This kind of thing takes a certain amount of good fortune, and lots of money. I wouldn't recommend the process to just anyone.'
    -- Diane English

  5. 'The dramaturge is the [playwright's] best friend. That doesn't mean you get to walk down the aisle.'
    -- Jack Viertel

  6. '. . . as far as the regime is concerned, well, the play is sheer terror for them. Because they feel, How dare -- how dare anybody lift his or her voice in criticism against us? We have the guns. Their level of paranoia and power-drunkenness is unbelievable.'
    -- Wole Soyinka

  7. 'One of the things about what . . . I do -- writing plays -- is that a poll is not taken before you say, Well, I'm going to write this because I think that you're going to like this and therefore you'll buy a ticket for this.'
    -- Wendy Wasserstein

  8. 'The first several scenes are about sexual addiction. They're not specifically political at all. . . . I didn't sit down and think, I am going to write something about the religious right. I started out by writing something about sexual addiction, and it evolved. . . . I don't look at a calendar and say, Oh! There's going to be an election in 1996. I think now, in 1993, I'll start writing a play that will be ready for it.'
    -- Christopher Durang

  9. '[Henry] James is much more complex than Jane Austen. That's why it's not so easy to adapt him. People expect a nice period piece, but that's not always the case. There's a deep human mystery in his work.'
    -- Agnieszka Holland

  10. 'There are times when the people you have nurtured come up with a play that is not necessarily their best work. But they feel very strongly that it should be seen, and you've nurtured it in the development process, and you become slightly blinded to it, because you believe in [this playwright]. Yet the public doesn't understand that some writer's trying something new and you want to support that. It's the downside of the development process.'
    -- Carole Rothman

  11. '[Using humor to explore serious issues] disarms people. It's a way in. It's gentle, but at the same time it's subversive, and I like that duality.'
    -- Lisa Loomer

  12. 'I now know that to do a worthwhile family history I must interpret the past without falling into either demonizing or unquestioning acceptance. . . . As a playwright, what I object to right now is any form of fundamentalism, whether it's nationalistic, religious or ethnic. . . . I think it is ridiculous -- and fundamentalist, by the way -- to say that I am not changed by the culture around me.'
    -- David Henry Hwang

  13. 'The most important playwright's gift is to hit your time and speak to your time.'
    -- David Hare

  14. 'On their own, each [character] is a victim of no importance. But when you bring them together, they become a dangerous weapon. Jeanne is the vowel and Sophie the consonant. Psychologists know this phenomenon well. Each individual is harmless, but together they create an explosive chemical reaction. It's like Bonnie and Clyde, like Thelma and Louise.'
    -- Claude Chabrol

  15. 'I think the biggest challenge [in writing for children] is, how am I going to write a play without a lot of "fucks" in it. . . . There's a kind of cliché language used in writing for kids -- it's a language no one really speaks, but it's accepted as how you communicate with children. So my biggest problem was, how do I write in the language I'm most comfortable with -- with moderation, because these are children -- without slipping into that kind of language cliché that uses pop culture.'
    -- José Rivera

  16. 'The plays I find most interesting are the plays I don't understand when I read them on the page.'
    -- Marcus Stern

  17. 'I was not interested in doing the plot of OEDIPUS in blackface. I did wonder, what would these people have been like if they hadn't been in that situation? . . . One could look at Oedipus, or at my character Augustus, as a cynical schemer who did everything because he was hungry for power. But that's just too easy. I'm more interested in how humans can embody conflicting goals and emotions.'
    -- Rita Dove

  18. 'It's interesting during these lean times that one of the jobs of playwrights and directors is figuring out how to do huge epic things, and then solving everyone's problem of: wait, I need both of these characters but we do not have the bodies because we cannot afford the bodies or we don't have the rehearsal space.'
    -- Alison Carey

  19. 'I always thought that playwriting was supposed to be a lonely process. That's why they invented alcohol -- liquid balm for poor shlubs like Sophocles . . .. Those, of course, were the good old days when . . . it was presumed that you knew what you were writing about. They respected your voice. For some reason, partly to do with money, partly to do with the influence of Hollywood, and partly from an arrogance inherent in the patronage system, playwriting has become more like screenwriting -- a group exercise.'
    -- Steven Leigh Morris

  20. 'At best, the relationship between drama critic and playwright is a pretty twiggy affair. When I'm asked whom I write for, after the obligatory, I write only for myself, I realize that I have an imaginary circle of peers -- writers and respected or savvy theatre folk, some dramatic writers and some not, some living, some long gone. . . . Often a writer is aware as he works that a certain critic is going to hate this one. . . . You don't let what a critic might say worry you or alter your work; it might even add a spark to the gleeful process of creation.'
    -- Lanford Wilson

  21. 'So here's the tough question. Is all this [development] activity making great plays and great playwrights? With notable exceptions, I submit to you that it is not. . . . Play development leaves playwrights at the mercy of directors, producers, actors and dramaturgs who are ill-prepared to do more than give subjective responses to the play -- and playwrights are ill-prepared to sift though this feedback.'
    -- Roberta Levitow

  22. 'I thought if I can do something more playful and light like my play BEYOND THERAPY, it might be a money maker. I think one of the reasons BEYOND THERAPY has legs -- it's been very successful for me around the country -- is because it's a friendly play, rather sunny.'
    -- Christopher Durang

  23. 'I'm back in fashion again for a while now. But I imagine that three or four years from now I'll be out again. And in another fifteen years I'll be back. If you try to write to stay in fashion, if you try to write to be the critics' darling, you become an employee.'
    -- Edward Albee

  24. 'And how deeply do I let business considerations affect [screenwriting] choices that might otherwise be more or less esthetic? . . . Do I choose the upbeat rather than the downer ending because I know it will score better at the preview? Can the idea be sold in a single sentence? Can it compete with space aliens and tornadoes and missions impossible?'
    -- Edward Zwick

  25. 'The fear of a work becoming dated is one of the most effective tools for keeping people from writing political work.'
    -- Tony Kushner

  26. 'I am not a historian. I happen to think that the content of my mother's life -- her myths, her superstitions, her prayers, the contents of her pantry, the smell of her kitchen, the song that escaped from her sometimes parched lips, her thoughtful repose and pregnant laughter -- are all worthy of art.'
    -- August Wilson

  27. 'I always believed that when you wed passion to craft, there was a certain alchemy. For me, that has only happened in playwriting.'
    -- Luis Alfaro

  28. 'I am very, very aware of my place in the continuum that goes back two thousand years. I'm very proud to be like one of the soldiers in the army that Aeschylus started. Some of the greatest learning experiences I ever had were simply reading classics, reading Brecht and Chekhov over and over.'
    -- José Rivera

  29. '. . . passion and commitment and humanity, those are the things that get you to write seventeen drafts of a play.'
    -- Edit Villarreal

  30. 'If this were a [Hollywood] studio film, I wouldn't have pushed my father into a table, I would have beat him up. My father wouldn't have kissed my girlfriend; he would have raped her.'
    -- Noah Wyle

  31. 'What was once a cottage industry dedicated to the discovery and development of new voices and works has become instead the raison d'etre for many a playwright's existence . . .. And since readings have become playwrights' main source of exposure, the nature of playwriting has changed to fit readings' needs. Investigation into what is eminently theatrical has been substituted -- more and more these days -- by what can simply come across and read well.'
    -- Caridad Svich

  32. 'I know there are writers who get up every morning and sit by their typewriter or word processor or pad of paper and wait to write. I don't function that way. I go through a long period of gestation before I'm even ready to write.'
    -- Wole Soyinka

  33. '[Nixon] reduced the meaning of his life to nothing but power. In the film, we gave this sad figure consciousness of what he was. We weren't right to do that -- I don't think he did have that consciousness. But we did it for movie reasons -- to create empathy.'
    -- Oliver Stone

  34. 'I'm mixed about Kazan. The argument is about two rights, which is much more interesting than a wrong and a right, because then you're just beating someone up.'
    -- Mark Kemble

  35. 'I thought if I was going to live a life in this land I was accidentally born on, I must people it; I must have a history. . .. I'm looking for these people inside me, wherever they may be; that is my form of research.'
    -- Sebastian Barry

  36. 'I'm a little compulsive and not too messy, so there may be 30 drafts before I'm through. . . . When I start writing, I have a quiet panic that I won't remember how. It's important to leave off knowing what I'm going to say the next day."'
    -- Susanna Moore

  37. 'Even some of us who make movies underestimate their influence abroad. American movies sell American culture. Foreigners want to see American movies. But that's also why so many foreign governments and groups object to them.'
    -- Irwin Winkler

  38. 'My writing isn't actually guided by issues. I know it seems that way, but I don't sit down and think, Oh, there's this issue I'm bothered about. I only write about things that directly impact my life. When I write, there's a pain that I have to reach, and a release I have to work toward for myself. So it's really a question of the particular emotional circumstance that I want to express, a character that appears, a moment in time, and then I write the play backwards.'
    -- Paula Vogel

  39. 'A lot of what they call highbrow, progressive, avant-garde theatre is boring the shit out of people. . . . People are not busting their ass to go and see this stuff and I keep thinking, if this stuff is so significant, why can't it touch ordinary people?'
    -- OyamO

  40. 'Character interests me more than narrative. I make the narrative up as I go, which is more fun anyway.'
    -- Mac Wellman

  41. '. . . when they say that [Hollywood] studios don't care about quality, that studios are stupid and couldn't tell a good-quality script from a bad-quality script, that's facile and not accurate. The focus of our efforts has got to be on the mainstream. The size of these companies, the amounts of money you spend to make and market a film, our agenda of distributing these films all over the world -- with the size of the staff we have -- puts the bulk of our attention on making movies that will be accessible to as many people as possible.'
    -- Joe Roth

  42. 'You have more and more people coming into the tent with the creative guys [on Hollywood films]. You have marketing and concept testers, advertising people. What you find gets the high numbers is easily appealing subjects: a baby, a big broad joke, a high concept. Everything is tested. The effect is to lessen the gamble, but in fact you destroy a writer's confidence and creativity once so many people are invited into the tent.'
    -- James L. Brooks

