Kurt Wimmer on 40 Years of Writing

What made you want to start a YouTube series, showing you write as you go?

Oh, you know about that? I didn’t think anybody knew about that. I’ll tell you, I don’t know what I got myself into. I’m writing all the time, sometimes I’m writing 10 scripts a year or something like that, and that’s features on top of everything else. I thought, well, why don’t I record it once? It’s not for everybody, but some people might find it valuable.

I find people who’ve never done it before, they can’t get their arms around what it means [to write a script]. It’s like why people don’t undertake diets. They say, “I want to lose 15 pounds,” but they don’t know how long it’s going to take. And so, they go at it hard for a month, but then they’re like, “Okay, I don’t know how long this is going to take.” By putting it into a box for people, it’ll help some people say, “I can get it done over this period of time. This is something I can get my arms around. This is something I can do. I can take a vacation, a two-week vacation or a three-week vacation a year. I can get it done.” As opposed to, “Is this going to take me a year?” or “Is this going to take me two years?” Which is, I think, something that will deter a lot of people.

So that’s why I’m doing it. At the same time, I’m suddenly like, “Why did I do this? Why did I sign myself up for this?” But it’s an interesting experiment and I fully intend to go make the movie. There’s a lot to be done between now and then, but I intend to get it made. I want to take everybody on this journey. I want to include them in writing it, but also going to my agent, the town, going to directors and actors, and during the studios and executives and notes and every email, every phone call. I want to include everybody. If we get to that part, it should be pretty interesting.

You break down a film’s structure as a powder keg. First act, you fill it with gunpowder. I won’t butcher the rest, but have you always approached scripts with that outlook?

I’m glad you asked. Structure is the most important thing. It’s the only important thing, but the irony is it doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as structure. Structure, in the universe without human beings, if a tree falls in the forest and nobody sees, did it fall? Well, if a dog looks at a script, does a structure exist? No, it doesn’t. That’s something we do as human beings. Movies are designed to please human beings, and human beings only. If an alien watched a movie like, “What the f*** is this? This is not pleasing at all. It takes too long or goes too fast.” Literally over this viral petri dish, Hollywood has created this art form that it is all about, in the most commercial sense, impacting human beings in the most volatile way possible.

So that’s what structure is, but it doesn’t really exist. To talk about the first act, second act, or third act, it’s a convenient way to talk about it. Bones of those things actually exist. You cannot mathematically prove the existence of a first act. I like to think about it in terms of it’s always emotional. Everything’s emotion. So that’s why I use the concept of the powder keg. It is something that has evolved. When I first started writing, I didn’t understand structure at all. It’s learned from endlessly writing. Eventually you start to get it instinctively. You got to listen to yourself, listen to the writing, listen to the page, and you’re like, okay, it’s time to get out of here. It’s time to move on

The first act is you’re on a beach and you’ve washed up on shore, and there’s some wood lying around and some gunpowder. Maybe there’s some black powder, and there’s some phosphorus or whatever they put in there. And you build it. Those are the parts of the characters. You build the cast that you put it in and you mix the gunpowder, you pack it in, just the right amount, because you know what size explosion you want. You want a big explosion. How big of an explosion do you want? How far is the debris going to be thrown? You build it right, and then you light that f***er and you watch it go off.

If you packed it right, when it blows up, the script will write itself. If you have done your first act right, it will write itself without any problems whatsoever. It’s up to you at that point to have as much fun as possible and film the explosion in as many different ways, the outcomes of it, and the ramifications downstream in the best way that you can.

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