At the recent Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Oscar nominee Quentin Tarantino was the recipient of the American Riviera Award for his screenwriting. The event included a conversation in front of 2,000 festival guests and clips of his films throughout his career.
Here is the transcript of that Jan. 30 conversation with L.A. Times writer John Horn; it has been edited for length and language:
John Horn: Thank you very much. Great reception.
QuentinTarantino: Yeah, exactly. Hey, by the way, thanks everybody for coming out. I actually didn't realize this was such a big deal. And so I'm actually rather taken aback by all this goodwill and love. Thank you very much.
We got a lot of stuff to look at. We're gonna talk about writing tonight. You come to screenwriting as an actor first, not as a screenwriter. And I'm curious what that brings in terms of your writing. What does it mean to be an actor who's writing? Do you write something that you know you're gonna hear?
Tarantino: Yeah, it's interesting. It's funny. I never took any writing classes, but I did take acting classes. And one of the things is, even to this day, most of the adjectives I use during the writing process are adjectives actors would use, trying to get into character or taking it where a thing goes. You know, the actors that I really like are the actors that really invest in their character, invest in the backstory, invest in who that person was before the story started, maybe who that person is after the story is over. And even, OK, the story says, "They turn left." But if what if they turned right? What would happen then? And just because the story says you turn left, people have free will. They could actually turn right. And then there's a whole other thing that could happen. And so it's that idea, that thought process when it comes to characters, that I think I bring to my writing. Now, by the way, that actually is how most writers write. Might not be how most screenwriters, and I'm not saying that to put down screenwriting. There is a reason why some people would actually write something and actually want to be finished around page 120 and have an idea where you're going. I kind of like doing it the novelistic way. Where I have an idea where I'm going, but it's like when you know how to get to somebody's house, but you don't exactly know the exact directions but you can kinda find your way on your own. And you trust you'll end up at your friend's house. Well, that's kinda how I like to do it.