Nick Hornby’s Guide To Screenwriting
The author of About A Boy and Fever Pitch shares five top tips from writing the screenplay for An Education.
An Education isn’t the first screenplay I’ve written that wasn’t based on my work. There have been all sorts of aborted projects in my career. But this is the first script where I’ve adapted someone else’s work that actually got made. It not being mine is an attraction… The idea of spending a couple of years on a novel and then gutting it to create a script is a seriously unattractive prospect now. I’d rather do something fresh.
I read Lynn Barber’s piece in Granta [An Education’s source material] in the bathtub and suggested to Amanda [Posey, Hornby’s producer wife] it might make a good film. For me, this is another version of Fever Pitch – it’s about the relationship between a suburban kid and the city. Lynn’s story is only 10 pages so I had to flesh it out. Her ending didn’t reach a high enough pitch for cinema. It was more a narrow escape than a crisis. It was a bit pathetic in terms of a screenplay.
USE PERIOD DETAIL
Britain was right on the cusp of this great flowering in the early ’60s, which had already happened in America. The experience of being an English teenager in the ’50s was one of waiting for the bus in the rain, not driving around in convertibles. I liked creating a slightly alien world – a bright teenager at that time, their relationship was with Europe, not America. Truffaut, Camus, Juliette Gréco, Alain Delon – that’s was what was going on for these kids before The Beatles.
EDIT AND RE-EDIT
I saw a cut of the film before it was finished and there were things that needed fixing. The final voiceover wasn’t in the script so I wrote it. The next time I saw it was at Sundance, which was a strange but wonderful experience – strange in that it seemed miraculous to me that we’d been invited to Sundance at all. I didn’t think we would be their sort of film. Then having got there, I thought we would sink without trace. But suddenly we became a film that people were talking about.
WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW
I will carry on writing scripts but I’ll have to come across something that I feel as personally connected to as An Education. I wouldn’t just take the money to do something willynilly and I certainly won’t be writing Hollywood blockbusters. Everything I write is about relationships so tends to be small-scale – there’s more of a chance they’d ask me to take on a literary novel. But I’m in no hurry. I’ll wait for the right thing.