Thursday, August 25, 2011

Behind the Scenes Storytellers - Part III: Richard Price

All right. So thank you very much for your patience and support yesterday. I know you guys have been loving this series, and I'm sorry I had to interrupt it, but I'm obligated to my incredible peers over at Project Mayhem.

Anyway, let's get back to work. I'm going to cheat a little bit this morning. I know. I'm sorry, but I think you'll find you're willing to forgive me. Today I've selected Richard Price as my behind the scenes storyteller. The reason I call this cheating is that Richard is actually a relatively famous "crime novelist," which is certainly not a behind the scenes role, but he is also pretty well unknown for being an incredibly talented screenwriter, which is a position that almost never gets the glory.

Mr. Price wrote the scripts for a few famous films like Sea of Love, and The Color of Money, but the way I discovered his talent was through the HBO series, which may be the best television show ever written: The Wire.

Before I get to the reason I'm actually featuring Richard toady: his screenwriting, I want to share with you one of the greatest interviews I have ever had the pleasure to witness in my personal pursuit of understanding writing. Richard Price was interviewed by Terry Gross, from NPR's Fresh Air, in 2008, about his then new novel: Lush Life. It's technically a crime novel, but IMHO it's also one of the greatest modern character studies in English Literature:

It's pretty long, but if you have time, PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS INTERVIEW. It's one of the best discussions of writing I've ever heard. The interview is mostly about the novel, but if you listen to the whole thing, you'll find he talks a lot about writing for the HBO TV series, The Wire, as well.

Another great discussion of the novel is available, in one of Evil Editor's book chats, here.

So. That's a lot about Richard Price's novel writing. I promised this post wouldn't be about that, and I suppose I've failed, but I do want to talk about his screenwriting. I've obviously never written a script, and I've never been to film school, but I imagine writing for TV is as different from writing for film as writing a Picture Book is from writing a novel. Not to imply that any of the four should be considered as less than any of the others, just that they're different.

Yeah. That's all beyond my scope of understanding, but I will say this: I know a powerful scene when I witness one, no matter what the medium, so I want to share with you a scene from near the end of The Wire, which Richard wrote, in which the policewoman, Kima, who happens to be gay, and has just ended her relationship, is reconnecting with her young son, who cannot sleep. The scene is not quite as powerful taken out of context, but I consider it an interesting, and surprisingly contemporary, take on a classic story:

And that, I suppose, is that. I could go on, but I'm sure you'd all get bored, so instead I'll just say this: anyone who is interested in discovering a great writer you might have never heard of should look into Richard Price. Here are a few resources:

Price interviewed by the City Paper.

Richard Price in the LA Weekly.

Richard Price in New York Magazine.

Thanks for reading, everybody. Happy Thursday!


Matthew MacNish said...

Oh, and by the way, I only had three posts for this series planned out. So I could use some suggestions for the last post. Not necessarily a specific person, but maybe a specific role? I've been thinking of doing a production designer, or an animator, or maybe another music producer, but I'm open to other ideas. Can you think of any jobs that involve behind the scenes storytelling?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

After reading Save the Cat, I understand how challenging it is to write screenplays.
Animators rarely get the glory.

Clarissa Draper said...

I love that he used his work in Clockers for The Wire. I want to write a screenplay and I have one planned. Perhaps I should do a series on screenplays. Perhaps you should do a series.

Old Kitty said...

Hoorah for Richard Price! Will listen and watch all these yumminess over the weekend!

Good luck with the series!! Yay for highlighting all these fab creative people working away in the background to create fabulous shows and films and songs.

Take care

Shain Brown said...

I am really enjoying your series, not only for the content but I am learning so much. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the interview.

I clicked play with the idea I would listen for a few minutes and finish it when I got home from work, but forty minutes later I was still listening and rather disappointed it was over.

Thanks, Matt.

Theresa Milstein said...

I tried writing a script for a movie once. Not easy. Abandoned.

Screenwriters often don' get the attentions of novelists. Good to know the man behind the screen.

LTM said...

I bet you could give some unique insight to music producer...

I've never watched the Wire, but I've heard all good things about it. Looks good. And I want to listen to that interview. I might have it on my iPod--I download the podcasts.

Thanks~ :o) <3

Melissa Sarno said...

I love this behind-the-scenes storytellers series you have! I think people who write for television are more interesting than a lot of other writers because they take on characters and storylines for years and years and years. I was lucky enough to see a live interview with Richard Price in college-- he was very inspiring.

maine character said...

You're the fourth writer who's told me to watch The Wire, so I didn't watch the clip - I'm going to start from the beginning.

And yeah, TV screenwriting is more difficult than movies 'cause you have an exact number of minutes to reach and you have to connect to and extend everything that's happened before and will happen after. And keep the tone the same as all the writers before you.

And thanks for the interview! I downloaded it for my iPod.

Bryan Russell said...

That was a good interview. It's funny, I have a bunch of his books, but I haven't read him yet. One of these days...

Jessica Bell said...

I find screenwriting really interesting. It is really quite hard to bring out emotion in flat dialogue. I did screenwriting at uni. Not enough to be an expert. But it's really really great practice for developing character, and certainly an excellent skill to have for novel writing if you can master it. Us novel writers could do with many screenwriting skills to better our prose, that's for sure.

Cynthia Lee said...

I think a post on the animator Hayao Miyazaki would be great. I loved Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. I don't know a whole lot about him. I just know that he's a legend in the world of animation and that he does something like 80% of the animation for his films.

The guy's a Titan, for real. I bow down before his work ethic.

mooderino said...

thanks for that, enjoyed listening to the interview.


Lola X said...

Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

Lola x

Jonathon Arntson said...

Hans Zimmer.

Jonathon Arntson said...

Hans Zimmer.