One of the most influential filmmakers of our time, Quentin Tarantino is regarded by many as a pioneer who managed to introduce the delights of genre filmmaking like arthouse action to the mainstream consciousness. Revered for his violently entertaining cult classics like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Tarantino is a major contributor to the revitalisation of American cinema in the 1990s.
In an interview with Howard Stern on his show, Stern asked Tarantino about his approach to screenwriting. “My characters like to talk,” Tarantino confessed. When Stern said that there is a difference between engaging dialogue and ‘talky’ material, Tarantino maintained: “Playwrights never get accused of being ‘talky,’ that’s kind of what they do.”
While defending his approach, the filmmaker claimed that there is a subtextual rhythm to the dialogue just like music and you have to stay true to that in order to maintain narrative tension. “You’re creating rhythm and you’re sailing on that rhythm,” Tarantino said. “You can break up the rhythms but that’s what is stopping it from just being a talky drag.”
“It takes months,” Tarantino replied when Stern questioned him about his writing process. According to the acclaimed director, the writing process is a fickle one but it all comes together once he gets into the flow. As for the specifics of the narrative, Tarantino believes in focusing on the general ideas first before diving into the details.
“I have to write it in order,” the filmmaker insisted. “I don’t wanna know what’s going to happen in the second half. I know how I want to start it off. I am dealing with genre stories so I have an idea where it’s going. At the end of Kill Bill, I was pretty sure she was going to kill Bill but how she was going to kill Bill [wasn’t] clear.”
Since Tarantino spends so much time on his meticulously arranged screenplays, he expects his actors to stick to the script instead of winging it unless they actually contribute with something better. “I am paying them to say my dialogue… If they’re right, I will listen to them but if they’re wrong or if they’re too lazy to learn the dialogue so they’re going to paraphrase it, that shit can’t fly.”
Watch Quentin Tarantino’s full interview with Howard Stern below in which he elaborates on his personal filmmaking and screenwriting methods.