Can You Ever Forgive Me Writer Nicole Holofcener Screenwriters Lecture




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[Applause] hi I'm Jeremy Brock welcome to the third of BAFTAs 2018 international screenwriters lectures in conjunction with Lucy guard and the JT Charitable Trusts on this winter evening we are enormous ly honored to be hosting the internationally renowned writer and director Nicole holt sneh Nicole's body of work from her 1991 film short film angry - 2018 s the land of steady habits spans nearly 30 years of acutely observed forensically funny examinations of contemporary life issuing all the predictable tropes of comedy in favor of a of a realism that is both startling and poignant a universality from the specific Nicole will talk followed by a Q&A with the writer and journalist in Hayden Smith after which as we always do we'll open it up to the floor so ladies and gentlemen Nicole Olaf singer [Applause] [Music] [Applause] I've never stood in front of one of behind one of these things before ever hi everybody thank you very much - coming for coming to hear me speak yeah I'm a little nervous I like being behind the camera but this is challenge for me and I think it's gonna work out I want to thank BAFTA for having me here it's a really big honor I was thrilled when I got invited so thank you so much um I am gonna read I'm gonna try to have some eye contact as well but I like having this thing here the last time I had to stand in front of an audience to tell them why I was special I peed in my pants I had been proudly sharing the wonders of a cactus that my cousin had given me when I was visiting Philadelphia and it was going well until I was peeing the urine burned its way down my white tights and into my shiny black Mary Jane's head onto the floor of my first-grade classroom quick on my feet I said to the class you might be wondering why I have this water around me you see it was raining a lot in Philadelphia and now and I stepped in a puddle and now my shoes leak I was pretty confident they believed me until my best friend told me that everyone knew is he so I've been invited to this prestigious event to tell you how I'm talented and I'm afraid that while I might think it's going well a friend of mine will polite would let me know that none of you bought it because you all know it was pee okay no more pee talk I promise I don't want to give advice except to say the cliche of follow your own voice because I don't really know anything else I only know what's worked for me and I didn't even know I had a voice until other people told me I did I'm writing what I want to write about and if you're doing the same and not trying to fit into somebody else's idea of what a good story is your voice will appear or at least it should and it doesn't have to be autobiographical for it to be your own I am gonna try to talk about how I've taken various stages of my life and turned them into screenplays because if you've seen my movies you know they're all kind of personal because I write about myself I feel exposed a lot of the time but when it works when I feel like I've written something that moves people whether it's funny or sad then it's absolutely worth the exposure like standing here right now I write about my problems my friends my lovers my fears and of course my mother sorry mom um she adopted a baby black boy when she was in her 50s so he grew up in a family of white people mostly women I wondered what that was like for him and it inspired me to write lovely and amazing I turned my brother into a girl for a variety of reasons he was thrilled in this scene Annie I'm gonna show you clips by the way she feels lost among her sisters neurotic problems and walks by herself to McDonalds her sister Michelle played by Catherine Keener is always annoyed with her and Annie feels like Michelle doesn't like her this is the scene actually towards the end of the movie from lovely and amazing yeah my my brother actually really loved the movie but he was unhappy that I made him overweight which at the time he kind of was not anymore um okay so I wrote enough said because I thought you know what if my boyfriend's ex-wife told me what his faults were or about the stuff he did that drove her crazy would that be valuable information or would it ruin my own perception and experience of him having been married before I clearly was afraid there would be hidden parts of this new person that were eventually going to hurt me as I continued to write I gave the characters children who were about to go away to college and that gave them something to bond over my own kids hadn't left for college yet but I was consumed with not wanting to let them go and not wanting to start this new phase of my life without them the empty nest became a large part of the movie kind of Eden inadvertently I don't plot things out so my scripts reveal themselves to me as I go along so because of this I usually end up with some shitty first drafts but that's okay the first draft is always the most difficult and scary but rewriting can actually be fun it's much easier for me to see what I'm doing one I've done it let's see so here Eva and Albert have their first date before she knows anything about him it's so touching to watch Jim kind of kills me so later Albert discovers that eva has coincidentally but coincidentally become friends with his ex-wife Catherine Keener and has heard an earful making her judge everything about him and so it all goes to hell that's the next clip is that normal that everybody collapsed after a fight it's nice I'll take um sometimes writing about personal things can be cathartic and sometimes not at all one would think that if I write about my fears I would be able to conquer them but it doesn't always work that way here's another scene I guess the last one from enough said about me taking my kids to school basically I cried while I was directing that scene actually a few people people on the crew did as well I mean it was just so emotional watching her performance and I kind of can't even watch it now like my kids have gone to school but it's still like I'm wrecked did it lessen the drama when I actually took my