'A Quiet Place' Writers Beck & Woods Share 5 Screenwriting Lessons
If you're looking for an inspirational screenwriting success story, all you have to do is ask two of the most talented (and friendliest) writers working today, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck. These two childhood friends would eventually become the dynamic duo who wrote 2018's smash sci-fi horror hit A Quiet Place, as well as wrote and directed the sci-fi action thriller 65 starring Adam Driver.
So, how did Beck and Woods make it from an Iowa suburb to the bright lights of Hollywood to pen one of the most unique and risky horror films of the last decade? Well, we were lucky enough to sit down with them and ask!
Check out our full interview with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck below!
[Editor's Note: This interview took place before the 2023 WGA strike.]
The Benefits of Collaboration
Collaboration is crucial in writing because it helps deepen one's imagination, refine their taste, and ensure the quality of their work. As Woods suggests, writing involves imagining things and expressing them on the page, which requires continuous development of one's creative abilities. (And they should know... they collaborated on A Quiet Place for years!)
"...having a collaborator, and having someone you can share your work with, and have them look at it objectively and go, ‘This ain’t it! This is not working!’ Somebody who can go, ‘What were you trying to do here?’ Having someone who can constantly check in with you who loves movies as much as you do, and you trust their taste, is so helpful in those formative years.”
Beck & Woods Are Both Grand Jurors of the ScreenCraft Sci-Fi & Fantasy Screenwriting Competition!
Getting Outside Feedback is Important
Getting feedback from an outside perspective on your writing is essential because it offers a fresh and unbiased assessment of your work. Beck explains that maintaining a close circle of readers who are not directly involved in the film industry is highly beneficial.
“We still keep a close circle of readers — readers that don’t work in the film industry, to be honest. One of our best friends from when we were younger, we still give him every single draft of our script, and that feedback is so imperative. He’s reading it like he just bought a ticket to a movie on a Friday night, not like he’s a development executive, so his notes will be very instinctual and not surgical like a screenwriting book breaking down structure and anything like that.”
These readers, such as a trusted friend or family member, usually approach the script from the perspective (but you have to ask nicely) of an audience member, rather than a development executive or a professional with technical knowledge. This allows them to provide instinctual feedback based on their genuine experience as a reader or viewer.
Less Dialogue Means More Visuals
Being deliberate with dialogue in a script is crucial because it allows for the power of visual storytelling and nonverbal communication to take center stage. Beck and Woods’ films A Quiet Place and 65 do just this. Woods explains their philosophy:
“A Quiet Place was absolutely a modern-day silent film. We tried to distill that down into having as little dialogue as possible. And 65, our movie with Adam Driver, was the same thing. We wanted to paint in really broad cinematic strokes, and remove exposition and dialogue, and let it be as visual as possible. I think that comes from learning about nonverbal communication.”
By distilling the dialogue and removing unnecessary exposition, Woods and Beck sought to paint a cinematic experience that transcends language barriers and connects with audiences universally. This approach stems from an understanding of the expressive potential of nonverbal communication, which can convey emotions, tension, and narrative elements through visuals alone.
What Should Up-and-Coming Writers Look for in Representation?
When seeking representation in the film industry, it is important to consider several factors. As Beck explains, finding the right fit involves evaluating the representative's compatibility in terms of tone and personal qualities. It is crucial to seek someone who not only understands your artistic vision but also aligns with your values and approaches their work with kindness and integrity.
“When we were trying to make that decision, we were like, ‘Who is the best fit for who we are from a tone standpoint, just from a human standpoint, like who do we think goes out into the world and is actually like a nice person that also does their job really well?’ One thing that we take to heart, no matter who the collaboration is, is talking about what movies got them into the business. What do they love seeing?”
This compatibility is vital for a successful partnership, as it ensures that the representative will genuinely champion your work and have a genuine enthusiasm for the stories you want to tell. By considering both the professional and personal aspects of a potential representative, filmmakers can form relationships that are not only effective but also nurturing, fostering an environment of mutual respect, shared values, and a genuine love for the craft of filmmaking.
How do you inject your own personal experience into your work?
Using personal experience ("writing what you know" as we always hear) as a source of raw influence in your work can bring depth and authenticity into your storytelling — true nuance. Beck explains how the duo's films draw from the perspective of childhood, from their own experiences, and tap into the innate and universal fears of children everywhere.
“With Boogie Man, A Quiet Place, and even 65 — those movies are written from the lens of being a child and tapping into what those innate fears are. But you also write it from an adult perspective too, and having that two-hand approach is useful. I’m a parent, so a lot of the elements in any of these projects we’re talking about certainly feeds in. And that’s where you have personal investment in it — us encountering loss. Loss of friends. Loss of parents. Loss of family members. It feeds into all these scripts in a way that you do really inject your gut into what the script is doing.”