Note: this piece was originally published elsewhere.
You have decided to write a screenplay in a café. You may be in Los Angeles and have decided that The Bourgeois Pig is the right place for you to accomplish this task. But, really, you could be anywhere reading this, and you have to go with what you know works for you: I know of one café in Edinburgh where I could duck out of the rain and listen to Fabrizio De André and let a spoon clink around a wide white mug like a kid swimming in a small hotel pool. I know of a handful of coffee places in Austin and Portland that caught my eye that I didn’t have a chance to visit when I was there. There’s a place in New York where breakfast coffee hits the angle of the opening eyes just right, a place in London whose artisan aspirations struck me as being almost gaudily surreal (the shop was housed in an Inception-like open cube of a space near the Thames and a nearby market), and I know of a coffee place in Boston where I can lose hours as easily as a cup lets loose steam.
It’s about layers: Ultimately, you’re not going to be writing just for yourself. You may be doing this at the beginning, and that moment is vitally important and worth taking as much time with as you’d like (and there’s a degree to which that never really goes away either), but you’ll soon be writing for people who have a particular sense of what they see and how they see the world; you’ll be writing for people who have a certain range as an actor; and more.
If you’ve never had the experience of writing for an actor, I’d recommend it. I once took great joy in writing for someone who I knew was capable of taking a Chris Farley or John Belushi-like level of energy and landing it with great precision on the head of a very small pin, both behaviorally and verbally. I knew he was capable of a decent range of emotion: His face could convey wounded surprise, muted disappointment, and a brow-furrowing miniature adventure of egoism collecting itself to come roaring back in the face like Quixote leading a charge. He could take that Farley-like energy and use it to convey authority.
To play off of #3 for just a moment: As good a show as Westworld happens to be, the script…