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The Godfather Notebook

Video that I am referencing here ☝🏼

Reddit can be a crazy place! However the screenwriting subreddit is an amazing thread with lots of resources.   Whenever I need a public opinion on anything from user experience with certain screenplay competitions or thoughts on the best way to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I go to the screewriting subreddit.  For those of you who don't know how to find it. It's easy. Just go to the reddit app and type in #screenwriting and follow that thread.  That's it. 

But beyond anything else I've found on the screenwriting subreddit, this youtube video of Francis Ford Coppola discussing his Godfather Notebook is one of my most favorite treasures. Let's watch it together!! 

Before I fully dive in, I just want to share that I have a deep love for adaptations.  Novels were my first love, before screenplays, before even stage plays.  Opening a book is like diving under some warm covers and disappearing from the world for awhile.  Novels are intimate and universal all in the same deep sigh.  The books I read at 14 shaped the person I am today and when I think of those novels, it's like remembering old crushes.  Don't all favorite books sit warm in your heart like the memory of old loves? ...  Point is... finding this you tube video on the screenwriting subreddit was like finding a christmas gift under the tree. 

Side bar: I have been lucky enough to have had two screenplays produced (straight to video) that were adapted from the Mark Twain novels: "The Prince and the Pauper" and "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer".   It was such a dream to be able to open those books and imagine the visuals I would choose to tell the story....  So often adaptations get it wrong.  I believe this is because screenwriters have a gargantuan task in taking the beloved pages of a book and fitting them onto the screen.  The thing is, they don't fit.  Books aren't mean to be watched. They're meant to be felt.  You feel a novel you don't just read it. I believe a lot of screenwriters and the studios behind them get so caught up in thinking they need to get the plot on the page that they forget about what the movie is supposed to make the audience FEEL.  That's the task of an adapter taking the feeling of the words and giving us that same feeling through visuals... like a painter painting the words on the screen in color.  Okay so I guess I should write a whole ass blog about adaptations because I'm on a tangent! 

Back to Coppola!

Here are my raw thoughts as I watched it:

:16 -  Dear Lord I can smell the pages of that book.  I want it. 

1:00 - This attention to detail is phenomenal. Coppola talking about grommets. It's every nerd's fairy tale come true.  (by every nerd, I mean me). 

2:28 - "the feel of the 1940s"... notice he said feel. 

note on studios:  next time you rag a screenwriter make sure you get the whole backstory on whether or not they were "noted" to death by execs and forced to make changes for budget or misdirected egos that ruin the whole damn thing.  Imagine this movie not being set in the 1940s?  My blood boils. 

Note on the gut instinct: you can study screenwriting for the rest of your life but if you don't learn to trust your gut as an artist... you are lost.  

3:19: *makes mental note to hunt down Elia Kazan's notes on Streetcar Named Desire*. Hoooo, analysis on THAT would make a great blog post.  Comment below if you agree. 

3:56: these little details man. mise en scene. 

5:08: this much reverence for the book itself is everything. 

5:46: WELP. gonna have to go rewatch this whole movie again. 

every damn shot is a work of art. 

6:52: "Design the scene shot for shot".  While this is not the screenwriter's job, it's good to keep in mind when writing stage directions.  Stage directions should never be flowery but please, paint a picture!  Could also do a whole blog on stage directions! 

7:00 - love the Hitchcock reference. we don't steal from each other, we borrow, we make each other better... as long as you're borrowing to build upon what you're borrowing, not because you're lazy and can't think of anything better. 

8:19 - if the studios had their way, we wouldn't have Al Pacino as Michael Corleone (grrrrrrrrrrr studios)

8:42: GREAT NOTE!  "If the coincidence that the innkeeper is the father of the girl they have just seen seems contrived IF IT IS FUNNY IT WILL NOT BE"...   huge writing rule.  Coincidences are okay if they make your main characters fortunes worse, not better. 

Friends... he made all of those notes before he ever wrote a word of the screenplay. 

THAT is what writingXstructure is all about.

Another cool article about The Godfather Notebook:

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