  43. 'I'd been reading Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year when the [1992 Los Angeles] riots broke out and I began to see them both -- L.A. and the London plague -- as the same event. A time of crisis. A time when rich and poor get thrown together -- and, suddenly one sees alternatives. I began to think about what happens when the containment of a presumed danger through the regimentation of space breaks down, such as when South-Central L.A. began to invade Beverly Hills.'
    -- Naomi Wallace

  44. 'Nobody goes into [Hollywood] to sell their soul. The truth is, people give it up for free.'
    -- Emma-Kate Croghan

  45. 'We're one of the last handmade art forms. There's no fast way to make plays. It takes just as long and is just as hard as it was a thousand years ago.'
    -- Steven Dietz

  46. 'I thought I would write something that would make some people uncomfortable. . . . What intrigued me, I think, was the idea of women of my own generation who were successful, intelligent, coming to power and suddenly in the public arena. I started to think about what they are allowed and what they are not allowed.'
    -- Wendy Wasserstein

  47. 'I was presenting an ideal of society that was completely lost to many people in today's audience. . . . Audience members who lived though that period were crying, while younger people had no idea that such a level of idealism existed -- the show was a history lesson for them. And yet there were plenty of laughs, for the humor of the show is based in story and character -- the intellectual, powerful man, the impulsive, intuitive woman, and the observer. It helps that all three are based on real people, but they're also classic types.'
    -- Linda Griffiths

  48. 'Traditional notions of what constitutes a solid screenplay involve setting up events, making them pay off later, measuring when to resolve what story line -- in other words, a large part of it is mathematics. Playwriting seems to me the very opposite of screenwriting: One keeps going at an idea, chipping away at its surface, not much concerned with how claustrophobic or confined something might be. One keeps looking for new approaches to the thing.'
    -- Jon Robin Baitz

  49. 'I believe it's the right time for dense poetic texts -- and for more and more texts that are not written as plays in the usual form. . . . My frustration with a lot of new writing is that it's so unambitious for the form of theatre. It may or may not be good writing; that's perhaps immaterial. But it's been written by people you feel are happy with the wrong, traditional, conventional theatre form -- or, indeed, disappointed by the theatre, a bit cross, and would rather be writing a movie than writing a play.'
    -- Deborah Warner

  50. '. . . I think the theatre is a place for community discourse on important matters -- ethical and moral matters. The play doesn't judge the scientists. It doesn't tell people what to think about making or dropping the bomb, or about World War II, but it does invite them to think. Ultimately, it isn't about science, or about the 1940s. It's about men, and competition, and hindsight. It says a lot about bonding. It says a lot about being so enmeshed in an exciting project that you don't think about its consequences.'
    -- Russell Vandenbroucke

  51. 'It is a political film, but not a political language film. Even if you don't care about politics, you can care about these people. I wanted to make a film about real people who are trapped by circumstances.'
    -- Bruno Barreto

  52. 'I want to seduce the audience. If they can go along for a ride they wouldn't ordinarily take, or don't even know they're taking, then they might see highly charged political issues in a new and unexpected way. . . . The theatre is now so afraid to face its social demons that we've given that responsibility over to film. But it will always be harder to deal with certain issues in the theatre. The live event -- being watched by people as we watch -- makes it seem all the more dangerous.'
    -- Paula Vogel

  53. 'I try to make films that move people when they are in the theatre and make them think only after they leave.'
    -- Claude Berri

  54. 'There's an insane desire [in Britain] to find new playwrights, but you need talent to show there is more to life than misery, pain, and degradation.'
    -- Dominic Dromgoole

  55. '. . . usually, the biggest problems of adapting plays into screenplays is that they stick too close to the play, and I think film is a completely different medium. I think a novel is much closer to a film . . ..'
    -- Arthur Miller

  56. 'We get a huge number of plays about collapsing society. Perhaps that's why people choose to write plays in [Britain]. Because they're opposed to the status quo. But the plays are not political as such. There's an ideological vacuum, indeed a disbelief in a larger society.'
    -- Jack Bradley

  57. 'In a painting called Moonlight [by Edvard Munch], a full moon illuminated a dark, almost barren landscape where a picket fence surrounded a lone cottage; the figure of a woman stood nearby. Although not visible in the painting, I sensed the closeness of the ocean and the icy dampness of the cold night air. But the woman, dressed in black and standing alone at the gate staring off in the distance, seemed not to feel the cold, as if numb to anything but the pain so clearly expressed on her weary face. Suddenly, I understood the cause of her grief . . .. I took this spark of a story and lifted her spirit from the painting, and I placed the woman I would come to know as Kathleen on a blank piece of paper.'
    -- Mary Hanes

  58. '. . . I heard the opening lines of the play in my head. The son, who has been HIV-positive for some time, says, I can't stay long. His pragmatic mother says, No, no, we know. Temporality and the acute knowledge of it. The entire play was in those two lines, and I wrote it in four days.'
    -- Tom Donaghy

  59. 'So the task of the translator . . . as I see it, is to hear the language of the original, not simply to see it on the page, and then to write a play in English that will produce, when staged, the same or analogous effect that the original may be said to have on [its intended] audience.'
    -- Paul Schmidt

  60. 'When baby ducks and geese are born, they imprint on the first thing that they see, and that becomes their mother. An audience is like that. They imprint on what you give them in the first few minutes of the play, and they will follow it. In those first moments you can do anything, because hope springs eternal. The lights come up and you've got them -- until you start to lose them. . . . With a play, you're trapped there; it's got to keep giving or people turn on you. They resent you.'
    -- Constance Congdon

  61. 'Whenever you think you're writing what other people want to hear from you, and that it'll be commercial, you're doomed to disaster. Writing has to be as truthful and specific as we can make it. The minute we think that we're reaching more people and pleasing them, we get general. And audiences sense that and turn away, shun us.'
    -- Terrence McNally

  62. 'All autobiography is fiction.'
    -- Sandra Tsing-Loh

  63. 'I wrote a draft of a play that was sort of like Pete Gurney's THE DINING ROOM, about the Standard Club. A different family appeared in each scene of the play, and this family from Ballyhoo was just one of them. Ultimately, I decided to focus on just one family.'
    -- Alfred Uhry

  64. 'All plays stem from personal experience. I was reading psychoanalytic lit for a couple of years, obsessively, in depth, and I got involved in analyzing everyone around me. . . . Eventually, all my friends' eyes began to glaze over when I started talking this way, and I got the hint that there might be something comical in it.'
    -- John Patrick Shanley

  65. 'The tools I handle are words. They may be unappreciated or misunderstood, but they tell us who we are.'
    -- Tina Howe

  66. 'I thought, This is fabulous. It sent shivers up my spine. I thought, What kinds of people are these that would produce this kind of music in a camp? All the prison camp stories I've seen, and heard of, were about the heroism of men. As I researched this and heard the music, I realized that women were heroic too, on just as grand a scale. And their treatment was just as appalling.'
    -- Bruce Beresford

  67. 'When I have an idea for a story, it's usually because I have met or heard of someone who interests me. I then work a bit like an academic, digging into the material, going back for more exploring. It takes a long time, but it interests me. I think I am above all a writer. And when I write, there is always the famous I who is the narrator, which is why I often finish up appearing in my films.'
    -- Danièle Dubroux

  68. '[The play is] a journey from Wilde's public into his private persona. I had two major objectives, to tell the story -- a story -- of Oscar Wild, and to understand how theatre can communicate history.'
    -- Moisés Kaufman

  69. 'Our volume of [commercial] production has fallen to nothing. In Broadway's heyday, you'd have 60 or 70 new productions each year, of which 12 to 15 would survive, and of those several would be pretty good and 2 would be brilliant. The failures gave birth to the successes, and out of it came some of the best, most exciting theatre in the world.'
    -- Robert Whitehead

  70. 'People have always turned to plays [for films] and will continue to turn to plays because Hollywood is a great gigantic maw looking everywhere for ideas and stories. And they are hard to come by. A play has, in a sense, already been tried out. You've already put that story up on a stage, seen how it works, seen how audiences have reacted. You can't do that with a new movie script. A play puts you a step ahead.'
    -- Thomas Rothman

  71. 'You can lose the play in the translation [to film]. They are two different mediums and very rarely can material succeed in both.'
    -- Frederick Zollo

  72. 'Move makers buy plays because it makes them feel smart. Acquiring a play that has been well received makes them feel incredibly worldly. But the irony is that plays are about words, and here in L.A., they like to make movies about lava flowing down Wilshire Boulevard. A play reveals itself through dialogue. It a movie, the dialogue is likely to be, O.K., shoot him.'
    -- Anonymous Hollywood Executive

  73. '. . . it is true that language and forward movement in the cinema are jolly hard to reconcile. It's a very, very, difficult thing to do. . . . There is still a place in the cinema for movies that are driven by the human face, and not by explosions and cars and guns and action sequences . . . there's such a thing as action and speed within thought rather than within a ceaseless milkshake of images.'
    -- David Hare

  74. 'There are a lot of plays that are just about how well you use the English language. [In others] the writing is spectacular, but it feeds into an emotional story. And I think that's the key to a successful transition from play to movie.'
    -- Jonathan Weisgal

  75. 'I love problems. That's why I like drama; telling a story is recounting a series of problems. That's probably why I love Paris, because of its conflicts. . . . I wanted to show Paris the way it really is, as one lives in it, not the cliché of lovers kissing by the river. The city, with its differences between the young and the old, has become much more multiracial. Modern life creates a kind of ghetto orientation where men stay with men, women with women, and races and ages don't mix easily. What's striking in Paris is that people don't really connect with each other, although there is a sense of community.'
    -- Cédrick Klapisch

  76. 'I know what it's like sitting on the other side. The most important thing I can tell you is that literary managers are not your enemies. It's just that we are inundated by scripts all the time.'
    -- Nathaniel Graham Nesmith