kids to college cuz I shot this before and no it did not um unfortunately movies are movies in life is life um so I have this thing about the truth I believe that a lot of time a lot of the time truth should trump manners and can we even say that word anymore did he actually steal a verb from the English language it's like that's all anyone thinks that when you hear that for instance if a good friend asks if I can tell he's balding and I can I the truth because I'd want the truth and I assume others do but of course that's not always the case if I'm insecure about something and people keep telling me I'm imagining it like no no you don't look that way whatever and people keep telling me I'm I don't feel relieved I feel placated and once I got a really shitty haircut not once but several times should I'll tell about once and was so happy when a friend said yeah you got a really shitty haircut it was such a relief I was like right it helped that somehow someone saw what I saw and validated my feelings it diminished its importance simply by calling it what it is it was a tragedy however this is from please give and this really points to needing for someone to see what I see and to be seen that feels bad right it's like I look fine is this fine and then we can play the next clip because it's connected so um in my life and if you've seen my movies I grapple with what it means to be a good person what to give and how can be tricky and not so obvious in the beginning of please give a be them asked her mom Kate for an expensive pair of jeans and Kate snaps at her telling her that they're you know hundreds of homeless people everywhere and that she's not going to buy her teenage daughter $200 jeans which seems reasonable except that Abby continually watches her mother give to everyone else but she turns out to be a nice girl of course Abby seemed spoiled and obnoxious but she's crying out for a mother to see her throughout the whole movie it's not about money she believes the jeans will make her feel better and eventually at the end of the movie Kate gets it she realizes that giving can be an intangible thing I'm talking less than the clips but that's okay with me thank you on how to be good topic I like to volunteer and have many have had many experience expeller I've had many experiences doing it that turned out to be completely unhelpful and even detrimental hey once and this is just one of many I once carried an old mentally ill woman woman's groceries to her apartment and gave her my number in case she ever needed anything she left threatening messages on my phone machine for weeks convinced I was trying to kill her once this was the kicker once my mom and I went to a mental hospital I'm like Rikers Island to sing Christmas carols to cheer up the patients I don't know what we were thinking honestly oh my god it was so sad it was so sad I ended up in the stairwell sobbing I wrote this scene to make fun of my own useless and harmful attempts to be good that's me [Applause] when I got to set that day I was mad at myself for even writing that scene because I was afraid I was gonna end up falling apart just like cake does that I would feel so bad and only feel pity for those kids and end up sobbing in the bathroom it was me directing a scene about my limitations while I still had those limitations I didn't fall apart and ended up enjoying myself but it was a very meta whatever the epitome of me and my movie blending together so I have this thing about truth but I also have a thing about justice you see if you make movies you can get all the out um I should have been a judge but even better I'm a judgmental person who gets - who gets to point out how incredibly screwed up and disappointing people are in my movies I'm appalled when someone builds a huge house that looks like Bloomingdale's or Harrods next to a tiny one blocking their light privacy and views don't they know that even before they move in their neighbors hate them how could they possibly rationalize their selfishness this this one's from friends with money I wrote that part of the movie so that those kind of people will hate themselves when my kids were young other moms sent their nannies with their kids to play so they didn't know where their kids went this scene from friends with money is about me wanting to call people out on their obliviousness sometimes when I get caught up in the pleasure of deep moral outrage I can't see what's right in front of me that the problem is me next scene I don't behave like that I swear I don't well maybe sometimes and then I'm a fool I can be tough on characters based on people I know oh no I skipped something wait Jane is depressed because she feels she has nothing left to look forward to she feels old and irrelevant and is pretty angry about it she wants justice not that I can imagine what that feels like okay show this scene from friends with money see if you act like that you look like an idiot um I can be tough on the characters based on the people I know she's based on a friend of mine for sure but I'm tougher on myself that doesn't make it okay to take my friends crazy behavior and use it but I'd do it anyway carefully though carefully most of them are happy to lend themselves to me some are not in the end I'm writing about my own blind spots my own immaturity and my own unlikable qualities the character and please give that you've already seen some of and Gilbert playing is based on my granny I mean I made an Gilbert look like my that was my granny up there um and so I just I wanted to show you a scene that was kind of reminiscent of my grandma but she wasn't well anyway just watch it it's funny watching that I feel like it is like my shadow it's the stuff I'd want to say to my grandma but I wouldn't she did talk about her aging body a lot and in complete denial and it made me sad and so I get a man to Pete to scream at her for me over the years people have said to me that I should get out of my own head and life and write about things I don't know why don't you mix it up challenge yourself you know write a thriller and it makes me question myself like I'm not a real writer unless I make everything up but if it's