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‘Black Swan’ writer gives advice to future filmmakers, screenwriters

Associate News Editor

Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Updated: Friday, December 9, 2011 11:12


Stephen Green | The Houstonian

John McLaughlin, was a co-author and screenplay writer for “Man of the House” (2005). He also was a co-screenplay writer for “Parker” with Jennifer Lopez that will come out next year.

The screenwriter for the 2010 blockbuster "Black Swan" visited the campus of Sam Houston State University on Wednesday to give advice to mass communications students.

John McLaughlin sat in Studio A of the Dan Rather Communication Building to answer questions that students and faculty had about his experience as a screenwriter for "Black Swan." He began answering questions with a general overview of the industry itself.

"There are a lot of skills needed in scriptwriting, although, film is a collaboration. You have to please a lot of people," McLaughlin said.

His blunt speaking style was very apparent throughout the night to the audience, especially when describing how to become successful as a full-time writer.

"To be successful in the business you have to be a killer cutthroat and also please a lot of people," McLaughlin said.

While his most well-known movie is "Black Swan" he has other movies that made it to the big screen. He was a co-author and screenplay writer for "Man of the House" (2005). He also was a co-screenplay writer for "Parker" with Jennifer Lopez that will come out next year.

McLaughlin said that unlike television writers, movie writers have to write in isolation away from their co-workers.

"Writers write in isolation to keep them from discussing financial deals, but we all got along," he said. "'Black Swan' was a 10 year project and I only met the first writer at the British Academy Film Awards."

Although his movie was a world-wide hit, McLaughlin says he won't watch his own movie.

"I don't like watching anything I've written," he said.     

"There are actors that can't watch themselves. I'm a writer that can't watch his work. The only time I'll watch it is when someone forces me into the situation."

Even when he is watching other movies, McLaughlin said it's difficult to get into a movie.

"It's hard for me to enjoy movies. It's like working in the shop that makes magician tricks," he said. "It takes away the illusion."

But some movies he says have few parts that he would change himself.

"There are a few movies that are perfect in that way, like ‘The Americanization of Emily' and ‘Smile,'" he said.

McLaughlin said the movie he first remembers being blown away by was "The Planet of the Apes." While attending film school he discovered he wanted to create films, but that didn't last long.

"Back then making film was expensive and writing was cheaper," he said. "And writing was still a way to get into the business."

After graduating from the New York University -Tisch School of the Arts in 1983 with two degrees in dramatic writing and film, he began his decades long journey to where he is today.

"It was hard to get started. I had to get another job to support my writing," he said.

"Getting connections was slow because I didn't come from a family that had Hollywood connections. It took about eight year before I could support myself just off of writing."

Years after beginning his journey, he gave advice to aspiring screenwriters: keep writing.

"If you are an aspiring screenwriter and you produce a movie independently someone may be watching that has power. If they approach you they probably won't be interested in what you just showed. They'll ask if you have any other stuff."

"You can do it, you just have to write a lot. You have got to finish everything you start…no matter how terrible it is. If not you're training yourself to only write one-third of a script."

There will be a special showing of his movie today in the Performing Arts Center (Erica Starr Theatre) at 8 p.m. It is open to all who want to attend.

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