  77. 'I'm told that a few critics asked whether presenting my satire on the religious right in a theatre amounted to preaching to the converted. On the one hand that's a fair question . . .. On the other hand, I think it's a stupid question. If theatergoers may indeed be more liberal than, say, the people who voted again for Jesse Helms in North Carolina, what then is my option in order not to preach to the converted? Contact the Republican National Committee and say I have a play I want you to put on? Well, obviously that's not going to work. So is my option simply not to bring up topics that supposedly liberal theatergoers agree with?'
    -- Christopher Durang

  78. 'I feel that if an audience leaves a play and they don't know which side I'm on, then the point of the play did not come across. Which is not to say that I'm telling them that they have to agree with me, but they should definitely know where I'm coming from. . . . I would rather make sure that my plays have a clear point of view than worry about them not being dramaturgically sound. I don't want to feel that literary handcuffs are keeping me from saying what I really need to say.'
    -- Kia Corthron

  79. 'GOOD AS NEW was born out of the idea of writing a play where the stakes were high and the collisions were of a verbal nature. Also I wanted to write a play where people were smarter than I was, and more alive than I feel normally. I became interested in the idea of characters who would surprise me. I guess one could argue that nothing comes out of you that wasn't within you to begin with, but maybe there are ways to trick yourself into becoming more an observer or an advocate for the characters.'
    -- Peter Hedges

  80. '. . . I do think that deep down, a lot of my work is about people trying to make reasonable accommodations of situations that are insane or absurd. . . . At first I thought the events had power in themselves, that I would just present them. I really wasn't aware of the things that finally became central issues to me -- the shifting alliances, the way people hardly even know they've shifted. That part of [A QUESTION OF MERCY] is very familiar to me in terms of my other plays.'
    -- David Rabe

  81. 'All reviews should carry a Surgeon General's warning. The good ones turn your head, the bad ones break your heart.'
    -- David Ives

  82. 'I don't have an idea for a play until after I've finished writing it. I write first, and come up with what it's about later. My technique could be compared to having a large canvas and coming in every day and putting a dot on it somewhere, and after several years -- literally -- I begin to say, That reminds me of an elephant, so I think I'll make it one.'
    -- Wallace Shawn

  83. 'Essentially what we did was we took the relationship between the crime boss and his lieutenant, which we felt was the most interesting thing about the [Dashiell Hammett] novel, and sort of wrote a story around that. . . . I think if something is sort of out there in the culture, it's fair game for anyone who wants to use it in any way that they please . . ..'
    -- Joel Coen

  84. 'A good play is a good play. If you want to chalk up your rejection letters to the fact that you're a woman, that's your choice. But often you get a rejection letter because your play isn't ready. Or the time isn't ready for your play. And that has nothing to do with gender.'
    -- Jane Anderson

  85. '[I was] particularly eager to give voice to the women of my mother's place and generation, who grew up in turn-of-the-century, privileged New England households, who really never had a chance to flower and assess themselves and find out who they were. More than anything, I wanted to give voice to the sort of anger that women of that generation could never express for themselves.'
    -- Tina Howe

  86. 'In BENT, I use one of the great weapons that a playwright can use, which is intermission. The play radically changes between Act I and Act II, but you don't have that in film. It has to be all of one. . . . Most plays are claustrophobic, and that's why they are so hard to turn into film. Theatre is by its very nature not real. Whereas film gives the illusion of reality'
    -- Martin Sherman

  87. 'I just had an eye-opening experience in London -- it seems that there, directors don't think it's their job to throw a lot of rewriting notes at you. Here I think directors think they're not doing their job if they don't offer you major dramaturgy. Sometimes it's been helpful, but I've made changes that have hurt my soul and that I still regret, even if others might have deemed the change successful.'
    -- Neena Beber

  88. 'I do think the challenge, in a way for me, is to write a narrative film and when you finish watching it you feel like it's a collage. You tell the narrative, you tell the story, but you feel like you've created this tapestry. But it also has a shape, a story. So I think there's a middle ground I try to strike . . . away from where everyone else seems ready to go, which is, setup, payoff. You know, He's afraid of water, oh, and at the end he's swimming in water -- Oh, my God. I hate that stuff.'
    -- Shane Black

  89. 'I always start with a political impetus, and then the characters come to me next and then I slowly form the story.'
    -- Kia Corthron

  90. 'I love to play with language; make it do tricks, turn a word inside out to see if it's got a hidden meaning tucked away somewhere, or perhaps find that it's capable of an extra entendre or two. . . . Plotting is nothing I did, or do, naturally. It is the hardest part of the writing process. No matter how many times you plot a script successfully, the next one, representing new and uncharted territory, convinces you that you really don't know how to do it at all.'
    -- Larry Gelbart

  91. 'I don't believe in inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs. Some of the time you know you're cooking, and the rest of the time, you just do it.'
    -- Chuck Close

  92. 'The big difference is you can always fix a play, especially a comedy that's playing before an audience. You're trained to go home and rewrite. You figure out the texture of what's comedic in front of an audience. In films, you have no audience response. Screenwriting is very spare. In a play two people can sit down and say how unhappy they are, and they can talk for two hours with each one saying, I'm more unhappy than you, and the other saying, Yeah, but let me tell you about my mother. In a film, you literally have to move from scene to scene, you have to pare everything down. The emphasis is on telling the story, moving it forward. What I learned is that you can learn something about a character by going in on them with a camera.'
    -- Wendy Wasserstein

  93. 'It's not [autobiographical]. But it's a legitimate question because I play the leading role, and as Truffaut said, one always makes the same film about oneself. Truffaut is in his films, so I, too, am in my film. I really wanted to speak about heartbreak, because it always surprises me that one pays such a high price for love. I don't know why. Perhaps it's an old Catholic thing inside me, the idea that happiness has a price, that one gets nothing for nothing. I have had my heartbreaks. I have had younger lovers. But the age difference is not the point of the film.'
    -- Brigitte Roüan

  94. 'I felt, if I'm going to take on some of the most overdone material, which is men and women and affairs and betrayal of friends, I had better have a new take on it. I think my films come from a desperation not to be boring.'
    -- Neil LaBute

  95. 'I think of a plot, I think of an idea, and then I wonder, How can I get that onto the stage? . . . Whatever devices you use should always be there to serve the theme. If the theme has been overtaken by the device, then something's wrong.'
    -- Alan Ayckbourn

  96. 'Write plays that matter. Raise the stakes. Shout, yell, holler, but make yourself heard. It's time for playwrights to reclaim the theatre. We do that by speaking from the heart about the things that matter most to us. If a play isn't worth dying for, maybe it isn't worth writing.'
    -- Terrence McNally

  97. 'Producers are still willing to break their necks to put good material onstage, and we have playwrights who are afraid of nothing. But plays of this kind of substance are essentially going the way of the dodo bird [on Broadway], because the money is going to grand spectacles featuring special effects. So we turn to our nonprofit theatres for these kind of adventurous productions.'
    -- Alexander H. Cohen

  98. 'Producers [of film and theatre] are afraid of controversy whether from the left or the right. Everybody's scared and not even necessarily of offending groups -- they're afraid of offending one person.'
    -- Jonathan Reynolds

  99. 'As you write plays, you discover what you believe. And until you know what you believe, you can't write a play.'
    -- David Hare

  100. 'There is a trend in the whole [U.S.] culture toward making things shorter. People have been watching too much television, and they have a television mentality. I think people really are wary of sitting in a theatre too long. They're not used to it.'
    -- Rocco Landesman

  101. 'I believe you shouldn't force the audience's interpretation of a character or a story. The more you explain things, the less intriguing and imaginable they are for viewers. . . . Film to me, in its essence, in its ultimate nature, is silent. Music and dialogue are there to fill what is lacking in the image. But you should be able to tell the story with moving pictures alone. For my next project, though, I'd like to make the kind of film where the characters blabber all the time.'
    -- Takeshi Kitano

  102. 'Things were kind of lean. I was in that position where it's like, What do I really want to write, do I trust myself enough not to care about the marketplace or anyone's expectations and just reach further into myself than I've ever reached? I said what I wanted to say, and it made it to the screen intact, and luckily it was a hit.'
    -- Gerald DiPego

  103. 'I have always been pro-choice [on abortion], but my feelings became less matter-of-fact after I had children. That made me very nervous. Does that make me pro-life? The play is my internal argument made manifest.'
    -- Wendy McLeod

  104. 'If you've got time to waste, you might as well waste it listening to people.'
    -- Martin McDonagh

  105. 'The title's so upfront. It gives fair warning about the play's content. I'm writing about a kind of disenchantment, an anger, but quite a cool 90's anger, at a time when we're not very good at openly being angry. . . . I don't think I ever thought the title was titillating. I thought it was incredibly catchy. If the play is about the reduction in human relations down to a consumerist rationale, then thematically, the title is entirely linked into the thesis of the play.'
    -- Mark Ravenhill

  106. '[Action's] a Western thing. We think of the hero going into battle, rebelling against a government or an oppressor, but [in KUNDUN] action is nonaction or what appears to be nonaction. That's a hard concept for Western audiences. . . . We wanted to show a kind of moral action, a spiritual action, an emotional action. Some people will pick up on it; some won't.'
    -- Martin Scorsese

  107. 'I wanted to make a very spontaneous film. So I thought, if I follow the dress, at each stage I am free to make the choice of what new characters I invent. It was a way of not becoming a prisoner of the story. But I consider myself a realist because I don't show things that are impossible. I just have the curiosity to follow strange details.'
    -- Alex van Warmerdam

  108. 'The ideal time for writing a [television] script is four days, though sometimes it has to be two or three days depending on the deadline. If it's two days, sometimes there are things I see that don't work as well. If I have two weeks, the scripts get kind of flabby and lack the adrenaline that a sense of deadline fills you with.'
    -- David E. Kelley

  109. '[HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE] is a complicated, troubled love story. Basically, I wanted to respond to [Nabokov's] Lolita. I wanted to know if a woman writer, a theatre writer, could attempt a take on Lolita from Lolita's point of view.'
    -- Paula Vogel

  110. '. . . the cruel part is that, to let the play live, you have to surrender control and let your characters go. You have to let them stumble, fall into walls and be mute, let them drift and be lost. If you hold the reins too tight, they won't spring to life.'
    -- Tina Howe