so satisfying for me to write the way I do why should I do it someone else's way yes if I make bigger movies that I have more money and better goodie bags I love goodie bags but I'd rather stick to what I'm doing no one should ever listen to anyone anyway as William Goldman said nobody knows anything and it's absolutely true there's no right or wrong way there's only your own way and it is ironic that as I am writing the speech I'm not writing a new script I can't I've been stalked and blocked and I'm afraid I'll never write another script again my friends tell me that every time that I say that every time and but there is a time when it will be that time and how do I know this isn't it when I'm writing I feel alive and valuable and grounded and when I don't I don't feel those things very much it's hard to believe that something will come but I'm gonna trust and hope that it will because making movies helps me feel that life and all of its up Beauty is more than the sum of its parts that's the end [Applause] what cocoon I get a Christians you want one yeah very saggy chair but very writer Lily we're gonna pretend we're like in a little salon just realized why I had the cushion on this seat sinking over the course for the next 40 minutes I'll disappear yes I like being upright you've talked about your work as a writer director there's an enormous body of work as well that you've directed for television if you don't mind I'm gonna stay mostly with your work as a writer director but also your work as a writer I have total faith and trust that your career is going to continue as a writer director because I don't think anyone who's written the body of work that you have so far will just come to a halt I just think well maybe I'll just start writing some really bad ones it happens but with the idea of a career continuing um yeah I'm quite curious about the whole Afsaneh extended household perhaps starting off with your sons when you announce that you're writing a new script mm-hmm is there a sense of nervousness in your family of like oh god what I'm gonna do next or um no I don't think so cuz I don't I don't go bananas or become a drunk or do anything like horrible that my kids would be upset about it's more like I think I have an idea what's it about oh my god I don't know I can't tell you yet um so no you know they don't care that much I've read a number of interviews where you talk about your upbringing and you had some quite incredible experiences within the film industry because of your family it was there's one amazing one about Warren Beatty we're not going to talk about it here you have to go often research but it struck me a side of friends with money and Jason Isaac and Catherine Sheena's couple who are writers yeah you've dealt with artists you've dealt with therapists masseuse but you haven't indulged in the Hollywood world have you ever been tempted to write about Holland yeah definitely but I haven't come up with the story yet I had an idea about a famous person stand-in or you know an assistant to a crazy actress which would be really fun for about 20 pages and then I don't know what's supposed to happen next that it doesn't become silly and ridiculous you know but it's yeah it's an interesting crazy business I mean I love movies that are about the movie business I love the player day for night which I have not seen in a really long time but that made me want to make movies that really fun it's interesting that idea of fun because I was saying earlier that one of the great pleasures of being asked to host this event specifically is indulging in your work over the course of the last two weeks and it's been an absolute joy to watch your films I think it struck me that we shouldn't have to pigeonhole a director writer director in in in one single area but reading a number of interviews and profiles of you people talk about romantic comedies which i think is completely incorrect and then there's Ariel Levy's profile of you for The New Yorker which is entitled human comedies because your films are very funny but I would never think of them as comedies yeah the dramas with humor in them right how do you see um I would call it a comedy drama it just is a shorthand but the drama on this moat in those movies are so it is so important to me it's great to get a laugh but you know if I can move someone to tears then I'm really happy or just feel really moved by something and I don't know I can't help being funny I it's like I write a sad scene I don't mean that in some obnoxious way but it's like I'll write a sad scene and suddenly I've made some jokes you know and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't but I guess I like to lighten things up I hate melodrama I just hate that so we had like a boy chichi speaking about his process earlier today and he talked about the fact that it's much harder to write comedy is to write straight down drama mm-hm and I'm curious about your process you've talked about where you draw your ideas from right but the actual nuts and bolts of it your daily process I use someone in who is regimented you sit down you won't leave a table until you've written so much um it's sporadic I mean having raised kids it's hard and I will avoid writing at all you know in any way possible you know the laundry and the whatever now there's online shopping which is really because then you're in your doing it and it's right there you know I type on the computer and then you get those pop-ups and it's like Oh a sale um my my ideal thing and I've done it from the start is to get up early and write for a couple of solid hours that's that's a good day for me if I can focus and sometimes I can get many pages written sometimes I don't and sometimes I don't do two hours or the three hours when I'm rewriting something either for a job or for myself that I can sit there a lot longer and time goes by faster but writing an original ISO kind of depleting coming up with ideas that I just have to fall asleep sometimes with a pen in my hand though as you're watching price has changed over time normally no I mean in the beginning I tried to follow what I was told in school you know the 30 pages first