David Chase’s Advice For Aspiring Screenwriters (2009)

“It’s full of cliches, really. First of all, you have to do it. You can’t talk about it, you actually have to just sit down and do it. And that’s very, very difficult. You have to do it, and you have to do it again, you have to do it again, you have to do it again, and then rewrite it again. That’s tough. Even people who go to Ivy League colleges – I didn’t go to an Ivy League college – but we’re all used to cramming and getting that paper done the night before. And it doesn’t work that way. It can, but not really. Either you have a voice or you don’t. And I think there are a lot of people around who don’t have a particular voice, so it’s very generic what they write. I don’t know how you develop a voice, or maintain a voice. And, y’know, you could say, ‘Well, just believe in what you’re doing. It comes from your heart.’ OK. But what if you’re not talented? That’s not gonna work out that well. So that’s just kind of an empty cliche. I mean, yeah, you definitely have to believe in what you’re doing in your heart, but that’s not gonna make it happen. So much of it is luck. I am really lucky. I don’t know why it happened. I don’t know why The Sopranos was a big deal. I got lucky. Although maybe actually acknowledging that is a help – that a lot of it is luck, and it’s not you, that maybe you’re not even responsible for all this, what you did, all your great stuff, or all your bad stuff. I don’t want to be too philosophical about it, but, y’know, sometimes as a writer you really do feel once in a while like, ‘Something’s coming through me onto this page. I don’t know where or from whom, but I don’t think I’m in control of it.’ That happens once in a while. That’s when it really feels good. Also, you can’t let people talk you out of stuff. You just can’t listen to them. They don’t know what they’re talking about, and even if they do, so do you, and you just can’t listen to them. That’s for sure. You have to be prepared to get fired. You have to be prepared to say, ‘Y’know what? If you kick me off this show I don’t give a flying fuck. I’m God. In fact, maybe I’ll leave tomorrow.’ You have to be thinking that way all the time. Otherwise, as Catherine O’Hara’s character said in Beetlejuice, ‘People, whether they’re living or dead, will walk all over you.’ And that’s true.”