  111. 'I don't write for a target audience. I write for myself more than for anyone else. . . . Psychological problems and journeys are what happen to interest me. The problems of the poor are not generally psychological. Obviously, the more affluent the person is, the more time they have to spend on their imagined unhappiness. It wouldn't be in my nature to write STREET SCENE. It isn't that poverty doesn't interest me. Poverty, politically speaking, certainly interests me, but that makes for a more didactic play than I'm prepared to write.'
    -- Nicky Silver

  112. 'Originally the structure was . . . a modern narrator who would appear intermittently and talk about his memories of his grandmother, which would then be juxtaposed against scenes from the past. But the stories from the past were always more interesting that the things in the present. I find this almost endemic to modern plays that veer between past and present. . . . So as we've gone on developing GOLDEN CHILD, the scenes from the past have become more dominant, and all that remains of the present are these two little bookends that frame the action.'
    -- David Henry Hwang

  113. 'An excess of development can undermine the most ephemeral but distinctive tool a writer possesses: authorial voice. A writer's voice is as individual and marked as a thumbprint, and is a playwright's truest imprimatur. It is as innate as breathing, and can be as unique as any genetic code. By its very singular nature, it is seldom born in the act of collaboration. True authorial voice always pre-dates the first rehearsal of a text. And it is -- and will always be -- an author's most distinguishing and valuable feature.'
    -- David Wright & 34 members of New Dramatists

  114. 'The play is a very simple idea really; someone needs some support and consolation, and she finds a place where she gets it.'
    -- Conor McPherson

  115. 'I don't know why I'm working off all these historical pieces -- I never thought of myself as an historian. People say you should write what you know, but I write what I don't know. If I knew about it, I wouldn't have to write it.'
    -- Charles Smith

  116. 'As a TV writer, you're faced with a constant sense that someone can switch the channel. You want people to say, Hey, this is good. These are interesting characters. And you want to hold their interest so they won't wander away.'
    -- Andy Wolk

  117. 'I don't know if playwrights are good storytellers any more. I think in the post-Beckett generation, we've sort of dissed stories -- and dissed plot. I don't think it's a sign of commercialism to create a good story.'
    -- José Rivera

  118. 'I had a plot connection that nobody understood for this fourth character, and decided, Oh, nobody gets it, that's all. I'll write another draft to make her make sense. It took me awhile to learn that these three people were the core of this play, which seems so obvious now.'
    -- Richard Greenberg

  119. 'I started out with this idea of someone going back in time. I woke up crying one night from a dream about my grandfather, who is dead, asking me to take him home, and I knew when he said home, he meant home, back to slavery, to that place where it all began for us in this country. . . . But the play began to form a few years after that, when I began to wrestle with the idea of trying to figure out what I would have been like and where I would have fit in the past. All of me. Not just my blackness, not just my irreverence, and not just my sexuality -- but all of me. What if I went back? I thought it might be funny, too, if someone with a 1990s sensibility went back in time and took that sensibility with them.'
    -- Robert O'Hara

  120. 'I respect the decision of many of my colleagues to avoid writing for pay in [film & TV], but I need to make a living, and am grateful I can do it this way. It is necessary to keep a balance, and when the balance is struck, I feel very lucky -- the TV stuff keeps my theatre writing more pure and honest, the theatre writing keeps the TV writing from sucking out my soul. Basically, the for-hire stuff is a job, and a job I usually like; the theatre stuff is life.'
    -- Neena Beber

  121. 'I survive as a playwright by focusing on the people who support and respect my work and the people who do work that I respect. And trying to put the rest of the wonderful world of theatre out of my mind so it doesn't turn my heart to stone.'
    -- Y York

  122. 'When do I say No? I say No when I feel that the intention of the play, or the spirit, or tone -- or text! -- is being knowingly changed. Fortunately, this has happened only once. Next time I would say No earlier, and definitively. Otherwise, ultimately, the only No you have is No, you can't open the play. And that No is very very hard to say.'
    -- Lisa Loomer

  123. 'Hell, I tried to sell out, but no one would buy. I lasted one year on television. I hated the process. I didn't control anything. I had to do all my thinking out loud in a room with others. It made be nervous.'
    -- Julie Jensen

  124. 'I do choose to write for a living -- in addition to writing plays. I no longer write sitcoms, and I no longer feel shame.'
    -- Lisa Loomer

  125. 'I wanted to finally write my chinky Oriental play, because they love that stuff in regional theatres. So, as a writing exercise, I started a story about the Peking Opera. But then my true nature took over, and I started critiquing the Orientalism in that kind of theatre -- and that's how this play became about art, commerce and politics.'
    -- Chay Yew

  126. '. . . I was told . . . that when I write I should always take the white gloves off. That piece of advice would never have been given to a man because a male writer wouldn't wait for that kind of permission. I was writing nice little plays, and after I got this sense of permission, that changed.'
    -- Wendy MacLeod

  127. 'People ask me when I decided to become a playwright, and I tell them I decide to do it every day. Most days it's very hard because I'm frightened -- not frightened of writing a bad play, although that happens often with me. I'm frightened of encountering the wilderness of my own spirit, which is always , no matter how many plays I write, a new and uncharted place. Every day when I sit down to write, I can't remember how it's done.'
    -- Suzan-Lori Parks

  128. 'I very much write from characters. Those people start speaking, and then I have them in the house with me and I live with them. Then at some point, it's time to get them out of the house. You can only live with someone like Dr. Georgeous Teitelbaum from THE SISTERS ROSENSWEIG for so long, and then it's time for her to go. But it is very like having the company of these people and trying to craft them in some way into a story.'
    -- Wendy Wasserstein

  129. 'I'm drawn to very large texts that are mammothly popular in different parts of the world but are almost unknown here [the USA]. They're safe bets; if they've been around for 2,000 years, there's a reason. It's often a title or just a phrase within the text that will compel me to adapt it.'
    -- Mary Zimmerman

  130. 'I, too, am deeply concerned with an overarching idea that dramaturgs are now authors . . .. I am not taking the position that all dramaturgs own copyright, deserve special billing credit, or should receive remuneration akin to that of the playwright. I know from my ears at the Dramatists Guild that almost everyone a writer encounters has suggestions of how to write and rewrite the play or musical to make it work.'
    -- Dana Singer

  131. 'I hope people understand what I'm talking about. But, seriously, I don't make the connections beforehand. The process is less intellectual. I have a feeling that comes up around an image, and with that feeling comes a series of conversations, and out of those conversations comes the play. It usually takes a couple of years for the work to complete itself.'
    -- Marlane Meyer

  132. 'There's something in the Zeitgeist now. A lot of [film] scripts I get have these very dark themes, a cornucopia of dysfunction. You know, Jane is a 13-year-old anorexic who lives with her parents and has been raped by her father. And this is a comedy.'
    -- Christine Vachon

  133. 'Within the film community [in 1998] there is an increasing pressure to become edgier and edgier, to sort of separate yourself from the pack and to shock. There may be a form of one-upmanship going on, you know, Let's find a new genre of human depravity.'
    -- John Sloss

  134. 'What makes screenplays difficult are the things that require the most discipline and care and are just not seen by most people. I'm talking about movement -- screenwriting is related to math and music, and if you zig here, you know you have to zag there. It's like the descriptions for a piece of music -- you go fast or slow or with feeling. It's the same.'
    -- Robert Towne

  135. 'THE DYING GAUL is a Hollywood satire. But Hollywood is not the real subject matter here. My play uses that world of high-rolling big money -- that crazy-making business -- to examine a whole range of subjects..'
    -- Craig Lucas

  136. 'The pressure we get is making the [TV] show racier, not less racy. There's a huge amount of impetus to make things edgy, to try to do something that hasn't been done before, not to avoid sensitive subjects.'
    -- Christopher Lloyd

  137. 'What I've concluded is that, like it or not, the development process has become a permanent fixture in this country [USA] and, while it runs the gamut from being extremely beneficial to totally disastrous, most of us simply have to learn to live with it.'
    -- Buzz McLaughlin

  138. 'I think the move toward developing plays . . . has developed bad habits in playwrights. They take a draft and say, Well, I don't know what to do, so I'm going to have a reading of it. No. If you don't know what to do, put it away and go to medical school or something. But when you're sure you're ready to get in front of a thousand people booing, then you're a playwright.'
    -- Michael Weller

  139. 'I've wanted to write a play about Chelsea, the 5,000-person town I live in. Recently, the big issue is whether we get a trailer park or whether we don't. Also, I'm helping a friend through a rough divorce, and it fed the play. I'd also read a lot of Lanford [Wilson], a lot of Sam Shepard, and a lot of David Mamet I really tried to understand what it is they do and do so well. They crank up the tension and make the audience sit in this room with these three characters who cannot leave until the drama is resolved. The tension gets tighter and tighter. I wanted to crank things up as high as I could before they snap.'
    -- Jeff Daniels

  140. '[TV executives] feel much more at ease with the guys and gals they went to school with. They also fee that the older you get you're less in tune with your wit and sexuality. You can't write love scenes. It's beyond your ken. [Television] is one of the few businesses where the more experience you have, the less useful you are.'
    -- George Kirgo

  141. 'I wrote for SANFORD AND SON and I wasn't black, I wrote for Shari Lewis and I wasn't a puppet. You don't have to be the age, sex, race of the thing you're writing about. You have to be a talented writer.'
    -- Saul Turteltaub

  142. 'I never get to . . . the index cards. I've never done that. I should, probably. I start with theme and character and, sometimes, ideas for scenes and dialogue, and I get a sense thematically of what I want to explore and accomplish. Basically I'm too immature to actually work it all out in my head before I start for some reason. So I actually start and just let the screenplay sort of guide me as to where it's going. Sometimes I hit walls, and then I go back and I start from the beginning, because I always find that wall has been built because something hasn't been seeded correctly, something hasn't been developed. . . . I also find that by approaching writing that way as opposed to [outlining], you come up with incredibly original work, because you're not using formulas and you're not mapping out plot lines that can't help but be sourced from a million movies you've seen.'
    -- Richard LaGravenese