act and the wants and the protagonists and the all that what your valid things but I couldn't follow like if I plotted it out and put the cards up on the wall I got bored and also when I get to write the scene I wouldn't regard the cards I just like oh that's a boring thing and I'll just write it anyway differently so I don't do that and I just like I said I just come up with an idea and take some notes about characters usually and then blend them together with some kind of hopefully a plot or a situation and there I go and like it's easy to get stuck that way but I like it are you someone who has a repository of ideas of snorri's because it's interesting watching all of your films together mm-hmm and and seeing the way that you map end the narratives and obviously they are character driven and utterly credible characters characters we'd imagine seeing on the street every day but there are certain scenarios that I wonder actually was that something that you heard from a while back and yeah awesome and you bring your names or are all these scenes specific to the film that you're writing oh yeah that I don't have a drawer full of ideas I really wish I did I could make a drawer of bad ideas that I would never end up writing but no I have to kind of wait for an idea or inspiration and for instance this script that I'm not writing anymore you know I did have inspiration I was really excited and I got 2:30 and it was terrific and then I just couldn't get past 30 it's easy to get to 30 right like you know you set everything up it's fun and then okay how do you keep everyone awake um so was that your question the same yeah but also within that process you talk about plot and it's it's very interesting I think there's certain genres the people tell you are particularly critics might take for granted and say well you know this is a relationship drama it's what do you expect right and again looking at your work there's something quite radical that happens I plot why's I just feel that you see the plot as being far less important to character and characters in the situations and so what I find really fascinating watching your films is the character arcs of your films there's not the grand arc where there is this epiphan all redemptive moment right at the end of a film yeah she buys her kids jeans yep that's right Stannis I mean I feels like it's the every day that you're dealing not it's the ordinary not the extraordinary right but in itself the ordinary becomes extraordinary yeah but like with friends with money that makes me think of that like the idea started with the fact that my good friend bought the apartment next door to hers in Manhattan and had to wait for this old woman to die so that they could break through I'm sure it happens here and um and I thought this is crazy and my friend would bring her lasagna and yet it was all under this relationships like are you dead yet when can I get in there and she wouldn't die it took a really long time and I thought what a crazy idea and then but that wouldn't have been enough then it was like okay so their neighbors and the grandchildren you know feel like they're you know bloodsuckers and so that gave me all this great stuff to work with you know neighbors who have to differ different agendas and yeah but then that in a way taps into what you were saying earlier about trusting people to tell you the truth and be honest with the truth and I thought you've given us an example a moment ago of an instance where someone is being truthful but in friends with money you've got Jason Isaacs character that we've seen with the house building and he comments on the size of his wife Catherine Keener SAS saying how big it's gotten and it's very interesting because they it seems that you you do say okay this is a spectrum right and on this spectrum you can too far right that was just that was just plain mean you know on their marriage is ending and she says he is horrible breath and they just kind of go at each other so yeah there's truth and then there's truth you know I think it's I can probably be too brusque with my friends she said she read this speech I said I want your opinion and she's like oh god I remember what you said to me she was like do I have any cellulite on my thighs and I said yeah you got a lot of cellulite and she was like stunned and I don't remember saying that but she didn't she wasn't mad at me cuz again it was kind of like that she knew she had it I wasn't gonna say she didn't have it so within that I can talk about cellulite pee what other disgusting things affect this table but within that and again this to me crosses all the six films that you've made the idea that audience sympathy that's not earned is an overrated cinematic virtue the audience sympathy in so many films is something that's taken for granted by a filmmaker and it strikes me that's not you're happy to present characters who might be slightly misanthropic and by the end of the film we don't necessarily love them mm-hmm but there's at least an understanding for them and that's that's quite unique for someone who's exploring that throughout much of they work that's probably why I have a small career seriously I don't I like ambiguous endings you know I mean my goal is I want you to like all the characters at the end I do even in land of steady habits when ben mendelsohn does some rotten things I want you to still like him why I just because I love these people and they're highly flawed and they up big-time [Music] but I don't know I still really I have compassion for them I'm trying to think who I don't have compassion for my movies I don't know I'm staying with the land of steady habits which is now on Netflix available to watch and you mentioned ben mendelsohn quite a bit of has been written about the fact that this is your first male central protagonist in one of your films but watching it it struck me and you've gone we're going into the realms of God our desk and Tarantino asked here he is a very hollofson Aryan character right watching it I thought well okay yes this is this is a central character hmm but this is very much in keeping with all the other characters yeah it didn't that's