Grab a slice of pizza and a bag of licorice and let’s talk screenwriting.
It’s no secret that this was my favorite movie of 2021 Liquorice Pizza. I’ve told pretty much everyone who will listen that I thought it was the pinnacle of emotional storytelling and just this warm hangout film that delves deeply into young love and maturation.
The film was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. You’ve probably heard of him, but he made his feature film debut hard eight (1996), found critical and commercial success with boogie nights (1997) and received further awards with magnolia (1999).
Then came masterpieces Beat drenched love (2002) and It will be blood (2007). Liquorice Pizza marks Anderson’s ninth film. It’s another Valley story and his warmest film since Beat drunk love.
Today we’re going to watch a video of Anderon sharing some writing and directing tips, and then go through them one by one to see how we can apply them to our work.
Let’s dive in.
18 scriptwriting and directing tips from Paul Thomas Anderson
1. Let your story flow naturally instead of making sure you know the subject or meaning of your film from the start.
I often find out about it much later. I have to write the plot, the characters, and many other things before I can see what it all really means. You can always come back to the topic later and overlay it. In the beginning, just leave yourself open to where it will take you.
2. It’s fun to have an ego when writing alone, so getting selfless and sharing your script with your co-workers might seem scary, but that’s when it gets really good.
I like to write. When things are going well, the site can make you feel like a maestro. Conducting thoughts, feelings, etc. – but then it’s time to take notes and someone always comes in to bring you back to reality. The grade phase can be so hard. And insightful. But you must have the courage to do it and do your job better.
3. If there is a problem with something in your film, it usually means you have to trace it back to the writing.
Screenplays are the basis of every great film. Before you start shooting, make sure you give as strong a foundation as possible. You want to have a script that not only brings people together but can also deliver a great movie. So work on the script for as long as possible, writing and rewriting. The film will thank you later.
4. Create without fear.
Sharing a part of you can be so scary. But the best movies and TV shows are personal and purposeful. Don’t be afraid of the audience or gatekeepers. Are you afraid of not giving everything you have.
5. Spectacular ideas come from everyday situations in life. Explore the core elements of our everyday lives and relationships, then use your writing to find a deeper truth about what it means.
The start of a movie idea doesn’t have to be a crazy event.
Be open to the world. Record things. Get out there and just listen to how people interact and what situations arise. Some of my best work has come from just being out in the world and hearing things. You can do that too. Take out a notebook and write down the stories of the people you see.
6. The writing can go very quickly once you’ve researched the setting, time, and characters.
Take your time with the ideas and the story will come quickly. If you see everything in your head, it can be much easier to translate it from the side. The reverse of this requires a lot of sitting and staring at a blinking cursor. Think long and hard and take notes. When it’s done, it will flow.
7. Your job as a director is to be both spectator and collaborator.
Filmmaking is about sharing ideas with the world and getting them to react. Your work should have specific beats that help build specific audience responses. Create that on the page and it will be translated on the screen.
8. Writing makes or breaks a movie. Good writing makes it easier to direct and make a film, and bad writing makes it harder.
The best script for a movie is a great script because there isn’t as much repair work to do and it takes the stress out of the story and emphasizes the filmmaking. That’s why it’s important to spend time designing. Never jump into a movie before you’re convinced of the script.
9. No matter how unique your idea is, there’s probably something out there with a resemblance. Watch it, study it. See where you can take ideas and criticism and avoid mistakes.
The original thing about every idea is your attitude towards it. See where others have gone right and steal. See where they went wrong and fix them. There’s so much you can do – your voice makes a difference. Develop that and don’t sweat the similarities.
10. Don’t be too descriptive. Show your character’s motivation through their actions and dialogue.
Write lean. This is not a novel, this is a screenplay. Just give us enough to get it, and let the character’s actions and dialogue fill in the rest. Your screenplay should be easy to read, not bogged down in prose and unfilmable descriptions.
11. Think about the songs that you think fit your story and why. What about the themes of the song, the style that tells your story? This means your music and writing will become more consistent and natural overall.
I like to write with a little groove behind me.
Make a playlist. It can be just for you or you can send it with the specification to give people the mood of reading. In any case, make sure that there is a coherent energy behind each scene. Make it feel whole
12. Film school can give you a big head start, but make sure you learn primarily by watching and making films.
Not everyone can afford film school and the debt that goes with it. That’s why we’ve worked so hard to give you free tuition and access to this site. No matter where you go and what you study, watch as many movies as you can. You will learn by watching, reading scripts and just immersing yourself in the cinema.
13. Take work seriously on set, but don’t take yourself seriously. Make sure you’ve already had all the important conversations and meetings before the shooting takes place.
Making a film is not only expensive, it can also take a long time. Never skip the prep work. Prep can help you dig deeper into ideas and visuals, and can help create characters that are not only believable but also help deepen your story. And improve your filmmaking skills.
14. Jump from project to project. Use your enthusiasm for each project to motivate yourself for the next. Never let your filmmaking just end.
It can be so hard when 99% of your work ends with a “no”. Trust me I’ve been there. I’m here.
But you have to find a way to keep the spark of writing alive. What makes you believe in your work? what keeps you going Stick to those ideas and beliefs. never let her go
15. As a writing exercise, jot down someone else’s words for inspiration and create your own script from there.
One of my favorite exercises I do with newer writers is to ask them to watch their favorite movie, pick a scene, and then try to write it. Then we compare their work to the writer’s work in the actual script. You can see how a professional described things and compare them to your ideas. So you can also work well on your voice.
16. Never just stare at the blank sheet of paper. Build a momentum where you can write every day without ever tiring, even if you only have vague ideas about what to write about.
Taking the time to outline or formulate a treatment can help you avoid the dreaded notion of writer’s block. Do some prep work and be ready to write scenes out of order or just randomly to find the perfect way to end.
17. Don’t start with a topic. Start with characters.
Who would you like to follow on screen for two hours? Are there certain types of people you are attracted to or stories that you feel are underrepresented? Allow yourself to create people and find situations and messages afterwards.
18. Practice writing constantly. If you don’t know where to start, use stories or ideas that you wrote down when you were younger.
I know some people tell you to write every day, but I think the best thing you can do is make time every day to imagine something. Search for stories in art, in life, in everything. Take the time to introduce yourself and hone your skills. You’ll become a pro once you learn that ideation is most of the initial struggle.