Eric Heisserer

[8.Jan.17] I’ve just watched Arrival. It was AMAZING. The movie tells the process of humans trying to communicate with an alien. We follow a linguist deciphering an alien language incredibly different than what humans use. Of course, the physics involved enticed me :) Time is a fascinating subject.

This is a snippet of the screenplay written by Heisserer for the movie. If I remember, half of this page weren’t in the movie. It would’ve been cool if it did.

Heisserer discussed his writing process in the article linked below. This is the description of the picture

“…A scene in which Colonel Weber and fellow scientist Ian Donnelly approach Louise, concerned for her mental stability after she translated some heptapod writing in real-time without the need for reference images or software. This is where the viewer learns about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and how immersion in a foreign language can rewire our brains.”

Heisserer, Eric. “How I Wrote Arrival (and What I Learned Doing It).” The Talkhouse. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2017. .



Eric Heisserer – the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of ARRIVAL and Valiant’s upcoming HARBINGER and BLOODSHOT feature films – joins Harvey Award-nominated visionary Raúl Allén (Wrath of the Eternal Warrior) for an all-new Valiant Prestige-format adventure…launching Livewire and an extraordinary new team of heroes into the fight of their lives!

The government has dispatched Amanda McKee – the technopath codenamed Livewire – to investigate the ruins of a secret facility formerly run by Toyo Harada, the most powerful telepath on Earth and her former mentor. In his quest for world betterment at any cost, Harada sought out and activated many potential psiots like himself. Those who survived, but whose powers he deemed to have no value to his cause, were hidden away at this installation. But Livewire, having studied Harada’s greatest strengths and learned his deepest weaknesses, senses opportunity where he once saw failure. A young girl who can talk to birds… A boy who can make inanimate objects gently glow… To others, these are expensive disappointments. But, to Livewire, they are secret weapons…in need of a leader. Now, as a mechanized killer called Rex-O seeks to draw them out, Livewire and her new team of cadets will be forced to put their powers into action…in ways they never could have imagined…

89th Academy Awards Winners

“La La Land”
“Moonlight” - WINNER
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Hidden Figures”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”

Damien Chazelle, “La La Land” - WINNER

Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”

Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Emma Stone, “La La Land” - WINNER
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”

Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea” - WINNER
Denzel Washington, “Fences”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”

Viola Davis, “Fences” - WINNER

Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”

Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight” - WINNER

Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

“Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins - WINNER

“Arrival,” Eric Heisserer
“Lion,” Luke Davies
“Fences,” August Wilson
“Hidden Figures,” Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi

“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle
“Hell or High Water,” Taylor Sheridan
“Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan - WINNER
“The Lobster,”  Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
“20th Century Women,” Mike Mills

Keep reading

Eric Heisserer On Subtext in Screenplays

From his twitter:

- All right, diving in: The demon in the room I want to talk about today is subtext. Subtext makes me suffer so. Oh, the suffering

- Because its delicious presence in a script is the mark of good writing, and its inverse is the sign of bad writing. But there’s a catch.

- Playwrights tend to rock subtext, because they have to. The dialogue has to convey more than face value because that’s all there is.

- Consequently, people in the theater world pay close attention to the writing. They look at the words carefully. You can dine on Shakespeare.

- But in film and TV subtext can also exist in imagery. You want every shot to be suggestive of something more than what’s merely right there.

- And you need to, to attract talented directors and actors. They know quality, they’ve done theater, they CRAVE subtext.

- And of course, writing it is incredibly hard! Let’s not overlook that, shall we? It’s alchemy. It’s like crafting a really great joke.

- In subtext, everyone builds the punchline in their heads without you telling it. Without subtext, you’re explaining the joke to them.

- There are plenty of avenues to subtext, of course. And as script writers we have dialogue, narrative description, wrylies, etc. to play in.

- One Oscar-nominated writer likes to use dialogue in her narrative for it–
DAVID gestures at them, “I’m fine, whatever.”

- And just on this tangent, what I like about that option is that we get the meaning of the gesture without telling the actor what to do

- But okay, here’s where it gets even WORSE for us as writers. Because guess what, we’re making a transitory document. Which means…

- People need to grasp the subtext in a scene or else it will turn out crap.

- And by “people” I mean everyone between you and the finished film/episode/whatever. And here’s how that gets tricky:

- Your DIRECTOR and your ACTORS will want as much subtext as possible, because it gives them room to do THEIR jobs well (if they’re good).

- The people who get the script BEFORE them tend to fear subtext because they can’t be sure how it will land on the screen. So… notes.

- Holy buckets, the notes you will get about limiting, destroying, removing, reducing, and nuking subtext. Oh man.

- 1. “You know, I think you need to put a finer point on what she’s saying in this scene…”

- 2. “What is she really saying here? I get that, yeah, but can you make that idea louder?”

- 3. “Just put the words in his mouth; just so the audience knows what he’s feeling.”

- From strange to awkwardly porny, there are a hundred different ways execs will tell you to kill subtext.

- They are sometimes right to do that! Not often, in my experience, but sometimes. Because finding the right balance in the writing is HARD.

- So, what do we do? Seriously, I’m asking. Why do you think I’m drinking on a Sunday? Well, yes, because it’s Sunday but yeah.

- Here’s what I’ve discovered on this terrible path of writing layered content with subtext, and you can use what works for you…

- There is the option of simply “kicking the ball downfield” – writing essentially “this is how we feel when we see this scene play out.”