why I was drawn to the book I adapted it from a novel and yeah I just I felt like he was really screwed up and makes some reprehensible mistakes but he's funny and still charming and learns and is a buffoon a great big one and you know he it's much darker than my other movies in terms of what happens and I totally understand when people say they don't forgive him or you know they couldn't get behind the character because he was so unlikable but I get that and I knew when I was making it it was like that but I actually told Ben I was like you're my Catherine Keener like he was just I I felt like I was directing a woman and he was very flattered that I said that I could take it you know he's really sensitive it's also interesting in that you follow on from working with James Gandolfini who we saw a moment ago both Ben and James in your films are completely cast against type right that must have been quite interesting just playing with their persona yeah it was I mean people you know Kenny can that actor do that you know I've never seen Ben in a room you know be a nice person or sort of a nice person but that's exciting you know it's a risk but actually it's not a risk people say you really took a and some Jim James Gandolfini you know and it's like no you watch The Sopranos that guy can do anything and he's heartbreaking so yeah it's fun and do you enjoy the actual casting process I mean yeah it's like did I say that out loud it's really stressful I mean it's exciting when you know I call Ben Mendelsohn he's like yeah I can't believe he said yes you know but some actors take forever or I can't find what I want or you know the worst-case scenario is that the studio wants me to cast someone else and I don't want to cast somebody else and I'll kind of make a compromise like okay I'll I'll offer to that big star in that big star but not that big star and then they don't get back or they are busy or they want more money and I mean in terms of Netflix it was at Fox Searchlight and I developed it there but we couldn't agree on a cast and I said I want Ben Mendelsohn they were like we can't do that he's a great actor but we can't do that so Netflix agreed to do it so it's like casting is hard it's hard because usually I want to cast like Mike Lee you know I want like buck-toothed people and you know the zits and the whatever the real thing but I can't in the film you've got Edie Falco who's wonderful playing Ben Mendelsohn's ex-wife and I wondered if at any point in time you had a phone conversation with her sort of akin to Gregory Peck being offered a comedy and him on the phone going so he's Cary Grant not available or something did you have a conversation where de fogo wish like yes it was Katharine busy oh right yeah um I don't know if she probably did she was like well I mean what um and I just I love Edie I've loved her for years wanted to work with her and I don't even know if catherine was busy but she we have an understanding you know she's like you can actually cast someone else and and I did and you know it's just I want to sometimes work with other people I do and well I'll come back to Katherine and Julie I help another person in the film a lot of study habits is is Connie Britton mm-hmm and her character highlights something again you can see in all of your work and it comes back to your writing process that I'm curious about I could be wrong and I'm perhaps being a little pejorative here but if the land of steady habits had been made by a male director mm-hmm I get the sense that the female characters would have been bit parts mm-hmm and Connie Britton is this woman that and as the main character meets she's only in a couple of scenes but she is a fully fleshed out character and I'm just curious within your writing process about the attention did you play to so many different characters long yeah well some male directors some are brilliant and some male directors might just shove them under the rug but I don't know I just if I'm I'm pretty aware if I'm writing a character that has no personality you know um and I struggle like I got to give this person a personality you know they're just kind of standing there and sometimes I'll just cut them out if it's not working and I can't because they got they just got to be interesting and hold people men or women I just you know all my movies I get not always but you know critics will say like she gives short shrift to the male characters and why not you know - and then I did Lander steady habits and I got she gives short shrift to the female characters and it's like oh my god you know some people have smaller parts what are you gonna do um it's also the another element that you can see in all of your work is there is a really strong sense of place and this this even includes can you ever forgive me which opens here early next year which you wrote not directed but in the writing you get such a sense of early 1990s New York and can you talk and in the case of land of steady habits we've got Massachusetts films New York and LA can you talk about how you incorporate I you know it's not something I think about it's like where it takes place and then the characters are just in that place like I mean I didn't write I adapted can you ever forgive me from memoir and in the memoir it's very clear that it was in the 90s and it's this bar and that Street and where she lives and so I didn't have to create that so much but in land of steady habits is Westport Connecticut and you know I don't I don't know from that you know I'm Jewish I don't if you don't know Westport I was like the only Jew there I'm kidding it's not that bad but you know it's very waspy and you know men wear shorts with little whales on them and stuff and and so I had a costume designer she just did a bunch of research and you know showed me pictures and was like oh I like that kadia sweater oh I like that Brooks Brothers suit you know every department really helped in that way and I really wanted the houses to look very different you know like Edie's house is warm and the family house you know with history and his place is cold and sterile and new but I was also very limited in terms of exteriors because