Colin Dunbar

Nostalgia: Paddy Chayefsky (Scriptwriter)



I thought I’d share a piece of nostalgia today … maybe you can relate (or actually remember this event).

In high school I was crazy about movies – not only watching them, but reading about movie production, and what went on behind the scenes.

I had a book from the library, The History of the Cinema, and I would keep renewing my library card because I devoured that book.

And then in grade 11, I enrolled for a course on TV Scriptwriting through a correspondence college, receiving my certificate a year later. I was really keen on scriptwriting, and tried to get my hands on anything related to this art form.

Paddy Chayefsky speech

In 1978, I listened to the Oscar Awards on radio, and when the category for Best Screenplay came up, I actually recorded the speech of Paddy Chayefsky on my cassette recorder. I then went through the arduous exercise of transcribing Paddy’s speech from my recording. The image above is a scan of the actual typewritten copy from 1978.

Paddy Chayefsky

I’ve read this speech so many times over the years, and if you’re interested in scriptwriting, or even creative writing, you’ll probably appreciate these words as well…

“Screenplay writing is a much misunderstood form of writing. In the old days the image of the screenwriter was that of the great novelist who had gone derelict in the corrupt tropics of Hollywood.

Nowadays, I think they they think of the screenwriter frequently as someone who helps the director with lines of dialog.

But in point of fact, screenwriting is a very special, highly refined discipline. It requires all the standard storytelling talents, and it also requires a visual eye as well, because the screenwriter, frequently has to tell a story without words, which are, after all the primary tools of the writer’s craft.

When it works, a good screenplay is a thing of beauty, a model of precision, and clarity, and imagery, and concept, and mobility, wit, passion.

It’s something to celebrate and something to honor.”

A real piece of nostalgia is Paddy Chayefsky’s actual Oscar Awards speech of 1978, which I found on YouTube.


Paddy Chayefsky at the 1978 Oscars

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