Saturday, June 12, 2010

Neil Landau's Author Book Tour Review

6-8-10 University Book Store

One of Claudio’s rules for a successful author reading is to have the appropriate setting for the type of reading. This was not the right place to hear Screen writer Neil Landau speak about his new book “101 Things I learned in Film School”

The University Book Store closes its doors by 8:00pm and so the author’s only have fifteen minutes to talk beginning at a7:00pm leaving time for questions and signing books. There are times when the author is so lousy that I wish they were subjected to these conditions. As far as having Neil Landau talk under these conditions: Boo, Hiss! I haven’t felt this cheated since my prom date dumped me for another guy; not that I am bitter of course.

Screenwriters are interesting in that they have the ability to compact the story that might take the novelist four hundred pages.

Mr. Landau is a writer’s writer. He has written screenplays, television, plays, along with serving on the faculty of UCLA’s film school. Given the short period of time given to the author he spoke in the same compact manner of screen writer made the most of his short time allotted by the book store.
Highlights of his speech on screen writing can be summed up by quoting one rule: Don’t be boring. Well as a present he's not.

So engaging is Neil Landau speaking in public that I couldn’t keep up taking notes. He says plots are usually forgettable but the secret to a good screen play is to have the audience build interest in the character so that they are emotionally invested with what the character is going through.

The character should be “uniquely flawed” in that his or her real issues lie beneath acts that are to express on the screen. He points to movie characters like Sergeant William James in “The Hurt Locker” or Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver” as characters who are flawed and even repulsive but the audience has an investment to the point of caring that people care what happens to them at the end of the film.

Mr. Landau explained that good movies have characters that make the audience uncomfortable. The audience should be invested in a character to the point where they can’t watch as they destroy or humiliate themselves on screen. Think of how Jon Favreau in “Swingers” continues to make an ass of himself by leaving message after message on a woman’s answering machine, trying to get it right, until Favreau’s character ultimately blows it. The writer succeeds as they, the viewers want to reach through the screen and hang up the phone for Favreau.

He also talked of the difficulty in how concise the scripts today must be compared to when he first started in the business. Movies scripts are now cut down from 120 minutes to no more than 110.

With the little time allowed for his reading, Mr. Landau read a small passage from his book and read clear and quick. His intelligence and passion for his craft and his work made it understandable why he is on faculty for one of the premier Film School’s in the world.

One last thing nugget worth mentioning...Oops, sorry ran out of time, so buy the book to find out.

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