we shot New York for Connecticut and we couldn't shoot in Connecticut and it was freezing so we kind of didn't do that much but I'm thrilled when people say oh it really feels like Westport Connecticut like how did you get that like you just said it's like I don't know I can't entirely by that because they think of that well another thing about your writing is that it's it strikes me that the way that you approach class which doesn't exist in America apparently no now an economics and even occasion when you you touch on race and touching on politics you very such a very specific sense of place mm-hmm well I love that stuff I mean anything you know class and race and anything that's taboo to talk about like money or race or politics that's really fun too right and really fun to direct I find and so if that gives it a you know a sense of place maybe or fills out their lives in a way I think I know what you're saying and have you have you felt any sort of reaction within your writing process of we saw your short from 1991 so we are moving from a Republican president through to a Democrat president through republican than democrat and what there is now a dictator yeah you said it I mean I'm just I'm just curious if about the impact of that as you're writing uh-huh the way that climates have changed I think I'm Way too self-absorbed to put that in my writing I mean it's in my it's in our world it's in my head but I'm not writing about that stuff I'm just not other people do very well but I stick to the human details so with that idea of self-absorption something that I noticed that well there's one obvious scene between two characters Charlie time and Ben Mendelsohn's character the last scene that they have together which watch the idea of parallel play that this is something that I see in a lot of scenes in your film where you you have two people talking mm-hmm and they might be hearing but they're not listening yeah I need it's something you do so well in your work thank you it's never happened to me before I mean I mean half of me people are not listening to anybody half the time I mean most people are not most people but I you know I find it very difficult when I can tell someone is just thinking about what they're gonna say next I mean I've even had interviewers which you are not one terrific but like they'll be like they'll have their pen in their paper and they'll be like you know so you you know you write about this male character who is you know obnoxious and I start to answer and then they're like this and then I'm looking at them like Who am I talking to it's just really uncomfortable and that's sort of the the biggest example of that you know because most people will just you know whatever but that scene in particular I did want parallel play in the boat you know they're not they need each other in some crazy way and they're both so immature and sad and lonely but they're not really talking to each other and they have absolutely nothing in common which i think is what makes ben eventually say like we've got to get out of here I know it's one of the things that I'm particularly in that conversation certain things that Ben says I mean this this idea that of the ordinary the everyday that I could imagine hit someone on the street saying something like that again Taika Waititi earlier on today mentioned he's newbs dropper mm-hmm oh yeah that's fun yeah that was gonna be my next question yeah which Bernie's dog I don't run around with a pad but I remember some certain things and I will go home and write them or if I have a pad or a phone but that's the most entertaining thing and now my my thing is like looking over people's shoulders when they're on their phone like if you go to a movie everybody's on their phone first and you can just like watch the that everybody's doing or you know interesting conversations or they're flipping through their Instagram and it's such a way in to their lives but I yeah that the stuff people say it's just you can't make that up let's some take some questions from the audience if we can raise the lights and we've got some roaming mics so there's someone down here and then anyone further back yet in someone right at the back so we'll go this one here first and then back row hi Nicole hi how did you get through your writer's block before and what you gonna do to get through your writer's block now that you've got well I guess you're supposed to just keep writing but and so when I was writing the script that I can't finish I just kept writing and write scenes and I would get to page 80 and then I'd read it and it was bad and then I did that a few times and then finally I just said I can't do this anymore and I gave in to the writer's block and I felt immediately relieved because I just couldn't nail it and I'm sad and I'm scared and I don't plan on going back to that I might take pieces eventually out of it because I think there's some good stuff in there so I don't know I mean um I can work thank God in TV directing other people's stuff which I really like and I'm reading things like books and scripts that I could direct and adapt but those are you know mostly money money jobs I enjoy doing them but it's not the same so I'm kind of looking around for what might be next and that's how in other words I I don't know how does the freelance directing help in any way in sort of freeing you away from your own absolutely yeah it's great and if it's a show I really love and I'm so excited to be there and also like ultimately I mean unless I really screw up it's not my fault because I'm writing so I'm directing somebody else's material the writers and producers are right behind me and so after every take I are after the end of a scene I'll turn around and say can I move on are you happy with that and if they say yes then it's not my fault and so and plus I get to meet new people new actors I want to work with and directors and I mean the other crew members but it is a relief and that's why I want to do that now I want a job so I don't have to think about this but writing is the most satisfying thing having written is the most satisfying thing finishing a script is thrilling yep I was