The penultimate lecture of the BAFTA Guru 2012 series. Brian Helgeland is one of Hollywood’s master screenwriters of intelligent crime film, and has won an Oscar for L.A. Confidential and a BAFTA nomination for Mystic River. He has also collaborated with Tony Scott (Taking of Pelham 123, Man On Fire) and Paul Greengrass. In this lecture, Helgeland urged screenwriters to ‘fight’ to assert themselves in front of commissioners and executives, argued that films should be ‘commercial’ (that is, profitable on some level) and paid tribute to Cool Hand Luke screenwriter Frank Pierson.
Read, learn, and absorb this screenwriting gem: L.A. Confidential screenplay by Brian Helgeland [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
Read, learn, and absorb: Mystic River screenplay by Brian Helgeland [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
What kind of notes does Eastwood give a writer?
Well, not a lot. This is the second movie I’ve done for him. He had me read the book, and we had this sort of initial discussion of what it was we both liked about the book. He had different ways of expressing it than I do, but it was pretty much we liked the same things. The next thing about him is he assumes you know how to do your job, and then it’s up to you to either prove him right or prove him wrong. He’s been around long enough that he doesn’t want to put constraints on you. A lot of directors are still so keen on trying to make it what it is they want it to be that they handcuff you from the start as to what you can do or not do. I think he knows that some things he’s not interested in might come out of it but a lot of good things come out of giving someone their freedom to do it the way they think it should be done. And basically, that’s what he did, he let me go and do the best job I could do. —Interview by Fred Topel
- A conversation with Brian Helgeland
- Minds Behind ‘Mystic River’: Novelist Dennis Lehane and screenwriter Brian Helgeland describe making a best seller into a feature film
- What Lies Behind Film Noir: The Making of L.A. Confidential