Die Hard 2: Die Harder was the seminal moment in my life as a filmmaker. Seriously. After walking out of the Coronet Theater as a teenager, I thought to myself, “Someone got paid millions of dollars to write that piece of shit? I can do that.”
Twenty-five years later, four feature-length scripts written, thousands of feet of film shot, hundreds of works produced, years of working on set and in the edit suite, and I realize how off base that thought was. I can’t just “do it.”
Writing is hard work. Hell, bad writing is hard work. And even worse, once you realize it’s bad, you think about all the time you’ve wasted on it. Plain and simple, writing sucks. I hate it.
But it’s a hate driven by a covetous respect. Why? Because unlike other aspects of modern filmmaking, incompetent writing isn’t masked by purchasing new technology. While software can steady bad camera operation, and a complete ignorance of lighting and composition can be masked with extreme shallow depth of field, bad storytelling can’t be fixed by an “Analyze Plot” button.
Writers have to stand on our own ability to craft a story. Our words are exposed with no technological crutch to hide the pockmarks in their construction. There is no “Render Story” feature in Final Draft 9 that will compete it once it gets hard. A great director, editor or director of photography can’t fix a bad script. It is the foundation of any film or video.
I know I’m being the old curmudgeon complaining about filmmaking becoming more accessible and in turn making my decades of experience obsolete. But the simple truth is that a good writer is never obsolete. It takes discipline, precision and dedication to tell a good story. Adobe hasn’t found a patch for that yet.
So you buy the violin, you have to learn to play it, and that’s hard.