  143. 'It was a roller-coaster process. For a long time I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn't writing with an outline. And, rare for me, I wrote scenes out of sequence. . . . I didn't understand the play when I wrote it. It was something I'd give in to. It happens to me periodically. I give over and write whatever comes to me and I don't know what it means and then I do. It's thrilling.'
    -- David Rabe

  144. 'I'm sensitive about the criticism [for not producing new playwrights], yes. But I'm hip to it as well. I read 500 new plays a year, and 99.99 percent of them are not good. I see no reason to do a new play just because it's new. It's like kissing your sister, a virtue, but so what? It seems to me more worthwhile to take a proven playwright and say, Write something for us.'
    -- Gregory Boyd

  145. 'My mother and aunt were both up in years when they decided to live together. They would bicker about every little thing -- it didn't matter what. Bicker, bicker, bicker. I would sit there and laugh at them. I thought to myself that I wanted to capture that love, to be able to share that love with others.'
    -- John Henry Redwood

  146. 'There's a sense of a jazz riff that I wanted all the way through. I didn't want to be hemmed in by chronology, and I didn't want the arc of the story to be a diorama. It's an emotionally driven structure, and I wanted to let it unfold the way a nice set does in a club. In a good jazz solo, you begin by stating the melody, and then you start to do riffs and go farther and farther out, or one guy in a combo will play a figure that will cause another guy to jump back to a solo of 30 years ago. But you always come back . . . and resolve and go out with the melody, and there may be a coda. There's definitely a coda, Clifford's monologue at the end of the play [SIDE MAN], after the emotional story is over.'
    -- Warren Light

  147. 'Work with good directors. Without them your play is doomed. At the time of my first play, I thought a good director was someone who liked my play. I was rudely awakened from that fantasy when he directed it as if he loathed it. . . . Work with good actors. A good actor hears the way you (and no one else) write. A good actor makes rewrites easy. A good actor tells you things about your play you didn't know.'
    -- Terrence McNally

  148. 'Lots of my friends and family belong to churches, and some of them are part of the so-called Christian Right. In this preacher, I wanted to show a good man struggling to reconcile his commitment to the community with the political agenda of his church. He does not see that as a dilemma, but I do.'
    -- Lanford Wilson

  149. 'I'm giving up acting. . . . I'm 66 and there are a number of celebrations I've got to get down on paper, and acting doesn't allow me to do that. It was a hell of a drug, performance. It's a great thrill, especially for a storyteller. But it can go. Directing can go. Writing can't go. And in terms of what lies ahead, I want to have a burning focus -- almost like smoke coming up from the paper as I write.'
    -- Athol Fugard

  150. 'Writers go through periods where they get into terrible trouble with themselves. And [my agent] never backs away from that -- never backs away from the awful, infectious loneliness and free-floating failure that just goes with the territory. When I retreat into a long, long period of quiet work without coming up for air and I isolate myself, it's sort of comforting to know that [he] checks in a lot, he doesn't forget. . . . I can't ask for anything on my own behalf. I can barely get coffee for myself without feeling incredibly guilty about it, and I don't think I'm alone in that. I don't want to learn the point system, nor do I particularly want to know how to handle some of the more rabid producers in the world -- I don't want to learn that skill. I want to muddle through a few plays and occasionally be sort of reasonably paid to try and write a movie, and [he] makes that life style choice not impossible to maintain.'
    -- John Robin Baitz

  151. 'Some can just knock it out and some have to lock themselves in a room and get to a fever pitch of self-loathing before they turn in a first draft. . . . each writer's process is screwed up in its own way.'
    -- Warren Leight

  152. 'Usually I decide on the title of a play about halfway through the writing process. Before that, I change titles almost every day and trust the right title will come.'
    -- John Murrell

  153. 'This is about the daily ins and outs of a marriage. I don't want to give away the ending, but they are trying either to make the marriage work or make the separation work. Our job is to make that interesting.'
    -- Rob Reiner

  154. 'When you get old enough in this [screenwriting] business, they figure you can fix all the mistakes made by the kids.'
    -- Marc Norman

  155. 'I went in right up front and said, This can't be about some guy in bandages. I didn't even want to do a horror movie. I took the concept and made a romantic adventure film. I like action heroes who don't take themselves too seriously. I wanted to make everyone take the mummy seriously, but it couldn't just be a guy in bandages. But the main thing was to build in surprises. That's one of the great things you can do with special effects.'
    -- Stephen Sommers

  156. 'People think I write fantasy, but I don't. Some things may be exaggerated or distorted, but they're realistic figures. . . . There's nothing incredible about it.'
    -- Joe Orton

  157. 'I thought if I wrote more quickly and worked harder, things would start happening for me. But I realized that my time was too precious. I wanted to make sure not only to do things, but to do them right. I finally said to myself: Sure, I can work on four plays simultaneously, because I have the time, But should I? I didn't want to end up like the Tasmanian Devil, whirling around and around in a frenzy of activity, generating huge clouds of dust, but ultimately nothing more.'
    -- Melanie Marnich

  158. '. . . you have to write your own stories. I'm such a big advocate of working with people, but at the same time I think it's important to write the story you want to write. In graduate school, you sometimes get more feedback than you can handle. My first play at school was a one-act, and during the production process it changed over and over again. About a month or so before the play opened, I suddenly realized that I had written a play based on everybody's feedback. The trick, I learned, is to take feedback and cull what is useful to you.'
    -- Kathryn O'Sullivan

  159. 'I work sometimes from outlines, which are immediately abandoned. Sometimes, when I'm trying to find the characters, I'll sketch things out a bit. Sometimes, outlines help me aim a little bit, but I tend to find it's usually much more interesting, especially with the first draft, to spew it onto the page. I used to get very nervous that, if I write this first rough draft and I die that night, whoever finds it might think that I thought it was good. For me, it's much more important to get some general shape onto the page and later take all the time I need to refine it, fix it, and rewrite it.'
    -- Paul Rudnick

  160. 'I see [SNAKEBIT] as a comedy. So much of suffering is hilarious when viewed at a distance.'
    -- David Marshall Grant

  161. 'I write in order to understand the images. Being what my agent . . . somewhat ruefully calls a language playwright, is problematic because in production, you have to make the language lift off the page. But a good actor can turn it into human speech. I err sometimes toward having such a compound of images that if an actor lands heavily on each one, you never pull through to a larger idea. That's a problem for the audience. But I come to playwriting from the visual world -- I used to be a painter. I also really love novels and that use of language. But it's tricky to ask that of the theatre.'
    -- Ellen McLaughlin

  162. 'I'm like a blue-collar writer. I just sit down every day and I write.'
    -- Philip Kan Gotanda

  163. ' Harvey [Weinstein] didn't want to release [MY SON THE FANATIC]; he held it for two years because he wanted a happy ending, although I don't know what that means. Does that mean the taxi driver leaves his wife or doesn't leave his wife? I think it has a happy ending.'
    -- Hanif Kureishi

  164. 'Actually, who hasn't been through the ghastly experience of sitting in front of a blank page, with its toothless mouth grinning at you: Go ahead, let's see you lay a finger on me? A blank page is actually a whitewashed wall with no door and no window. Beginning to tell a story is like making a pass at a total stranger in a restaurant.'
    -- Amos Oz

  165. 'The dream of a writer is to be surprised by his characters. All of a sudden, they are living their own lives; they are not prisoners anymore. . . . Tati taught me how to observe, how to sit in a cafe in Paris and to look at the passersby and to guess what their story is, even a little moment of their story . . ..'
    -- Jean-Claude Carrière

  166. '[VIA DOLOROSA]'s pushing Broadway as far as it can be pushed. I stand before you as a reporter, and you have to decide whether I'm an honest reporter or not. And if you're convinced that I am honest, then I think that you will listen to me in a way that you wouldn't have listened to a fiction where scenes are made. . . . I've thought quite long and hard about what I want to say in this play. And if it means that every single sentiment that I produce is put minutely under an ideological microscope, that's fine.'
    -- David Hare

  167. 'A play gets on Broadway by fluke. And you don't even start out with that ambition. When I do a play, the intention is just to put it up somewhere.'
    -- Richard Greenberg

  168. 'Broadway remains the closest thing we have to a national theatre, the place where the greatest number of people can potentially see new work. For an American playwright to say it doesn't matter is simply to capitulate to the current situation.'
    -- Tony Kushner

  169. '[Intercuting the past and the present] seemed to be a way to tell the story that kept the audience engaged, trying to reconcile how these women who, in Scene 1, talk about their boyfriends and are strangers, result in the woman in Scene 2, describing this beating. How did they get to that point? I wanted people to be able to make that connection throughout the play. When I'm in an audience, I really want to feel that I'm doing something, that I'm not just there to indulge the writer's need to impress me with the use of language or with one-liners that can make me laugh. I always appreciate it when the writer asks me to put things together myself, or to have an opinion about a character that may not be the writer's opinion.'
    -- Diana Son

  170. 'Talk isn't work. Work is when you have pages in the evening that you didn't have in the morning.'
    -- Frederic Raphael

  171. 'It's a movie, OK? I went to see GONE WITH THE WIND, but did I really believe there was a guy named Rhett Butler who said, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn"? No. Movies need heroes and villains, and real life doesn't usually have heroes and villains. Real life has a lot of shades of gray, and moves have black and white even when they're in color.'
    -- Don Hewitt

  172. 'I'm a difficult playwright to interpret for audiences and for actors. That's because the thing that comes first for me is the emotions, the feeling. Life to me is feeling. I try to tell a story, but I think that my kind of writing aspires to the condition of music.'
    -- Tom Murphy

  173. 'What is so American about American [film] comedies is that the underdog has to triumph at the end. What is quintessentially French about THE DINNER GAME is that Villeret's character has his revenge, but remains as annoying at the end as he was at the beginning.'
    -- Mark Urman

  174. '. . . the soap opera in a very real way is a morality play. In a soap opera, you reap what you sow and when you as a character do something wrong, you pay for that. The viewer knows that. And that is one of the attractions to the viewer. The only question is when and how, and I will admit it sometimes takes a long time.'
    -- Robert L. Wehling

