Sunday, June 2, 2013

Screenwriting Influences

One of my favorite movies is An American Werewolf in LondonWhile it may not be the greatest film ever, no film has had more influence on my writing than this. It's a very uneven, odd film. It opens to a slightly corny gothic horror sequence, then spends the next 45 minutes on the main character recovering from a werewolf attack in a hospital. From here it's almost a romance film, until the next full moon, when all hell breaks loose. My only issue with it is that there isn't really an ending at all, but you could argue it just adds to the style.

Almost everything I've written since has been influenced by the style of John Landis's script. The odd, anything-goes vibe is always what I'm shooting for, whether romantic comedy or slasher.

More films that influenced me are Breathless (1960), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), and Pulp Fiction. Though when it comes to Pulp Fiction, it's not in the way you would expect.

I don't write pages and pages of worthless dialogue like most Tarantino copycats. The film influenced my writing in other ways: focusing on creating memorable characters over plot. It's more of a novel than a conventional movie. Just characters going through their days.

Breathless is important to me because it's relatable.

Jean-Luc Godard got together a couple actors and a camera and went out and shot his movie. It's something I could do. Whether or not I end up making one of the best films ever is something we'll have to wait and see, but it's nice to know that it's something basically in reach. You don't need a budget to make a great film people still watch fifty years later.

I also admire the story of Breathless, if there even is one. It's 90 minutes following an interesting car thief around town, getting into deeper trouble. It's an anything-goes, poetic story, exactly what I'd love to make someday.

And lastly, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Every film I've mentioned so far is in my top ten, including this one. Yes. My top ten. Many people discount it as a cheap gore flick, but they're the ones that haven't seen it. It's a very effective film, and has stood the test of time better than almost any other horror film. It's been copied countless times. And like Breathless, it is a film made without many things at their disposal. It's just some filmmakers with a cool idea, a few thousand dollars, and a farmhouse.

When I write horror, I try to channel the feeling of dread this film uses so well. If you want to learn how to write horror, this film is perfect. It masterfully executes dread, suspense, shock, disgust, and pure tension. With what? A van, a farmhouse, less than a dozen actors and barely any blood... oh yeah, and a chainsaw. Copycats over the years have slightly stained this film's reputation, but anyone who's actually seen it knows how effective it can be.

That's my list. Other notable films are Goodfellas, Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Signs, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Battle Royale and Back to the Future.

If you're a writer, which films or books-- maybe even music-- have influenced your work the most?

1 comment:

  1. Really cool list of influences, Will! American Werewolf sounds interesting...I should watch that.
    I really don't read as many screenplays as you have, but I do use some of my favorite writers as influences, namely Fitzgerald and Albert Camus. But, you know, music can also be an influence. Classical music in particular can be great for plotting something overly romantic or dramatic. :P