Our “Meet the Experts” Film Writers Panel brought together four awards contenders to discuss their unique projects: Sian Heder (“CODA”), Roberto Bentivegna (“House of Gucci”), Fran Kranz (“Mass”) and Rebecca Hall (“Passing”). Their films differ greatly in style, scope, and subject matter. But is their approach to the writing process just as different? Watch our exclusive video interview with the panel above. Enjoy individual interviews with each filmmaker by clicking that person’s name.
Bentivegna wrote “Gucci” “in the least Gucci place possible, which was Manasota Key, Florida, in a cabin in the middle of basically nowhere. And I went kinda crazy,” he admits. He generally prefers a balance of solitude and activity to stay sane: “I spend about six hours either researching or reading or writing. And then I absolutely have to throw myself into some sort of social situation … I definitely don’t want to sit in a room by myself and then also be by myself after that.”
Heder is also “a social person,” so she too needs a maintain a balance. “I love to write in the total cliche L.A. way in the middle of a busy coffee shop where there’s a lot happening around me,” she explains. “In a way it’s easier for me to be isolated with my thing when there’s life around me.” However, “I had two small children when I was writing ‘CODA,’ so it’s hard to have that brain space” where your mind is working through a script even when you’re not actively writing it. That has required her to be “much more disciplined” about setting aside time for her work, even if it means “creating ‘Home Alone’-style barricades up the stairs” to protect her dedicated writing space.
On the contrary, Hall, despite an established career as an actress, is “intensely solitary and love it.” She would “happily paint and write and not see people for days on end. And I kind of have to be dragged out of that to remember that there is life outside of those things.” She would spend time “wandering around and daydreaming” her way through ideas and then commit her ideas to the page in “relatively short yet very intense bursts.” But she too knows the challenges of writing as a parent to a young child; she “just finished a screenplay sat on the floor in the midst of a lot of Play-Doh and Legos.”
Like Hall, Kranz is an actor making his feature screenwriting and directing debut. He had “a room up there that I wrote most of [‘Mass’] in that I don’t know if it’ll ever recover. I mean, it’s a mess.” But “I made some efforts to get away, like go on vacation with the script … It felt like a new relationship where you’re trying to date and do fun things together.” Given the film’s weighty themes about grief, though, he also felt the need to “sit with this and immerse myself in these stories and feel these emotions in order to honor the story I’m trying to tell.” But “I like people too,” so if you can find just the right balance between your story’s needs and your emotional needs, that “sounds like a very healthy way to approach it.”
To watch this same interview with closed captions, view the YouTube video below and click the CC button on the bottom right.
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