  175. 'I am the same artist with the same nagging questions I had in my early 20's. What's real and what isn't? How do we tell what's real in our lives? How do we see things as they are? What is my role in life? If the Signature hadn't forced the issue by devoting its season to my plays, I could at least believe I had changed. Really, they're all the same! What is SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION but THE HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES with money?'
    -- John Guare

  176. 'Consider: for all the gobbledegook [film studio] executives spout about backstory, all that we, the audience, want to know is what happens next. That's the only thing that's going on. . . . Character is nothing other than action, and character-driven means The plot stinks, and you'd better hope the star is popular enough to open the movie in spite of it.'
    -- David Mamet

  177. 'Obviously VIA DOLOROSA is completely artificial. It is as highly wrought as any of my plays. But basically all the artifice is to disguise itself so you don't feel it's there. You're attempting to make the artifice like a pane of glass that simply leads you through to the subject -- not to decorate the bloody glass.'
    -- David Hare

  178. 'There's this sense of being strange, which is at the heart of every creative person. Every writer, every actor, every director knows who Ripley is. We've made careers and lives out of pretending, making things up, inhabiting other people's stories and lives. That's what I do every day. . . . The story is so audacious and subversive: a central character who behaves badly and isn't apparently caught. That intrigued me no end.'
    -- Anthony Minghella

  179. 'Real life has always let me down. That's why I do the monologues. I have always said I would rather tell a life than live a life. But I have to live a life in order to tell one.'
    -- Spalding Gray

  180. 'If one was fairly content, why in the name of God would one want to go through the discipline and scariness of sitting down to write 90,000 words? And one thing is the other. Writing makes you lonely because you have to exile yourself. But deeper than that is an inborn native loneliness, a spiritual voice that words, for some reason, help fill. I would say that every writer I have admired, like Faulkner, whom I love, and Joyce, or Emily Bronte, Sylvia Plath, Checkhov, Beckett, regardless of their particular daily history, has a loneliness and a depth of feeling that cannot be corresponded to, and that's why they write. . . . There is a hidden criminality in writing. While you're doing it, it is your secret.'
    -- Edna O'Brien

  181. 'What I find interesting is how close you can run the laughter along the seam of seriousness, and occasionally cross it, so that half the house genuinely doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. Custard pie humour is fairly universal, but at the other end, which I'm more interested in, there's the humour that hovers on the darkness, that walks in the shadow of something else, not always that obvious.'
    -- Alan Ayckbourn

  182. 'I am one of those writers who started on Broadway and who was immediately spirited away to Hollywood to become a very well-paid television comedy writer. . . . Despite the perils of the theatre, it is only in the theatre that the writer enjoys any kind of meaningful creative control. Producers can, of course, coerce the writer by threatening to pull the financial plug. In television, however, whoever pays the bills dictates every aspect of the show, including the cast, your script and who rewrites your script. The theatre is hard, mainly because you don't get your money up front; you make money only if the show does. Obviously, it's more attractive to get paid a ton of money whether or not your show is a hit. . . . As for being a playwright, I remind myself: nobody asked you to be a writer.'
    -- Ernest Chambers

  183. 'Writing a film -- more precisely, adapting a book into a film -- is basically a relentless series of compromises. The skill, the "art," is to make those compromises both artistically valid and essentially your own. . . . It has been said before but is worth reiterating: writing a novel is like swimming in the sea; writing a film is like swimming in the bath.'
    -- William Boyd

  184. 'There is no language in a screenplay. (For me, dialogue doesn't count as language.) What passes for language in a screenplay is rudimentary, like the directions for assembling a complicated children's toy. The only aesthetic is to be clear. Even the act of reading a screenplay is incomplete. A screenplay, as a piece of writing, is merely the scaffolding for a building someone else is going to build. The director is the builder. . . . In the case of adapting a novel for the screen, the screenwriter usually writes with this kind of foreknowledge. One already knows the ending; one moves the story toward it. This is the only aspect of screenwriting that resembles writing a novel for me. I know the ending before I begin . . ..'
    -- John Irving

  185. 'What I was looking for with Jeffrey was his psychology, what he is obsessive about, what drives the man, why he did what he did. You don't look for how this man is like everybody else; you look for how he's different. The film [THE INSIDER], as it relates to Jeffry, has one and only one motive -- to put you under the skin of Jeffrey, walking in his shows, through a dramatized battlefield and minefield of the heart. We don't pretend to be, nor do we want to be, the complete historical record.'
    -- Michael Mann

  186. 'Humour is about context. If you're reading DORA, you wouldn't think Freud's first line, Good evening gentlemen, is particularly funny. When you're in the audience, and you've watched Freud come on, shuffle his notes, not at several people in the audience, look very carefully at the others, glare at a woman in the front row, and then start his lecture, Good evening gentlemen, the context makes people (usually women) laugh. Humour in a black comedy or a satire is also about directing people's attention. By the third word, as well as making the audience laugh, it's also established Freud as an unreliable narrator.'
    -- Kim Morrissey

  187. 'Most of my plays are mysteries or have a mystery element in them. AGNES OF GOD certainly did. I wanted to write a play that people would talk about afterward. . . . BOYS IN WINTER is structured very much as a kind of "why-done-it." With SLEIGHT OF HAND, I wanted to attack the thriller form head on. I think it's absolutely the most challenging form to write for the theatre.'
    -- John Pielmeier

  188. 'But I don't really write to honor the past. I write to investigate, to try to figure out what happened and why it happened, knowing I'll never really know. I think all the writers that I admire have this same desire, the desire to bring order out of chaos.'
    -- Horton Foote

  189. 'Whatever you do, when you're sitting on that platform facing the audience [after a staged reading], resist the impulse to defend your work. Resist the impulse to answer back to someone who bruises your feelings or insults your baby. You probably don't know who that person is. He could be the artistic director's boyfriend. She could be a member of the board and might have something to say about the budget for next season. Theatre is by definition a social phenomenon, and given the way so many of us are connected, it generally is a good idea not to make unnecessary enemies. . . If you do attempt to counter a criticism, I promise you that the person making the comment will repeat and rephrase it with more heat and passion, then others in the audience may join in, and a hailstorm will commence. In my experience, your best option is to respond with, Hmm, that's interesting. I'll think about that.'
    -- Jeffrey Sweet

  190. 'Regarding pushing the form, ideas interest me more than form. I think you can write a very subversive play in a three-act structure. The content makes the play. I feel the form is simply dressing, because ultimately, you want to communicate to the audience, and sometimes the best way to do that is to present a provocative idea in a format that is comfortable for them to receive. Then the idea will come through directly, right in solar plexus. After all, I want to make a living as an artist, and that means speaking to the audience in a form they can understand.'
    -- Caridad Svich

  191. '[My screenplays] are not dark. Dark is a code word in Hollywood for uncommercial. I've always been interested in people, perfectly intelligent people, who seem to have some sort of grasp on life but go around acting in a self-defeating way because they are expressing some neurosis -- either sexual or spiritual. The guy who saves a President's plane from terrorists isn't terribly interesting to an artist. . . . The goal of any artist -- somebody else said this, but I'll take credit for it -- is to attempt to sell out but fail. By that yardstick, I've done pretty well. Though at some point the product becomes unworth your time and effort. [Martin] Scorcese and I went through this with BRINGING OUT THE DEAD. At the last minute, we received notes from the producer trying to simplify the main character's struggle to more of a problem-solution situation. But life tends to give us dilemmas, which are never really solved. Marty and I wrote the producer back, saying that, true or not, you see character as an instrument of elucidation, whereas we see character as an instrument of mystery.'
    -- Paul Schrader

  192. 'I had seen that wedding films did very well at the box office; look at FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL and MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING. I saw that films about middle-class African-Americans, like SOUL FOOD and WAITING TO EXHALE, could be profitable. A wedding film about African-Americans was, I thought, overdue. I was just tired of not seeing people I could relate to on the big screen. In too many movies the black characters are marginalized and stereotypical: the black friend who imparts wisdom to his white co-star, the black prostitute, the thug, the side-kick. They tend to be one-dimentional. I wanted to go beyond that. I was just trying to tell a story [in THE BEST MAN] that was close to my own experience, about people who have been to college, people who are pursuing careers and getting on with their lives.'
    -- Malcolm D. Lee

  193. 'If a playwright cannot handle negative criticism he or she ought to get out of the game. After all, once people pay money to see the work, they have every right to say anything they feel about it. I have never worried about whether I would be criticized or not. . . . Critics I listen to from time to time, but not nearly as much as I listen to the audience. I am in the back of the theatre listening to people shift in their seats, move their feet, talk, cough, get up and go to the bathroom. Those are the signs that tell you the play is not holding their attention.'
    -- Charles Fuller

  194. 'It wasn't a question [with WIT] of navigating upstream and starting up this branch, then coming back down and starting up that branch. The play was always clear in my mind. The play that's on now is the play that was in my mind. It just had more parts to it. The first reading around the dining room table was completely recognizable. There was not a change in tone or anything. It was just too long. Even when it was first in my mind, there wasn't a start in this direction, then a start in that direction. It was straight through all the way. I was writing a play about a person who's being treated for advanced cancer and who's a professor of John Donne. A synopsis I would have given on the first day would have been accurate.'
    -- Margaret Edson

  195. 'Even in the things that look most frivolous there has to be the threat of something quite painful to make the comedy work. I suppose the play of mine that's best know is NOISES OFF, which everyone thinks is a simple farce about actors making fools of themselves. But I think it makes people laugh because everyone is terrified inside themselves of having some kind of breakdown, of being unable to go on. When people laugh at that play, they're laughing at a surrogate version of the disaster which might occur to them.'
    -- Michael Frayn

  196. 'You have to keep in mind what you want from the film pitch [for a film concept]. What you really want in a pitch is to set up the next meeting. It's always about the next step. And you've done that. You've hooked me. I want to know what happens next.'
    -- Marcus Hu

  197. 'I don't expect to find anybody here [at the International Film Financing Conference]. That would be a miracle. But it's so hard to get somewhere in this business that what I try to do is explain to people the dos and the don'ts. Just being a good filmmaker does not mean you know how to sell your idea. But to succeed, that's exactly what you're going to have to do, over and over.'
    -- Joe Pichirallo

