Oliver Stone Master Class

What’s Beneath the Procedure of Writing?

Last weekend ’s big event was clearly Oliver Stone’s arrival to Budapest and his Master Course at Puskin Movie Theatre, in front of which a huge crowd of people was gathering. Later on, the cinema’s dark rooms were lit up, because after the famous director and screenwriter’s latest movies were projected, the audience (which majority was formed of film students and people from the film industry) had the chance to ask questions directly from Oliver Stone.

Although Oliver Stone has a rich and experienced background in film industry and filmmaking, I don’t think there’s a formula or a proven method for writing and creating. Being a famous director does not mean, that you have all the answers to universal questions, like: What’s a successful story’s secret? You can share your experiences, but you can’t share a well proven recipe, because there isn’t one.pálfi detti 2

Among others we got to know from the wisdom of Oliver Stone is, that it’s important to write every day, even if it’s just a simple paragraph of a diary, and it isn’t a shameful thing to write on a piece of paper, even if today’s writers prefer the laptop or other gadgets…

Pálfi Bernadette (Budapest Film Academy student)

Last Saturday Oliver Stone visited Hungary as a part of a Screenwriting Master Class, and although he’s not my favorite writer/director, and I haven’t seen many of his films, I was excited to see him up-close, and get to know more about screenwriting.

The event started with the screening of Wall Street, and soon after the movie Oliver Stone arrived accompanied by Andrew Vajna, and the Q&A began where the discussed topics covered everything from directing to music, even some politics, but barely touched the topic of screenwriting.

Although it was not what I expected, even the least professional questions were handled quite brilliantly by Oliver Stone, and his answers never failed to keep me interested. I may have not come out from this event with more knowledge about screenwriting, but I definitely have more insights about Hollywood, and how the studios work.

Saturday closed with the screening of Oliver Stone’s latest movie Savages, which I loved. dobi ferencOn Sunday, Stone returned to answer more questions, about the movie and in general. In overall, I enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to next one with Joe Eszterhas. Though, I hope it will be a bit more screenwriting-related.

Ferenc Dobi
Budapest Film Academy Student

As a Budapest Film Academy student I was excited when I heard that the famous writer-director, Oliver Stone will come to Budapest and I will have a chance to be on his Screenwriting Master Class. I have heard on our Director of Photography class that a good DP should know as much as possible about directing and writing as he/she needs to work closely with the director and help him/her to tell the story through images.

During the Master Class, Oliver Stone told the audience that a story can be as simple as two characters falling in love in a specific neighborhood with some complication. He added a few minutes later that if there are a lot of events in the movie, then the characters can be ‘simple people’, maybe with the protagonist being interesting. In addition, characters create action following from their inner needs, which can, of course, change, as seen in his new film “Savages”. He also talked about ‘negative’ characters or ones with whom we do not have to sympathize, but still can make a movie about them, like George W. Bush or Nixon.

Mr. Stone still uses handwritten notes and cards to write his scripts. He reflected on the method he uses, for example, to first write out the main action and characters, and then to ‘paint it’. He suggested for screenwriters to write every day, since he also wrote at least 6 hours a day when doing only screenwriting, and he also writes in his diary almost every week. His advice was to use shot lists to spell out visuals as well, since this can help later on.

Oliver Stone works with co-writers and also with the audience when there is a preview of his film, and he takes notes on the reactions of the audience.

It was interesting to hear that it can take a minimum of six weeks to write a script, but it is dékány zsuzsanot good to take too long with it. One also has to be prepared to cut it in the editing room, which was not always easy even for him.

Dékány Zsuzsanna
Budapest Film Academy Student