Academy Award and Emmy Award Nominated Filmmaker Lionel Chetwynd: An In-Depth Interview

May 15
06:17

2024

Norm Goldman

Norm Goldman

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Summary: Norm Goldman, Editor of Bookpleasures.com, sits down with the acclaimed filmmaker Lionel Chetwynd, whose illustrious career spans over six decades and includes more than sixty films. In this interview, Chetwynd shares insights into his journey, creative process, and the evolving landscape of Hollywood. From his thoughts on screenwriting versus directing to the impact of reality TV, Chetwynd offers a candid look into the world of filmmaking.

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Introduction

Today,Academy Award and Emmy Award Nominated Filmmaker Lionel Chetwynd: An In-Depth Interview Articles Norm Goldman, Editor of Bookpleasures.com, is honored to host Academy Award and Emmy Award-nominated filmmaker Lionel Chetwynd. With a career that began in the 1970s, Chetwynd has been involved in over sixty films, many of which were made for television. His notable works include P.T. Barnum, Color of Justice, The Man Who Captured Eichmann, Kissinger and Nixon, The Heroes of Desert Storm, Two Solitudes, and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, for which he received an Academy Award nomination and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Feature Comedy.

The Journey to Screenwriting

Norm:

How did you come to be a screenwriter, and do you specialize in a particular screenwriting technique or genre?

Lionel:

I consider myself more of a filmmaker, although my foundational craft is writing. This was a market-driven decision. Good writing is a rare skill in the modern entertainment industry. Once established, you often get opportunities to direct or produce, which I do for most of my projects. Writing offers the best longevity among the three filmmaking crafts. My work tends to focus on serious subject matter requiring a grasp of history or scholarship, a relatively uncluttered niche in the market.

Crafting Characters

Norm:

How do you create characters in your writing?

Lionel:

Screenwriting lacks prose; everything is kinetic and in quotation marks. The screenwriter must create situations that allow characters to emerge dynamically. Characters are revealed through their behavior, not inner monologues. If a character behaves inconsistently, it indicates either a false situation or a plot twist that doesn't align with the character's nature. Plot and character develop in tandem, driving each other and creating the character arc.

Hollywood's Obsessions

Norm:

Do you believe that Hollywood is too preoccupied with sex and violence?

Lionel:

I think Hollywood is more preoccupied with politics. However, sex and violence have been drama's cornerstones since the Greeks. The issue is the lowering of boundaries in the ambient culture, leading to depictions more for shock value than storytelling or character revelation. My work has been relatively restrained in this regard.

The Popularity of Reality TV

Norm:

Why are TV reality shows so popular today?

Lionel:

Reality shows are popular partly because they are cost-effective for networks. They also cater to a celebrity-obsessed society where people will do almost anything to be on TV. Additionally, the 24-hour news cycle's frenetic urgency makes the "news-like immediacy" of reality TV seem like an extension of real life.

Screenplay vs. Stage Play

Norm:

What is the difference between writing a screenplay and a stage play?

Lionel:

Stage plays are dialogue-intensive and can vary with audience interaction. Films are about visual storytelling, requiring judicious editing to maintain pace. Plays are intimate, while films are generally less so. These are the principal structural differences a dramatist faces.

Novels vs. Movies

Norm:

What can a great novel do that a movie cannot?

Lionel:

A great novel can lay bare a character's inner monologue. In film, you're at the mercy of the actor's skill in conveying a character's interior life. Occasionally, a novel rich in internal character nuance, like To Kill a Mockingbird, can be fully realized on screen.

Screenwriting or Directing?

Norm:

Which do you prefer, screenwriting or directing, and why?

Lionel:

They are completely different experiences. Writing is solitary and personal, allowing you to explore your imagination. Directing involves coordinating and supervising hundreds of people, with significant control over outcomes. In television, this authority usually falls to the executive producer.

Handling Criticism

Norm:

Do you ever read newspaper or other media critics, and how do you react to a bad review of one of your productions?

Lionel:

Like everyone, I deny reading critics but often stay up at night waiting for reviews. Over time, you realize most critics know very little and will soon be gone, while your film remains forever.

Research in Filmmaking

Norm:

How much research do you do before writing a film?

Lionel:

A great deal. I take it very seriously. Since your film will live for a long time, truthfulness is the only way to protect its legacy.

The Role of a Producer

Norm:

What is the role of a producer, and how does he or she go about raising money for a film? Is it true that casting is the first thing producers think of when reading a script?

Lionel:

The producer's role varies. Most U.S. films are institutionally financed, so the producer's job is to find a writer and get the institution to pay for the script. The critical moment is finding the actor, as they sell the product at the box office. In regimes with heavy public funding, the producer's path is different. Nowadays, virtually all "green lights" are contingent upon casting.

Most Satisfying Screenplay

Norm:

What was your most satisfying screenplay and why?

Lionel:

Every screenplay is like a child; it would be indecent to select one over the other. I have particular affection for Goldenrod, Varian’s War, and Ike: Countdown to D-Day. Generally, my favorite is always the next one.

Filmmaking Collaboration

Norm:

How do you feel when your screenplays are not filmed the way you wrote them, and do you have much input as to how they are filmed?

Lionel:

Filmmaking is a collaborative process. I was well-served by my collaborators early in my career and have enjoyed significant control in recent years. I accept the marketplace's confinement and always stand by the final product, at least for a while.

Future Aspirations

Norm:

Is there anything you have not done in the world of film that you would like to try?

Lionel:

There are at least two scripts in my trunk that I still fantasize about making. If an actor comes on board, this fantasy will be realized. Filmmaking is an incremental life, and each project presents new challenges. Most of us are happy to have another chance to perfect our craft.

What's Next for Lionel Chetwynd?

Norm:

What is next for Lionel Chetwynd, and is there anything else you wish to add?

Lionel:

I’m currently finishing the final draft of a theatrical motion picture for Sony with a biblical theme, one of the more interesting undertakings of my career. I expect much will be spoken of this soon. Your questions have been precise, covering all I might usefully address. Thanks for the opportunity. I enjoy your websites and am delighted to be a part of them. Good luck, Norm.

Norm:

Thanks once again, and good luck with all of your future projects.

Interesting Stats

  • Screenwriting Longevity: According to the Writers Guild of America, only 33% of screenwriters are employed in the industry after ten years, highlighting the longevity and rarity of sustained success in screenwriting (WGA).
  • Reality TV Popularity: Reality TV shows accounted for 40% of all TV programming in 2020, driven by their cost-effectiveness and high viewer engagement (Nielsen).
  • Film Financing: In 2019, 80% of films produced in the U.S. were institutionally financed, underscoring the critical role of producers in securing funding (MPAA).

By delving into the nuances of filmmaking, Lionel Chetwynd offers a masterclass in the art and business of cinema. His insights provide a valuable perspective for aspiring filmmakers and seasoned professionals alike.

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