  198. 'There's a lot of hyperventilation that takes off before the [Sundance Film] Festival, a lot of buzz. Every year we hear, this is going to be the new this, this is going to be the new that, and it never is. The buzz just doesn't mean anything. I'm glad it doesn't. Because I think the festival shows that what succeeds is content.'
    -- Robert Redford

  199. 'I had a phone call from an agent who was trying to steal me from my agent and he said, What do you want? If I can give you what you want, what do you want? I said, I want to write stories and see them come to life on stage and on screen. He said, No, really, what do you want? I mean, it is unbelievable to some that one would want to be a writer. The idea that anyone would be content with writing screenplays or content with just writing plays, it's unthinkable to people because we are so geared to things in a certain mindset. The director is the daddy. The writer is the crazy uncle or something. I'm very content to be the crazy uncle. . . . Why I write plays is, aside from my absolute passion for theater, and passion for the forum, and passion for being -- Creating entertainment for a live audience is the nobility of it. There is something very noble about writing plays.'
    -- Douglas Carter Beane

  200. 'Plays are literature: the word, the idea. Film is much more like the form in which we dream -- in action and images (Television is furniture). I think a great play can only be a play. It fits the stage better than it fits the screen. Some stories insist on being film, can't be contained on stage. In the end, all writing serves to answer the same question: Why are we alive? And the form the question takes -- play, film, novel -- is dictated, I suppose, by whether its story is driven by character or place.'
    -- Israel Horovitz

  201. 'There's very little in the substance of [THE LADY IN THE VAN] which is not fact though some adjustments have had to be made. Over the years Miss Shepherd was visited by a succession of social workers so the character in the play is a composite figure. . . . A composite too are the neighbours, Pauline and Rufus, though I have made Rufus a publisher in remembrance of my neighbour, the late Colin Haycraft, the proprietor of Duckworth's.'
    -- Alan Bennett

  202. 'One [of the two ideas for PROOF] was to write about two sisters who are quarreling over the legacy of something left behind by their father. The other was about someone who knew that her parent had had problems of mental illness [and that] she might be going through the same thing.'
    -- David Auburn

  203. 'The central event in [COPENHAGEN] is a real one. Heisenberg did go to Copenhagen in 1941, and there was a meeting with Bohr, in the teeth of all the dangers and difficulties encountered by my characters. He almost certainly went to dinner at the Bohrs' house, and the two men almost certainly went for a walk to escape from any possible microphones, though there is some dispute about even these simple matters. Worse disputes have surrounded the question of what they actually said to each other, and where's there's ambiguity in the play about what happened, it's because there is in the recollection of he participants. Much more sustained speculation still has been devoted to the question of what Heisenberg was hoping to achieve by the meeting. All the alternative and coexisting explications offered in the play, except perhaps the final one, have been aired at various times, in one form or another.'
    -- Michael Frayn

  204. 'Some people think I am an issue-oriented writer, but I've never said to myself, I'm gong to write about such-and-such an issue -- that would make for incredibly boring writing, at least to my taste. Creating someone I don't know and her made-up world shows us more about who we are -- is actually a better mirror -- than if I were to parade in front of you an instantly recognizable person in an instantly recognizable situation. I'm not saying, Let's make it all abstract and weird and difficult and thereby you will know more about yourself. My process is much more organic than that.'
    -- Suzan Lori-Parks

  205. 'I think the hardest thing for playwrights who want to write for television to accept is that they must relinquish that sense of authorship we pride ourselves on when writing for the stage -- but it's necessary for the form. I truly believe no one person can write twenty-four genuinely funny one-act plays one after another in the time we have. For the kind of plays we need -- where you laugh out loud twice a minute for twenty-two minutes -- you have to get in a room with other writers. . . . The most frustrating thing for me is that every script has to be exactly the same length: twenty-one minutes and forty seconds, which is down from twenty-two minutes and nine seconds last season. That doesn't seem like much, but let me tell you, I can think of something in just about every episode [of NBC's FRASIER] -- some wry aside, maybe -- that gets lost to a commercial because of that thirty seconds less!'
    -- Joe Keenan

  206. 'My work for the RSC has been very large in scope. Not many people write in a larger scale. It's economic suicide. TWO SHAKESPEAREAN ACTORS has been done at the Royal Shakespeare Company, on Broadway at Lincoln Center, at the National Theatre of the Czech Republic, and at a boy's school in Scotland. That is the extent of the productions -- period. Many people love the play, but not many can do it. As all of us in the Dramatists Guild know, you make your money from the royalties of future productions and not from the first production. However, with a big play, a first production is usually all you're ever going to get. Writing on a large scale is a very dangerous thing to do, but it's one that I've enjoyed doing and need to do.'
    -- Richard Nelson

  207. 'I usually base my characters on composites of people I know. One trumpet player in SIDE MAN is really a mix of four different guys I knew growing up. Patsy , the waitress, is a mix of about three different people. I like doing it that way. I start with the characters, as opposed to plot, location, or some visual element. I write more by ear than by eye. I always work on the different sound of each character, trying to make sure each has a specific voice and speech pattern, which some writers could care less about.'
    -- Warren Leight

  208. 'All my plays are accidents. I never sit down to write a play about anything specific. I never construct it ahead of time. Sometimes, I sit down to write, and something comes up through the writing. Sometimes, I write a monologue, and it opens a world to me. I've had plays come from imagery in my dreams. I've had plays come because I saw something in an art exhibit. One play came from my work experience making boat deliveries from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale. . . . TV and film work is pure craft. It's like building a table. No matter how well you build it, how well you carve the legs, it will always be a table. Because i have to outline my TV and film work, because I ahve to write scripts to the page count, I tend to be less structured in my playwriting. I simply let myself go where I go.'
    -- Sally Nemeth

  209. 'Yes, the first draft is the key. That's why I put so much energy, focus, and attention on the first draft, because I respect that first go at the story. If I don't have the key in that first draft, I invariably won't get it in subsequent drafts, though I can craft around it.'
    -- Caridad Svich

  210. 'When I ran the New Harmony Project, I read a lot of new scripts and proposals. Sometimes the subject was compelling and intrigued me, but it was usually the point of view that most interested me. It's exciting for me to read something where the voice of the writer is present, as clear as can be. I may not like that particular play, may not like the content, may not like many things about it, but when there's an individual and creative voice present, it's always exciting. So, it's a question of voice, as raw or as unshaped as it may be.'
    -- James Houghton

  211. 'First, if you're serious, decide which network's movies you find interesting, which ones you feel a visceral connection to. Then really watch them, see what kinds of subjects they deal with, see the patterns in them, and learn to adapt your ideas to what they do. . . . Commercial television has very definite requirements that vary from network to network. A movie at CBS, for example, has to have a seven-act structure, while at NBC it's eight acts. Where NBC wants to be in the story by the end of he first act is different from where CBS wants to be. At NBC, a scene that goes more than one, maybe two, pages makes people nervous, whereas at CBS, they're more leisurely -- sometimes you can get by with a scene that's three and a half pages long!'
    -- Larry Strichman

  212. 'I guess I'm just arrogant enough to imagine what it's like to be in different people's heads. I mean, yeah, I do research -- everyone does that -- but it really comes down to liking the characters and sympathizing with them. Not turning them into caricatures. Really putting them across. As a writer, the minute you start questioning your ability to do that... Well, you might as well pack it in.'
    -- Jason Sherman

  213. 'The culturally specific, in particular, the American porch play that American writers have cherished and loved for many years in terms of their new writing, has seemed to have very little relevance to a much more fast-flowing, abstract, experimental drama that has been emerging in [the UK]. The porch play, not to mention that thing of, Oops, I wasn't loved enough by my father, somehow didn't have the relevance in this country.'
    -- Stephen Daldry

  214. 'I'm a man of the left. In the 1950's and 60's, I did pamphlet-style, schematic, speaking-to-the-converted, black-and-white theatre. Then I realized that things are more complex and indirect, and art has its own language.'
    -- José Sanchis Sinesterra

  215. 'I didn't consciously think through how to tell such a story [AN ALMOST HOLY PICTURE]. When I'm writing, I think where, emotionally, does this need to go next? What would take us further through someone's journey? In this play, it felt like a straight, linear narrative wouldn't make sense because of Samuel's having to go back and piece through these events again. The first section is straightforward storytelling. It settles you in. Then I wanted to do something that would blast that apart -- something more fragmented, jarring, visual and theatrical. I wanted to create a visceral experience of what it was like to be in Samuel's head.'
    -- Heather McDonald

  216. 'You have to protect your writing time. The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.'
    -- William Goldman

  217. 'I saw a book called "How to Survive Your Ph.D. Dissertation" in the library, and one of the things it suggested was playwriting. They shouldn't have books like that in the library.'
    -- John Henry Redwood

  218. 'The point of departure was the family story. I wanted to explore the links that necessarily exist between intimate affairs and politics. Private life is never really private. Everything we experience has to take the social environment into account. In the family there is a natural hierarchy between the father and the son. The idea of the film was to look at the workplace, and see how that hierarchy could be reversed.'
    -- Laurent Cantet

  219. '. . . while there may be no harm in being treated like a screenwriter if you're paid like a screenwriter, it's certainly dangerous to be treated like a screenwriter if you're paid like a playwright.'
    -- Ralph Sevush

  220. 'The usual wages of screenwriting in Hollywood are money and oblivion . . ..'
    -- Aljean Harmetz

  221. 'We were interviewing an author, and we started talking about how so many of them -- Salinger, Shaw, Fitzgerald -- were really an odd bunch. They put a barrier around themselves, and not many people got through it. This was the spark that I really latched onto -- someone who could break through the barrier. Of course [FINDING FORRESTER] really began to take shape when I began to wonder, what if it was a young person?'
    -- Mike Rich

  222. 'There is a big difference between a play and a movie, and everybody needs to respect that and be aware of that. . . . The idea is not so much what the production looks like onstage but what we believe the potential is in a whole different medium, which is a movie. They are completely different. A play is a play, whether it has film potential or not. A book is a book. However, a screenplay is just 120 pieces of paper. Respect that what you've written may be simply a great play. It may not be a film.'
    -- Anne Carey

