A Non-Profit Group of Writers Helping Writers
Erik Bork – known for working on Tom Hank’s From the Earth to the Moon and Band of Brothers – shared his insights on turning true stories into screenplays.
“A story is about a big thing; a problem that has to be solved. The bigger the problem the more your audience will be involved and want to see it solved. And big stories are often about things that go wrong. All the Apollo missions that went as planned weren’t that exiting as stories. But Apollo 13 where things went wrong – the mission NASA felt embarrassed about – was the story that people could get excited about. Also, the bigger the problem your hero has to solve, the less cuddly and likeable he has to be.
“Don’t get lost in all the details. When I was working on From the Earth to the Moon, I thought you needed to include everything you uncovered in your research and that would be the story. But the research isn’t the story.
“You are the author with the creative vision. So write your story. Don’t just string together anecdotes from your research. After you have written your story, then go back and vet it against the facts. Then you can insert real dialogue if it fits, like ‘Houston, we have a problem.’ Don’t get seduced by the facts. Be true to the spirit of the story.”