interested to hear and to read about earlier your are you at the back right at the back hi your early experiences working on Woody Allen sense and Hannah and her sisters is an assistant editor I was just wondering how maybe you some of that has influenced you if at all because both if you kind of have a very kind of like personal cinema and autobiographical in in some ways and I think um my relationship with Woody Allen is completely overblown in so many publications like he was not my mentor he was not a close friend you know and when I worked on Hannah and her sisters I was an apprentice editor I just sent the dailies which us old people will know what that means you know and I interacted with him and he he you know was a family friend ish but I think that I was inspired by him just like everybody else it's not because I knew him I just loved his movies especially the earlier oh there was sorry woody but they're still unbelievably hilarious and and beautiful those older ones um you know many other directors like Mike Lee and Albert Brooks and a lot of filmmakers who wrote really personal stuff you could feel it was personal all that inspired me then you know I think seeing Sex Lies and videotape when I was in film school really blew me away because that felt like I mean I don't know if any of that stuff happened to Steven Soderbergh it probably did but it was so normal and regular and slow and quiet and felt so real that those kind of movies inspired me to someone here and then we'll go to the front and then over this side hi Nicole hi I was born very aware of despeezo sorry hi hello I wonder what your views are on the changing landscape of films in terms of Netflix and Amazon Prime because it strikes me that your kind of films and these sort of more grown up comedy dramas or even romantic comedies that I feel like you've saved one's the screenwriters coming through that this seems to be now the home for these kind of movies yeah and yeah I just wanted what your your thoughts were on that sort of you know in a way presumably that's exciting there's a bigger landscape but does it mean that you know these sort of movies won't be seen in cinemas so much and does that does it bother you where your films are seen for example well I'd much prefer have to have my movies in a movie theater I knew that land of steady habits was going to be a tough one you know unless George Clooney was in it and even then based on the material but I wanted it to be screened in a theater and then when Netflix that I could cast anyone I wanted I didn't care about the theater anymore I was like that's the point I want to make a movie I'm proud of and so I got to do that now that I've done that is a very strange experience it's sort of like I made a movie and then it blew away I gotta know where it is and I don't see people watching it and you know they have a very different model of press and and long-lead advertising like nobody knew this movie existed a week and a half before it was released they're like you made a new movie I was like yeah there's no trailer there's no this or that like months in advance nothing they blast it all at once like two weeks before it's released and then it goes away and so again I might go that route again because it let me make a movie I'm proud of but and so I think the landscape it's good and bad you know obviously anybody can make a movie now and that's great it's not so you know elitist and hard to break into but you know just like you know I'm like an old lady it's like the iPhones and the you know nobody's looking at each other and the movie theaters are going away yeah oh yeah you mentioned that you don't know what's gonna happen when you're starting to write your first draft yeah how much do you need to know before you're ready to plunge in and is the process of writing your first draft something you just last in a couple of weeks or anguish over many many months that one I wish I could be more and so we banged it out in two weeks it's like I hate you who are you um I write I start writing when I get bored taking notes like I'll make up a bunch of characters and a few scenes and I get an idea of maybe what the end might be like and then I just start writing and I get completely lost generally after a while and that's when rewriting and rewriting and rewriting helps you go back to the beginning of what you've written and keep changing yeah so you're so in a way you're doing a new draft each yeah I don't know how people count drafts you know I think sometimes I mean I'll do all I'll do that to a point and then eventually it is does feel like a first draft still and then once I like I so this is about that then I can rewrite it but I do go over it it's impossible not to see what you did yesterday Nicole thank you very much for an enlightening chat I'd like your honesty today I think it's great my question is about the actual but two things is obviously about putting your package together for your films and the second thing is about using an actress's Bank ability to actually get your film made because obviously they're arson actually say like the emma stones and Jennifer Lawrence who are the names that can open a movie but you're using Kathryn Kim I mean how what's the general feeling if you're trying to get your films made do you can you rely on a bank ability of an actress like a name like that some would they consider a one of your scripts I think certain actors would definitely consider my scripts I mean I get so impatient and frustrated if somebody has to too long to read the script I feel I got you know I'll find someone who wants to read it right away and I I offered a part to Kate Winslet I think it was that any remember which movie it was and I loved her and really wanted her to do it and it was taking forever like a couple of months was going by and I told my agent like let's just pull it back let's tell her we're moving on and then I ran into her like the week later and she was like I was about to read your movie and you took it away from me so I don't have patience and but I sure I mean I loved Emma Stone I loved a lot of famous people and I would love to work with them well you know