The genius behind Breaking Bad and some of X-Files' best episodes took part in an ask-me-anything interview on reddit last week, and it was delightfully brimming with inspirational quotes. Gilligan is truly one of my screenwriting heroes, so I gobbled up that AMA like it was egg nog cheesecake.
I wanted to share some of his comments that stood out to me, in the hope you'll also find some interesting lessons on creativity, writing, television, etc.
On the value of writing with others:
For me, working collaboratively with a bunch of talented writers is exciting, entertaining, and yields much better results (and yields them quicker) than working by myself. I think writing by one’s self is a bit overrated. There’s nothing wrong with people working together – not just in writing, but in every human endeavor. I think we need more of it in the world, in fact.
On advice to a film school dropout who is still hungry to work in showbiz:
I think the trick is to find inspiration from your own work. To be inspired by the act of writing and creating in and of itself, rather than to focus solely on some ambiguous "success" that may or may not come of it.
I know that’s easier said than done – we all want our work to be read and loved, and we all strive for fame and success. That’s only human nature, and to deny it would be disingenuous. Still, if we can learn to love the act of writing, and if we can appreciate and be proud of the work that we do -- whether it sells or not -- then we’ve truly achieved something profound. Something with deeper meaning.
Hang in there! If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.
On how he brings depth to his characters to make them emotionally connect with the audience:
Always find something to love about your characters…even if it’s only something small. Always try to find a way to invest in them emotionally. And when you write a scene, always ask yourself: are these people behaving like real, recognizable human beings?
That last bit of advice is something that a lot of writers ignore when they’re in a pell-mell rush to write cool, exciting scenes. To my mind, the most exciting scene in the world will ultimately fall flat if the characters in it aren’t behaving in a way that we can comprehend.
As an example: in a horror movie, when the teenagers split up to explore the haunted house!
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