Since this has been a week of lies and rumors (or has it?), I thought I’d continue the trend.
I don’t know where I first heard this—a screenwriting blog some years ago, I think—but it described the Coen brothers’ writing process. Ethan and Joel have been top screenwriters in Hollywood since the late 80s and the 90s with hits like Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. They’ve continued their success ever since with many more movies, including No Country for Old Men, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and the forthcoming The Tragedy of Macbeth (maybe they’re not responsible for all the plotting on this last example, or some of the others too).
In other words, they know how to write.
The story goes that one brother writes a scene, usually ending with the main character in an impossible position, and then hands the writing over to the other brother to see if he can write the protagonist out of that situation, only for him to end the scene in yet another hell, before passing it back again.
Back and forth and back and forth they go—according to the rumor—until they have another smash hit.
Their process then seems to be to consistently find a series of impossible obstacles for their main characters to overcome. The audience go through that same emotional rollercoaster of tension and despair as these cinematic heroes face death once again only to feel that relief and elation as they yet again prevail. [Read more…]