Ray Loriga: «Script is an unfriendly format»

The writer, screenwriter and director, who is also a judge in the 62nd Seminci, shares his reflections on writing, scripts and the creative process

Ray Loriga, before starting the master class at the Margelina Hall of UVa

10/25/2017. – “There is nothing worse than writing without doubt,” said Ray Loriga in the master-class taught before an audience that filled the Mergelina Hall at the University of Valladolid. The writer, both novelist and screenwriter, shared his vision of two universes, those of cinema and literature, closely related by writing.

“Doubt is inherent in the creative process, the only way to clarify it is to continue until you reach a final result and finally decide what it is that you have done,” he said in one of his reflections. This doubt and uncertainty was one of the most mentioned concepts in his presentation, and he affirms that it is even stronger when he writes freely: “If I write for myself, when I am the sole drive, I doubt my own intentions… instead, if I am hired for a script, I work for them, they trust me.”

Ray Loriga has a long history in the world of cinema as a screenwriter, working with Pedro Almodóvar and Carlos Saura, among others, as well as a director of films like Teresa, the Body of Christ and My Brother’s Gun, which combines with his work as a novelist. “Many cinematographic resources are extracted from literary language: ellipsis, montage, contraposition, flashback…,” he analyzes, comparing cinema and literature.

The word is the beginning and the end in literature, the writer is responsible for everything,” Loriga recognizes and sets it apart from cinema, stating, “instead, the written script is the source, but the end result is a collaborative work. As Truffaut said, a film is a living work.”

Audience at Ray Loriga’s master class

The script

“A script is a tool,” he says, “you have to know how to write them and you also have to know how to read them and not everyone knows. In scripts, how beautifully you write does not matter, it’s an unfriendly format, it should not interfere with the work of the director.”

Santiago Tabernero, director and juror, also participated in the colloquium to share his experiences in film writing. Both highlighted the importance of knowing and managing basic script techniques to reach higher creative levels. Take the example of Paul Schrader’s Spike of Honor in 2013: “He says he builds scripts by following a logical process, like making a circus tent: first the sticks, then the ceiling and the decoration. And it works, he did Taxi Driver.”

“My students don’t understand when I start classes with Rocky and not with Godard or other geniuses… but they have to know the main structures to be able to handle them and even to skip them,” Loriga argues, “then we’re already at Top Gun,” he says ironically. His work on Teresa, the Body of Christ was based, he said, on reality and on the adaptation of his book, “about a brave woman who defended herself for her own reasons.” Two aspects that he noted: “When your base is in real situations… it’s annoying because you can’t alter the order of certain things to make a better script.”

Ray Loriga, before starting his master class

Movie adaptations

Another of the obvious ties between literature and cinema are film adaptations, which “are extremely difficult if they are of very well-known works,” he remarks, “adapting classics is very dangerous, but possible” and adds as advice “almost all adaptations that claim to be faithful to the original fail, you have to use the essentials of the book.”

One of the authors that he highlighted as being adaptable to cinema is Stephen King: “A writer with magnificent ideas and very adaptable, despite that his writing is not my favorite.” He also referred to the discontent that many authors feel when they see their novels on the screen. “When you sell the rights to your novel you have to understand that at that moment the work becomes that of somebody else,” he insists.

“When you work on something that somebody else created, you feel respect, of course,” he acknowledges. “I’ve had the experience of adapting my own novel into cinema, so I did what I wanted, though at times the writer didn’t like me…,” Ray Loriga joked on several occasions.

Among the audience were several attendees of the International Congress of Young Hispanists, Theorists and Comparatives who have collaborated with the Seminci.

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Posted in 62nd Edition.