Author Marisa D'Vari
March 11th, 2004
Interview with Author Marisa D'Variby Christopher Wehner
Marisa D'Vari spent years in Hollywood as a studio executive overseeing the development of hit films before turning producer, novelist, screenwriter and journalist. She's now actively engaged on the lecture circuit, produces the Hollywood insider TV show Scene Here, covers the American entertainment scene for a variety of international papers, and continues to consult. Script Magic is now available at your favorite bookstore.
Utopia: Marisa, your book "SCRIPT MAGIC: Subconscious Techniques to Conquer
Writer's Block," approaches writing from a unique perspective. How did you
come up with this approach? Why?
Marisa: So much of writing is psychological. When a writer feels pumped up and positive, their enthusiasm is contagious and leaps off the page. And because what's considered "good writing" is so subjective, many writers are apprehensive about their skill. In the course of helping writers rework and perfect their scripts, I developed these techniques. In the course of researching and fleshing out SCRIPT MAGIC, I adapted the work of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud -- in addition to other psychologists and creativity experts -- to help writers unblock and energize.
You've spent 20 years working in Hollywood (god that sounds like a
sentence), what are the different things you've done?
Like most people in Hollywood, I started my Hollywood career as an assistant. In my case, it was at ICM, International Creative Management. I was assistant to Jane Sindell, then co-chair of the Motion Picture Literary Department. Since she worked closely with Jim Wiatt and Jeff Berg, we represented the top writers in Hollywood. Nora Ephron was a client. So was Julia Cameron. It was a great introduction to the business! I worked as a freelance story analyst for many years at TriStar films, Geffen Films, and was in development at Lorimar and MGM. Now that I'm in Boston, I teach creativity seminars, consult, and am a screenwriting judge for the Massachusetts Film Office.
What is "Writer's Block," are there some common misconceptions about it?
Writer's Block is your subconscious mind telling you that something in your story isn't working. In the past, writers would stare at their computer screen and hopelessly wait for "the muse." SCRIPT MAGIC offers that the the muse is our own subconscious mind, and we can command her to produce at will. I developed the subconscious techniques in SCRIPT MAGIC so that writer's can keep energy and creativity high by shutting out the critical "editor" (our logical left brain) and let the creative right brain come out to play. The techniques are fast, fun, and produce immediate results so that you can churn out a screenplay in record time. One of my favorite techniques involves colorful crayons, brightly colored (and fruit scented pens), and giant sheets of paper. In seminars, I explain the technique, pass out crayons, and students who walk in with only a vague sense of their characters and story walk out with enough information to sketch out the story and start writing their screenplay that very evening.
You state in your book that "...great ideas for characters, stories, and
plot twists rarely emerge in a rational, orderly fashion." What techniques can a
writer do to help themselves tap into the creative part of their brain?
There are so many! Another favorite is a technique I call "tucking your character in your back pocket." Too many writers leave their characters locked up and imprisoned inside the computer when they're finished with their writing session. Take them with you when you shut off the computer, and take them to a party. Turn them loose and see what they do. Do they get drunk at the bar? Make a fool of themselves? Stand rigid and watch others having fun? Characters can tell you a lot about themselves if you just give them the opportunity to watch them in action.
You mention several times in your book that some of the writers you meet
agonize over the process of writing, they dread it even, how can writers who
struggle in this respect make it fun? Is it reasonable to say that someone
who struggles like this should maybe consider a career change?SCRIPT MAGIC is all about putting the fun back in story telling, the
same fun writers had when they entertained parents with colorful, wacky
stories they made up when they were in pre-school. There wasn't fear then,
was there? Our young, creative selves were constantly encouraged by adult
compliments, laughter, and attention. But then, in elementary school, our
creative selves were quickly crushed by teachers who demanded that stories
have a beginning, middle, and end and follow a strict form. Even writers
who stood up for their creative selves and declared they wanted to pursue a
writing career were sub-consciously damaged by respected adults dissuading
them from a "risky" career in the arts. Even parents who grudgingly
accepted children pursuing a writing career often mandated that they get a
teaching degree or something "to fall back on." Thus, the seeds of
negativity were born! The cells in our bodies hold onto these memories, and
replay these "negative tapes" when we're at our most vulnerable: facing a
blinking curser on the computer screen.
In SCRIPT MAGIC, I spend a great deal of time demonstrating how to conquer these negative tapes through affirmations, visualizations, treasure mapping, and other subconscious techniques.
Your book isn't just about Writer's Block, you offer techniques and
information as well. I even got the sense that you're saying, how a writer
goes about writing and living, is the key to a healthy screenwriting environment.
Did I get it right or am I missing the point?
Yes, yes, yes, you have the point exactly! SCRIPT MAGIC is an A-Z "how-to" screenwriting guide, explaining everything from how writers get and develop ideas to the act by act screenwriting process, in addition to creativity techniques. The secondary title reflects a way to succinctly convey how the subconscious creativity techniques energize writers.
One of the best points you made, I feel, is that writers need to be
in-tune at all times with their characters and story. We as writers should always be
paying attention to what's around us. Observing people at the park, in the
coffee house, wherever, and we can always be thinking about our characters
and story. We're lucky as writers, we can be working while we're playing.
But, by always being prepared to work, does that in itself place too much
pressure on writers? How can we separate work from play?
Screenwriting is "work" in the sense it's a legitimate career, but to put forth their best effort, many screenwriters will always have to think of it as "play" -- at least in the formulative stage. Unlike other forms of writing, screenwriting is rather technically demanding in the last stages. My mission is to get screenwriters to understand that they need to put the color, fun, and play in the creative story-building process, and then allow the logical left brain in to do what it does best: organizing the story. Once writers have transformed their colorful "mind maps" to a story outline, once they've filled the pages of their "Magic Books," then they can go to a study or office and put everything in its logical place. But before that, they should avoid offices and scribble in cafes, parks, or parties!
Finally, a writer's state of mind, their preparation, would seem to be
most important when he/she is about to do a meeting or pitch a story, how can
writers prepare for those types of situations?
Visualization and affirmations are the most effective way to come across great during a pitch meeting, in addition to more conventional forms of preparation, of course. Let's assume the writer reads up on the person they're pitching to and knows their past films, etc. Let's also assume the writer knows the story they want to pitch well. In SCRIPT MAGIC, I explain that pitching is an art, and that writers should whet the executive's interest with tidbits of great scenes, tease them if you will, rather than spew out the story A-Z. I explain the concept of "trailer moments" -- stringing together your best scenes like the trailer of a movie which includes ONLY the best scenes in the film. It's important to remember that pitching is interactive, and you have the executive hooked when they're so interested in your story they're asking YOU questions.
Augmenting this conventional approach to preparing for a pitch is visualization, a process in which you see yourself in the executive's office pitching well, and later getting a call saying you sold the pitch. Affirmations are also important, in which you constantly pump yourself up with positive "self talk." I also discuss the technique of treasure mapping, in which you put together physical images of your story, adding your picture and the picture or name of the executive you'll be pitching to.
Thank you Marisa for taking a few moments and speaking with me.
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