Shane Black On The Writer And Fear

I’ve mentioned Shane Black a few times recently. A friend from years back, he’s also the screenwriter responsible for a few classic flicks, among them Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Recently, he’s been working on the script for the forthcoming Doc Savage movie.

So Shane knows what it’s like to put bread on the table (and in the bank) by typing words out of your head.

Writer Billy Mernit recently blogged about Shane’s visit to the “Writing the Character-Driven Screenplay” class that Billy’s in. Shane made some comments about writers and fear that are worth reading for anyone facing the sinister blank screen…

I know it’s tough to say, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ or ‘Think positive,’ but…There really is just no other way to go.  You’re up against a wall, you’ve decided you want to do something, you’re having some adversity – you can either play out your hand or quit.  And I suggest that… My career came down to one moment like that.

I was working on a script called Shadow Company in 1984, and I was on page one, and I showed it to my brother – he hated it.  I sat down and I thought, “I can’t do this.  I sat down to write a screenplay – I don’t know screenplays, what am I doing, this is so stupid… And I thought: I don’t want to write!  I don’t want to do this, I can’t.

I’m a one-finger typist.  And I said – Just do it.  [Shane holds his one typing forefinger in the air, and jabs it an invisible keyboard.] I went, ‘The… rain… lashes…  Ground… Bla-bla-blah.  I started typing – I hate this, I hate this, I hate this, I hate this – and all of a sudden, I’m: Huh, okay that’s a good line. What would he say there?  Okay, he says this… And three pages later, I had a scene, and it became a script – and it sold, optioned – and it got me Lethal Weapon.

It came down to this.  I had a piece of paper in a typewriter and my finger poised to hit one key and I couldn’t do it, I didn’t want to do it all.  All I wanted to do was stop.  And I hit the key.  And now I have a career.  So that’s the leap of faith.

The whole piece is here.

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