- That spawns description like: “This is the most heartbreaking moment of her life, and we’re all in tears at the end of it.”

- BAH TO THAT, I SAY. That is my mouth writing checks. That’s me saying, “Fuck it, this isn’t my job, it’s someone else’s, I’m outtie.”

- We have a responsibility as writers to know what the characters are feeling AND how they both hide and express it in the same moment.

- Not down to the tiniest gesture (because again we’re invading the domain of the actor usually) but it has to have more going on than “Here!”

- So the demon I wrestle with is: How much do I need to say on the page that lets the fearful types know the director/actor will rock it?

- This is where the iterative process can actually help a writer.

- There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Homer starts to take a bite of Maggie’s BD cake, but Marge has made a spare for him to mess up.

- We sometimes have to do that as writers: Build a draft where all the emotions are signposts, and people talk like NOBODY TALKS IN REAL LIFE.

- And then later, before going out to talent, we offer the artful draft full of subtext, the one that will land capable voices.

- Of course to pull this off you need conspirators in the machine. You need a clever producer or junior somewhere.

- Outside of that option, the only one I’ve made work part of the time is by building a script with subtextual shorthand, for lack of better.

- In that, I preserve the dialogue best I can where all the subtext lives, but I “explain the punchline” in the narrative immediately after.

- This helps a lot since actors are primarily focused on dialogue. Especially those trained from theater. (And those are the ones you want.)

- TANGENT: You do not want an actor whom you often hear “cuts well together.” That’s not a marathon runner, there.

- By that I mean someone whose performance must be assembled by your Dr Frankenstein editor from a large volume of takes/shots.

- Subtext works really damn well when it’s this sandbox you build for the people taking the script from you to produce the thing.

- And! Oh! Sometimes you can paint subtext in negative space. By that I mean, write to what the scene isn’t.

- Or you can make bold the juxtaposition of what’s being said and what is being felt or meant on the page.

- Like:

(please stay)
Just get out. Go.

- This kind of dynamic isn’t easily swatted by rushed execs trying to understand the purpose of a scene. Usually.

- Point is: We have a lofty goal here of trying to deliver something that works on at least two levels. You know?

- In our writing, what our characters say is not the truth, but it’s a map to the truth.

- When people actually say what they feel, it makes them terribly vulnerable. And vulnerability is nearly extinct thanks to the Internet

- So, my gorgeous monsters, let’s keep finding and sharing clever ways to deliver subtext in our stories. That shit is tough, man.


I usually just make GIFS, post them on Tumblr, and then go hide in my safe little hole and giggle at the magnificence of my lame photoshop skills. But this time, I have to say something.

Last night I had the privilege of seeing Hours (2013), and this film was so much more than I expected. From a first time director, and from the rep that Paul Walker has of being a “bad” actor, I didn’t expect much going into this.

Man, I was so wrong. Not even seeing The Lazarus Project (2008) or Running Scared (2006) can prepare you for the performance Paul gives in this movie. I’m proud to be a fan of his. And I can proudly say that he doesn’t get cast for his looks. He was chosen for this role because he believed in it, and his performance proves it.

I have too many feelings for this film. These gifs don’t even cover the emotional depth in this film, you need to SEE IT!

PLEASE PLEASE go check this out on Dec.13th!

Eric Heisserer on Loglines

Screenwriter and director Eric Heisserer wrote on Twitter last night about loglines for scripts:

- Notes call now has me writing furiously into the night. But a quick break to talk loglines.

- The short version (“I see what you did there”): I’m terrible at loglines. No way around it. But I can recognize a great one instantly.

- There is a mountain of how-to material out there about constructing an amazing logline. A lot of formulas and rules. A lot works, too.

- One version is the WHEN > THEN > UNTIL model. In one sentence you lob the situation, the complication, and the big conflict.

- Another model suggests you clash your protag’s emotional need with your antag’s need. Set up both and smash ‘em together in 2 sentences.

- Yet another model pushes you simply to tee up the movie rather than summarize it. Hit the inciting incident and drop the mic.

- There is no single method to a great logline. But I can tell you the interesting versions that fire people up.

- The first is the one that plays the big reveal at the end of the logline. You read the conflict and the BOOM, bomb dropped.

- “A frantic father struggles to save his community against authorities conspiring to cover up an unstoppable disaster called GODZILLA.”

- That isn’t perfect, but that’s the WHAMMY I’m talking about. You get the heart and the humanity in the front, then end with the “oh shit.”

- Another version uses brevity as its main weapon. It offers a question or a declaration that creates a dozen more questions in your head.

- One of the shortest I’d ever seen: “A man sues God.”

- Another variation: “What if your whole life has been in a virtual reality?”

- These can work in certain circumstances, although they fail when applied to script repositories like Black List, because lack of story.

- The strongest loglines speak to the big conflict the protag faces, and suggests the choice they must make without giving away the answer.

- In other words, strong loglines communicate the subtext and theme of your story. Which is why some writers start with one.

- What is really going on in your story? The thing behind the thing.

- Rather than getting into the minutia of word choices and sentence structure, let me toss out some practices that will help.

- 1. Have five trusted friends read your script and ask them to write a logline for it. Compare them, notice what they responded to/ignored.

- 2. Use a fun social game on the logline: Tell your story in one minute, then in three words, then in only one word.

- 3. Pick a favorite movie and pitch it in one sentence to friends. See how many guess the movie, how many agree with your logline.

- All right, that’s good for now, I must crawl back to the salt mines for more work. Keep creating, you gorgeous monsters.