“Just sit your ass down in a chair and hope your head gets the message.”
– Larry Gelbart (on how to start writing)
Generally the response to the question, “who’s your favorite screenwriter?” is a resounding…. “Ummmm….”
My hope is that When the Page Was Blank, the new blog I am overseeing, can harness the power of ‘Constructive Procrastination’ to introduce film students and the general population to the men and women who actually write the movies that they see. And, if they are screenwriters, maybe give their brains the jolt of inspiration it needs to get past a block or get a project started.
The quotes — which I collected from screenwriting how-to’s, histories, print, video interviews, and podcasts — are divided into three categories: Inspiration (to remind you why you do this), Advice (to guide you how to do this) and Frustration (which offers the option to blow off some vicarious steam).
There’s a mixture of the classic Hollywood Heavyweights such as Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler and Nora Ephron, as well as thoughts from people turning out today’s studio and indie films, like Diablo Cody, John August and Mike Mills. I’ve also included quotes from screenwriting allies like novelist Annie Proulx, producer Laura Ziskin and Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone.
Nearly all of the quotes can be traced to their origins. A few might be apocryphal, but I had to include them because they are so satisfying. The title of the site is derived from Truman Capote’s alleged response to John Huston during a notes session for Beat the Devil: “So, where were you when the page was blank?”
I got the idea while stuck on a writing project. I didn’t want to read a whole screenwriting book to get some advice. I just wanted a little nugget of wisdom to get me through. So I decided to go out and find some. They actually come in very handy while teaching. I often have the one sentence at my fingertips, from a recognizable writer, that can get a student past the problem they’ve come up against.
Screenwriters and those who love/collaborate with/exploit them should come by for a browse and I encourage everyone to subscribe as I’ll be adding more content on a daily-ish basis. Perhaps the inspiration they need will come in the next e-mail from When the Page was Blank.
You can check out the website at: sites.chapman.edu/jamesdutcher