LAFF Coffee Talk: Write What You Want To See Onscreen 

By Norman Knoerlein, Independent Writers Caucus Member
(July 2, 2012) 

Norman Knoerlein  

Something John August said during the Los Angeles Film Festival’s Screenwriters Coffee Talk, sponsored by the WGAW, really knocked me sideways. He suggested that the audience write not what they know, nor what would sell, but instead write something they would want to see onscreen. Ask yourself, “What would I pay $15 to see?” What kind of story would pull you away from your comfy couch, French press coffeemaker and big screen TV with surround sound? (I don’t have any of those things, but you get the gist.) And that’s when I realized the movie would have to be something “dynamic.”

Photo: Sharline Liu
Screenwriters Coffee Talk: (L-R) John August (moderator), Lorene Scafaria, Zak Penn and Jonathan Nolan  

This “dynamic” doesn’t just include Zak Penn’s unstoppable summer film (saw it, loved it, can’t wait for the DVD) or Jonathan Nolan’s upcoming summer blockbuster (I already have midnight IMAX 3D tickets). It also has to include Lorene Scafaria’s Seeking A Friend for the End of the World. A film that cross-pollinates a romcom abounding in Scafaria’s trademark charm and wittiness with the apocalypse is (you already know what I’m going to say) dynamic. (Yes, I know all of these writers were on the panel, but it works for my argument… jeez.) So from now on, if I have what I think is a good movie idea, I will put it to the “August test” and before I set fingers to keyboard, I’ll ask myself if I would be compelled to buy a ticket.

Every year the WGAW sponsors the Screenwriters Coffee Talk at the Los Angeles Film Festival. This year’s panelists were Zak Penn (The Avengers), Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) and Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World). The session was moderated by John August (Dark Shadows). Watch a video clip of the Screenwriters Coffee Talk