Wednesday 19 October 2016

French filmmaker Luc Besson Has an Important Message: Sometimes it's Best to Throw Your Writing in the Garbage

I recently read an article on iO9 that talked about Luc Besson's newest passion project, a movie he has waited his whole life to make, and it's scheduled to come out next summer:  Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets.
One of the reasons he has waited so long to make this film, is because the technology he needed to bring the movie to life, wasn't ready. He said it wasn't until the movie Avatar was released, that he realize he could begin working on Valerian. He also mentioned that James Cameron was very open about the making of Avatar and invited Luc to the set during production, which I think is pretty cool. But that's beside the point. The point I'm trying to make is this-- when Luc Besson watched Avatar his reaction wasn't what you'd expect. 

Here's a quote from the article

 “When I [Luc Besson] saw Avatar for the first time, I took the script for Valerian and I threw it into the garbage and I started again,” he said. “Literally, I was depressed. I was happy for the film and him, because I like [Cameron] a lot, but totally depressed. Threw it away. Wait for a month. And then say, ‘Okay, start again.’ So I start again. And I’m happy because it’s better. I was right to throw it away." 

This is an important reminder that no matter how attached we are to our stories, successful writers know when it's time to let it go and they're not afraid to start over. No matter how painful or depressing, Luc Besson didn't give up. He had a dream. He was patient. He was inspired. Then he rewrote the whole damn thing. And from what fans have said after seeing the first footage from this movie at the San Diego Comic-Con, Valerian sounds very promising. But what's more important is that Luc himself is happier with the new script. 

As writers, we sometimes need that same courage, that same drive to do what's necessary to produce the very best. And sometimes that means throwing it all out and starting over. 


  1. I think Cameron's film depressed every filmmaker out there.
    Sometimes it is best to throw it away and start over. I did and look where it led me.

  2. Yep, sometimes we just must give it the heave ho and take another go.

  3. What a very difficult thing for people to do though. From what I understand, your WIPs are like children to you. But sounds as though Luc Besson did the right thing.

  4. So hard to do but often necessary. I've got a number of trunked manuscripts that I knew, despite all my hard work, just weren't ready for the world and might not ever be.

  5. Amen to that. We can't be better if we're not willing to move forward. I can't tell you how much writing I trashed in this last book ALONE in order for it to be better. It was like writing two whole books.

  6. Hi Elise - it takes courage and passion ... to realise something's not right and to put it away and start again ... an essential in the creative process ... how often do artists make four or five or more paintings of the same thing (similar) ... trying to achieve the best ... cheers Hilary

  7. I always think it takes strength to admit when something is not working. And it takes even more to actually trash it. I rarely successfully rewrite stuff, but I have trashed a crap ton of stories over the years, and I don't regret a single trashing. Kudos to him for realizing he could do better and actually doing it.

    Really though, it's hard not to be depressed after watching Avatar if you're any kind of filmmaker. The graphics alone...

  8. Well, stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If it's not working, try something new.

  9. Diane, in IT we call that insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome)! LOL. But then again, a little Quality Assurance might do well in other industries. I vote for a redo when I lose interest in a story and can't find the enthusiasm to continue. Sadly, it happens more times than not!

  10. I don't know how he was able to do it, both the act of it and seeing that it needed to be done. I've seen more than a few movies (and read some books!) that maybe should have been trashed...

  11. I love this message.
    Never give up on your dreams. But first, you might have to gather the courage to throw them in the garbage and start over. :)

  12. That's great advice! I think it takes so much courage to throw something out and to just keep trying, even if that means rewriting a million times, or writing a million manuscripts. Keep going until you get it right.

  13. I do enjoy Luc Besson's work and never knew about this until reading your post. So thanks for the 'heads up' :)

    Hope life finds you well, hale and hearty :) x

  14. I can relate to that part about throwing everything out and starting again.

  15. I've thrown out the first 20K of my current WIP twice. Usually I know when it's garbage before I get more than halfway.

  16. I may be the only soul on earth who hated Avatar. There's a writing lesson in that too- readers/viewers can be fickle.

    I chucked my first project. Okay, that's a lie. I still have it to go back every now and then and remind myself how little I knew then. :)


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