Monday, December 5, 2016

Bringing Arrival To The Big Screen: Screenwriter Speaks

Ted Chiang's short story "Story of Your Life" stuck with screenwriter Eric Heiserer long after he put it down. Heiserer had written a number of successful horror screenplays, but said the the impact the story had on him made him want to pursue it as a movie. In a behind the scenes article for The Talkhouse, Heiserer talks about how he went from turning "The Story of Your Life" into the hit film Arrival. An excerpt:
I pleaded with the author to let me write the script on spec, which meant optioning the rights for an extended period of time. I pitched him my take, which felt akin to saying, “I’m borrowing your car. It may come back with some aftermarket stuff and a new paint job. Please, trust me.”
He did, and I spent the next year learning why science fiction is so difficult to get right. Here are some of the many lessons this script taught me.
1. Sometimes the plain truth is more interesting than the beautiful lie. 
At some point, you embrace what kind of story your movie is, and lean into it. If it’s a martial arts action bonanza, your character and story moments happen in the framework of fight sequences. If it’s a musical, your subtext plays in song. This movie was about process — the process of cracking a new language and teaching our own.
Heiserer goes into 4 more important writing lessons his work on Arrival taught him ,as well as the elaborate technical hacks he had to pull off with his screenwriting software to make the script happen and explain the films ideas.

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