William Nolan at Willamette Writers, March 2013

Wow, somehow I neglected to post my notes from the March Willamette Writer's talk by William Nolan. Sorry!


William Nolan
Co-author of Logan’s Run

Willamette Writer’s Announcements
·      Open house at Willamette Writer’s House on April 21st from 3pm to 8pm
·      WW Conference will be a little different this year: new tracks on self-publishing, Thursday night master classes.

William Nolan
·      Started writing at the age of 10.
·      Made his first sale at 25.
·      Been writing for 75 years, 60 years of it professionally.
·      My mother kept the first piece of writing I ever wrote. A terrible poem with misspellings. She keptI still have it.
·      By age 10, writing adventure stories.
·      Wrote a story about a crime fighting snake.
·      You can do a lot of bad writing when you’re young, and you never know it.
·      If I saw those stories for the first time, I’d say that the author should not become a writer.
·      Most famous for Logan’s Run.
o   There’s been a remake in the running for 19 years
o   Would love to see a remake because the 1976 movie had so many dumb mistakes, and lacked special effects.
·      How did you write Logan’s Run?
o   I was 27. It was my first novel.
o   I went to a lecture at UCLA. Charles Beaumont (Twilight Zone) Challenge to distinguish social fiction and science fiction. Came up with an idea, then thought maybe he could make $50 on a short story.
o   Then George Clayton Johnson said let’s write a screenplay.
o   Nolan said let’s write a novel first, and then the screenplay.
o   They took turns writing in a motel room for three weeks, spelling each other at the typewriter.
o   Nolan wanted to just sell it for $250 to Ave.
o   George said “you promised a screenplay”
o   They wrote the screenplay, got offered $60,000 by MGM.
o   Went for an agent. Decided to hold out for $100,000.
o   From Friday to Monday the offer went up from $60,000 to $100,000. (A ton of money for the 1960s.)
o   They threw our Nolan and George’s script
o   The commissioned one has illogical stuff.
o   The directory said “Science fiction doesn’t need logic”.
o   But science fiction needs logic more than anything else. You’re developing a fantasy world, and you need it to hang together coherently.
o   The MGM movie was a disaster. The actors were good, because they were British trained on Shakespeare.
·      Hollywood is just bizarre: Got asked to make a movie just like Zorro, except not named Zorro. They wanted a guy in a mask, with a sword, who wrote his initial on walls, and with a mute Indian sidekick . So he wrote “Nighthawk Rides” at their request, then they sent it to the studio, and the studio rejected it as being too close to Zorro.
·      Written 200 short stories. 88 books.
·      Ray Bradbury, one of his closest friends for over 50 years.
o   Nola did first scholarly article on Bradbury.
o   Would go to the magic castle. Could only go if you were a magician. Ray was. They’d went to a Houdini séance at the castle, but Houdini never showed up.
·      Grew up in Kansas city, for 19 years, then went out to California, then up to Oregon, now in Washington.
·      See The Intruder
o   Written by Charles Beaumont
o   Directed by Roger McCormick
o   William Shatner’s first role
o   Gene Cooper was in it.
o   Lots of science fiction people in it.
o   The actors only got a single sheet of notes each, didn’t even know what the picture was about, or what was going on.
·      Scriptwriting is one thing and prose is another
o   You have to change the whole method of presentation for a screenplay.
o   A novel has a character with interior thoughts and desires.
o   With a screenplay, you’ve got visuals and you’ve got dialogue.
o   You have to completely eliminate interior thoughts.
o   [You have to rely on the director and actors]
o   Novel -> Synopsis -> Coverage (one paragraph) -> Sentence
§  “High Concept”: originated  with a producer who was too coked out to read the coverage
o   The first thing they do when they buy a novel is throw out the novel.
·      Writing is also a choice of what to expand and what to condense.
o   Beginning/bad writers focus on exactly the wrong things: they’ll spend a page on walking into a room, and then say “he meets the girl”.
o    



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