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In the panel Up Close and Personal: Richard LaGravenese, the writer-director shared his thoughts on the screenwriter’s life.

Richard LaGravenese wrote The Fisher King and Living Out Loud, the latter of which was his first time directing. Having now done both, LaGravenese says, “The only power you have as a writer is choosing who to give it [your script] to, who you’ll work with, because once you do that, your power decreases… Choosing who the producers are, too, is really more important.” LaGravenese came to directing after producer Lynda Obst told him he wrote like a director, because he wrote long character descriptions, camera placement directions, and so forth.

He spoke most often about Living Out Loud, a highly personal project, describing his mood and the music he was listening to while writing it, as well as how it flowed from the musicals he loves. LaGravenese likes “to think of what the thing is about first, and then the characters come from that… Living Out Loud is about the need to be seen and about loneliness. There’s no nifty resolution to that movie and it always ended that way…” when he was writing it, unresolved. Roxanne Bogucka spoke with Richard LaGravenese after the panel.

RB: … I wondered—you said you like movies of the ’30s and ’40s—so you have a feeling about musicals. I just saw 8 Women, I don’t know if you’ve seen that—

RL: How was it?

RB: It’s great! It’s really good. I recommend it highly. But what makes a musical diversion work, do you think, in a story?

RL: Hmm. Well I guess if it, if the music carries along the characters’ journey in a scene or even propels it. That’s the structure of musicals really. The song must advance somehow the plot or the emotion of what’s going on. And those songs in Living Out Loud, I was listening to as I was writing. And searching for those kind of ideas. And “Lush Life,” which is an incredible song, written by an incredible—

RB: Billy Strayhorn.

RL: Oh god! And think of how young he was when he wrote it! And it’s written like a monologue. There’s no verse, there’s no chorus in it, it just runs. And the lines just felt so, actually in the original version I had the four-minute, the full-length version. I had to cut it in half as the opening. But the lines reflected what the character was going through so well that, and Latifah did an amazing job of it. It’s not an easy song to sing. It’s actually one of the hardest. And she did an incredibly great job.

RB: Okay. Thanks very much.


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