they're busy and I I do have some of those famous people who say I want to be in one of your movies I mean Melissa McCarthy and I have wanted to work together for a really long time but I'm not I guess I'm just I'm not like a sellout I don't want to put somebody in the movie just because they're famous they have to be really right for it does that answer your question okay hi hi I was wondering what is it that you enjoy the most about the writing process and what is it that you dread the most that you feel you're struggling with the most um the writing well I don't know when I'm when I'm reading it something I've written and I'm laughing or I think I'm clever this was good and finished having finished it is the most satisfying but like if I have a good day I mean it's just so terrible how much it affects my self-esteem and my worldview it's like if I wrote a good day I feel really good you know and if I'm struggling then it's always a struggle though I guess discipline I feel bad when I'm not disciplined I find myself pushing it off and that makes me feel bad so why don't I do it every day I don't know it's a conundrum um hi Nicole so you mentioned that a lot of your characters are based on your real experiences and you draw on your relationships of others is there ever a fear of the backlash that comes with that if somebody yeah what Chisholm is your work and things takes offense the way that they feel they've been betrayed and how do you deal with that um well it hasn't happened very often I have I did like show one of my scripts to the character that you know she's point being portrayed and read the script and said no this is great I'm fine with it and then when she saw the movie oh my god I really hurt her feelings it wasn't a flattering portrait of her and I felt really bad I did and other times I'm I try not to I did have one friend who didn't want to see the movie because he knew he was kind of in it and I don't think he would have minded it but he was kind of anxious about it I mean I would love to just write so honestly about my family and the craziness and the you know all of it but I can't do that I don't I can't it's not worth it until they go until they're dead yeah I think we got time for a couple more questions very quite we've got someone at the back either I have a question about when you're writing script and then you turn up on set and when you're directing a scene do you find there's a difference between what you've written and what you find in the moment or how do you approach that well of course you know we picture it in our heads when we're writing completely and then you get to the location and it's all wrong even though everything is different the way an actor will say it is different and usually for the better because I've cast people I really want sometimes that's exactly as I pictured and I'm thrilled but I'm open to changing things while we're shooting and if someone says something terrific or funny I'll take it I generally try to keep it to what I've imagined and I don't know it's it's so weird like I don't remember what I thought that scene was going to look like when I wrote it because then it becomes something else and then when you're editing it it becomes something else again but it's cool being able to direct your own writing I mean that's I can change it I can do whatever I want to it we touched very briefly on adaptation but but is that more of a challenge for you because I know with the land of steady habits you the focus is more on the central character mm-hmm as his life is falling apart rather than giving lots of lots of backstory right the character of Connie Britton plays is non-existent non-existent yeah in Ted Thompson's novel so I I'm just curious ready know I read an interview in which you said that okay yes I gave 30 seconds ago but thank you but yeah it's I'm just curious about the the sense of license the sense of freedom you have and obviously then the extra element if you're not actually then directing right well I take license and I don't think any novelist should care I mean unless they I don't know don't trust me at all Ted Thompson was so thrilled that his movie his book was being turned into a movie it was his first novel and he was already a fan of mine and he was such a pleasure he was like do whatever you want go go for it and I showed him drafts and he corrected me in certain areas or Sneed suggestions and that was good but adapting is easier because it's the air already I haven't had to adapt like a big fat thing and Whittle it down into you know most of the stuff I've adapted is pretty manageable and picking and choosing I would just like set the book up in one of those recipe stands and you're like this is a good scene that's a good scene and just kind of do it based on what I like and what I'd like to write and what is important but it's easier for sure to do that and can you ever forgive me it was really fun to adapt her memoir it's a really funny memoir it was kind of a challenge to figure out how to get well you guys haven't seen it yet but how to get you know a writer on screen to be interesting while she's writing and while she is all these other voices kind of that she's writing I don't know I don't know I'm saying my saying if you haven't actually seen all of Nicole's films that she's written and directed all of them except her first walking and talking available to see in the UK hopefully that will become available again because I think it's a lovely debut thank you just get it anywhere no it's it's it's very old but I mentioned a number of times near the land of steady habits that is now available to watch on Netflix and I strongly recommend that you watch it it's a really beautiful piece of filmmaking can you ever forgive me opens on the 1st of February in the UK you get a chance to see it then and yes it's by a different director but I don't think Melissa McCarthy and Richie D grant would be half as good if it wasn't for such a superb screenplay about film thank you very much for jayjay charitable trust and to BAFTA for organizing this event but most of all can you please join me in thanking Nicole [Applause] [Music] [Music] you [Music]