The Secretary

Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary

About adapting material for the big screen

Don’t be delicate and don’t be precious with the original
story. Infuse yourself into the work; take it, own it and make it
yours. Never worry what the writer of the original story will think
or you will be blocked.

About getting notes on your screenplay

Just keep your mouth shut, write down everything,
nod your head and don’t get into big arguments. Take and pursue
the notes-and if you disagree with the notes, do the rewrite your
own way in a convincing enough way that you’ll never get the note

About research

Research your ass off. Read books like a maniac on
every subject that the screenplay touches. This will help spark
story and character ideas. Write down each note on a different index
card. Then be willing to throw out 95 percent of the research, or
else you will have a stilted script. Trust that the research has
seeped into your subconscious writing mind and will inform the work.
This is the same when taking notes as an actor. When acting a note,
you don’t usually “think” the note while acting, you just think
about it before you start acting and then allow it to get into your

About turning in a script

“Never show an idiot an unfinished work.” And assume
that everybody is an idiot. Never, ever presume that anybody is
capable of seeing the potential of your work. Only hand in what
you are very, very proud of. When it says first draft, hand in the
seventh draft.

About best friends

Have a best friend who loves every single thing you
write. Who will always tell you you’re brilliant. Who will be your
muse. Who you can bounce ideas off.

About rewriting

If you can’t rewrite, then you can’t write. A lot
of people can come up with ideas. A lot of people can write first
drafts. But not that many people can rewrite. The real writers are
those people who sit through draft after draft and love to rewrite.

About loneliness

If you don’t love being alone, don’t be a writer.

About cutting

Do not be prissy about cutting the shit out of your
script. After writing the first draft, let it sit for a couple of
weeks. Then read it and cut out every single thing that doesn’t
work. Sometimes that is an alarming amount. But do it. Cutting is
the best and most important thing to know how to do. “Throw out
your babies.”

About the phone

As a writer, you should never answer your phone. You
should screen all your calls. And you should treat your time with
respect. It is yours and the writing’s-nobody else’s.

About clich?s

Don’t be afraid of clich?s. Clich?s are clich?s because
they work. If you spend all your time trying to be original, you
will work yourself into a mental cage.

About writing in bed

Writing is self-indulgent and it should be. Make yourself
as comfortable as possible. Just because you’re writing does not
mean you have to be at a desk. I often write in bed because it is
a way to trick myself into thinking I’m not actually working.