  223. 'I've come to view screenwriting assignments as playwriting grants, because they provide a considerable financial cushion. However, they can also be extremely time-consuming. Film projects tend to drag on and on, which takes me away from the theatre, and then they don't get made. At the same time, the screenplays that have come my way have been quite challenging, for the most part, and even enjoyable.'
    -- Donald Margulies

  224. 'I never had an original idea in Hollywood. Well, I did, but no one ever liked them. . . . To make myself feel better, I repeated my mantra over and over, The check is good. The check is good. It's the mantra of all L.A. screenwriters -- once they find out that after years of hard pitching, writing, rewriting, and silly story meetings, there is no movie, no audience, no satisfaction -- or that there is a movie but it has little in common with the script they wrote. Screenwriters write for money; playwrights, as Zoe Caldwell says, write to get well. If you are one of those thousands of screenwriters who would like to get well, perhaps it's time to write a play.'
    -- William Missouri Downs

  225. 'I saw a TV news report on a book about neurological disorders. The author talked about this kind of amnesia where, when you go to sleep, you forget everything you've remembered during the day, and when you wake up you're a blank slate. I thought of the first scene and then the very last one. Otherwise, [FUDDY MEERS] unfolded itself to me as it unfolds to Claire -- as a series of surprises. I tried not to know where I was going with it. When the masked man stepped from under the bed, I didn't know who he was or what he was doing there. Later on I had to go back through the script and tinker with it like a Rube Goldberg contraption'
    -- David Lindsay-Abaire

  226. 'Yes, I am one of those people who feels that most of my work is adaptation of one sort or another. For me, it's a way to jump-start the engine. For example, some people use the technique of basing a character on a friend. They start writing with his or her voice, then at a certain point, the character takes off on his or her own. It probably no longer resembles the model, but it helped the author to get going. I find that's true of form, too. For every play I've written, I know what play I was trying to imitate. That helps me get going.'
    -- David Henry Hwang

  227. ' . . . I was curious to see how close you could stick to real life without enhancing it or condensing it and still have it be viable as a piece of theatre. And I think you can go pretty far, and it's sort of fun to play around with, although it's a painful subject matter. . . . I really wanted to stick as close to the truth as I could. Because that's kind of what [THE WAVERLY GALLERY] is about, that the main character is trying to make some sense of the nightmare that happened to his grandmother for which there's no comfortable answer, and he's just trying to get it down right as he tells it to the audience, at least try to do that. And in a way the whole play is about: what do people do in the face of something they can't do anything about?'
    -- Kenneth Lonergan

  228. '[In development programs] there are too many chefs in the mix way too soon. I'm trying to take the emphasis away from fixing and doctoring plays and to encourage writers to listen to the impulse that's inside them and to honor that impulse. Across the country plays are being developed to death. I'm encouraging a notion of play evolution versus play development. I want to let a play find itself and to let a writer find himself within a play. . . . You have to decide at what point you're willing to please people in order to get your play on and at what point you don't care if they do it or not.'
    -- James Houghton

  229. 'I don't write agit-prop because I think the point gets across much stronger if the audience feels something rather than being told something intellectually. But every play of mine starts from a socio-political issue. Police brutality was my original impetus to write [FORCE CONTINUUM]. While I was writing, I felt first of all that it would be very easy to write a play about white cops beating up a black man, which we know happens. I decided to complicate it by focusing on a black cop and those contradictions. But also I really wanted to find solutions. I didn't want to say: This is a problem. We all know that. I wanted to see if there's a way to bridge the sense of black people not trusting the police, police not trusting blacks -- if there's a way to go beyond that.'
    -- Kia Corthron

  230. '. . . I have written a couple of screenplays for studios, and each time has been less gratifying than the last. In my experience, they want no real representations of homosexuality, they want no complexity, they are terrified of ambiguity and unanswered questions -- they don't know what they want, except that they want to make lots of money. The only freedom I've ever had as an artist has been in the theatre . . ..'
    -- Craig Lucas

  231. 'So I went to this wax person and I just found it hilarious to lie on this slab getting my hair torn out by the roots -- and paying for it! The woman who did it happened to be Russian, and we had this amazing conversation about Chekhov and Tolstoy while she was pulling. I thought, I've got to put this in a play. . . . Human relationships are so difficult and mysterious to me. I called this play THE WAX because it's about stripping away. It's about the ridiculous pain and hilarity of modern life. And the woman who waxes, who represents another world and another culture and another century, is meant -- in a humorous but serious way -- to bring a certain perspective on this little hothouse.'
    -- Kathleen Tolan

  232. 'One simple rule of preparation I've learned the hard way: if you have so much as one rehearsal before the reading, use a director to guide the rehearsal. Don't do it yourself. Be the writer. Be the expert on the story. Be the one to answer all those questions that come flying from the actors. Be the voice of authority on the dramatic intent of a scene. . . . You'll have enough on your mind as it is without worrying about the performance of your material.'
    -- Gary Garrison

  233. 'I have been approached now and again about sitcoms, but, with very few exceptions, one simply needs to move to L.A. for at least a year or two these days if one wants to develop a series -- which is what writing a pilot means. I've also been approached about writing episodes for sitcoms, but in order to do that one actually has to watch sitcoms. . . . Life's too short for television, and I don't what it on my actual gravestone, HE STARED AT A BOX FOR 10,000 HOURS.'
    -- David Ives

  234. 'I've begun to believe more and more that movies are all about transitions, that the key to making good movies is to pay attention to the transition between scenes. And not just how you get from one scene to the next, but where you leave a scene and where you come into a new scene. Those are some of the most important decisions that you make. It can be the difference between a movie that works and a movie that doesn't.'
    -- Steven Soderbergh

  235. 'So, right from the beginning, before I knew what the story [of Y2K] was, I knew that I wanted to see what it was like to take a couple who were no better or worse than anyone -- they weren't perfect. But I knew that there was nothing in their past for which they should be brought down, no drunken evening when they hit somebody in their car, nothing that the Gods could strike them down for. They were just going through their lives . . .. They would be brought down very, very swiftly before they had even the ability to recognize what was happening to them. And it was the swiftness and the sureness of it with which they would just be undone. One of the main images that I used, that helped organize it was the memory of being in an earthquake in Mexico. . . . That was astonishing. Because what was solid was not solid.'
    -- Arthur Kopit

  236. 'Although knowledge of structure is helpful, real creativity comes from leaps of faith in which you jump to something illogical. But those leaps form the memorable moments in movies and plays.'
    -- Francis Ford Coppola

  237. '. . . the movie business flattens everything in its wake like an ancient dead tree falling from an immense height into a particularly soft spot of moist, dumb green grass. . . . I suppose the only things that have ever seemed to hold my interest in life are the stories we tell one another, the things overheard and unsaid, the choices people make, their desires and fears and dreams. But it's very difficult to pursue that interest in the movies of today, perhaps to pursue that interest in the America of today. Because in the America of today, the sole arbiter of nearly every kind of art (or even entertainment) is not what it provides but only what it makes.'
    -- John Malkovich

  238. 'All these teachers and [screenwriting] books mean you see movies that have been worked over by more committees wielding more rules, that all originality and authorship is lost. That's why you're seeing superstars like Brad Pitt in THE FIGHT CLUB and Tom Cruise in MAGNOLIA. They're desperately searching for people writing and directing off-formula movies.'
    -- Paul Schrader

  239. '. . . I had the structure of [PROOF] from the beginning. I knew what was going to happen in each scene. . . . in the first draft, the father had a monologue at the beginning of the second act in which he gave a little math history lesson. I know that was the right place, structurally, for him to talk a little bit. It was the right moment for a longer speech from him, but that was not the speech. It was generic. In the revision, I took that out and replaced it with the current speech, which is about his not being able to work and what he does all day, looking at the students in the bookstores. Finding moments like that, moments more specific to each character's situation, was most of the work of the revision.'
    -- David Auburn

  240. 'I grew up in southern Utah, and most of my folks sound like my characters, even if the characters are not living there. To be honest, my characters sound a lot like my sister. She's very bald verbally, out there, and funny. So, the language comes from the vestiges of what I can hear in my head of the folks I grew up with. After that, the place is a strong influence, the weather, the season, the time of day. There are also dozens of images that go with each play. Plays with traps sound different from plays with sand. . . . One of the best ways to lose a play is to talk about it too much. Talking a play is not writing a play, and what works as chatter never works any other way, I find. So, I'd say 'pitching' a play can kill it.'
    -- Julie Jensen

  241. '. . . mostly I've found observing people to be the source of most of my inspiration. I studied photography for about five years, and I constantly find myself drawn to tense, awkward moments that I see -- similar to what I would be compelled to photograph -- these pictures I see between different people. It's usually what these people are doing physically, as well as what they're actually saying to one another that I watch -- the way the react: sometimes with aggressive violence, at other times playing with each other coyly. I feel driven to know what these behaviors could mean to these other people and find a great challenge in fictionalizing the reasons behind their impulses.'
    -- Crystal Skillman

  242. 'I took many notes, more than usual before I sat down and wrote Act One, Scene One. I had perhaps eighty pages of notes. . . . I was so prepared that the script seemed inevitable. It was almost all there. I could almost collate it from my notes. The story line, the rather tenuous plot we have, seemed to work out itself. It was a very helpful way to write, and it wasn't so scary. I wasn't starting with a completely blank page.'
    -- Charles Busch

  243. 'I've never written a fiction before about real people. . . . I read everything that I could find by people who met them and tried to get some impression of them, but as always when you write fiction, even if you have completely fictitious characters, you start by thinking of what is plausible, what would they say, what would they be likely to do, what would they be likely to think. At some point, if it is every going to come to life, the characters seem to take over and start speaking themselves, and it happened with [COPENHAGEN].'
    -- Michael Frayn

  244. 'So often the challenge [in film] is you hae two people and you know they're going to get together. It's just a question of how and how interesting the journey will be to get there.'

                    -- Ken Kwapis

And for more inspiration and insight, here's . . .

100 Quotes on Craft

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