HUMANITAS Trustee Richard LaGravenese on “Romancing the Screenplay”


by Matt Pacult, 10/23/14 MR_15307_01.tif

The Austin Film Festival billed this panel as a conversation about the contradictions of the romance form. How do you take something deeply intimate, idiosyncratic, and personal and package it for an audience?

HUMANITAS Trustee Richard LaGravenese admitted he didn’t know he was going to be on the romance panel until he got the schedule. He pointed out that, ironically, “In my love stories, the characters don’t end up together.” The characters, “wind up more self actualized at the end. Every step is a step toward that.”

The panelists included Vanessa Taylor (Hope Springs, Divergent), Michael Weber ([500] Days of Summer, The Fault in Our Stars), and HUMANITAS’ LaGravenese (The Last 5 Years, Bridges of Madison County). Each panelist carried a decidedly “no-bullshit” approach toward the genre.

LaGravenese said, “It’s actually a harmful idea to think there’s some kind of normal…You have to make your relationship unique to yourselves with your own rules and your values. That’s why I think romantic comedies have fucked people up a little bit. They look at them and say, I don’t feel like that.”

As a self described romantic movie junky, Taylor added, “Especially as a woman, the message I took away from [romantic comedies] is just stand there. Just stand there and prince charming will come to you. At some point in my 30s, I thought, I don’t think so.”

Weber explained he and his writing partner, Scott Neustadter, use the fundamental question: “What would really happen? That is our jumping off point. We use that tool more than all the other tools combined.”

When asked about how to use HUMANITAS Writing Prize to inspire other writers, LaGravenese said, “What I think every artist hopes for is connection. And it’s to write something where people say oh God I’ve felt this, oh God I know that experience. That’s the greatest reward one can get.”

During the Q & A, an audience member directed a comment toward LaGravenese. “[Bridges of Madison County] was so horribly corny and wreaking with false sentiment,” she said to laughter in the Driskill Ballroom. “And you took that and you adapted it into something so poignant and so beautiful, that I wanted to say thank you."

For a more complete depiction of events-especially more insight by Vanessa Taylor, and Michael H. Weber—stay tuned for the panel’s release on Austin Film Festival’s show On Story in the coming months.

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UncategorizedJosh Neimark