He shared how his process for developing a film idea begins with envisioning the shape the film will take — keeping in mind the overall vision of the movie, how the trailer will look, the set pieces in the movie, the feelings generated. Then the chipping away begins to reveal the final form.
He stressed that the story must remain grounded and realistic at the start in order to establish believability. For a murder mystery, reality is emphasized with a layered sense of sadness. The murder then comes as a discordant note in an already believable world. He mentioned the “rosebud moment” that should occur within the violence – a poignancy underneath it all. “The ultimate desperation in lives of desperate sadness” revealed.
Black said his scene descriptions give the flavor of action, evoking the pace and how the scene should feel when it is ultimately viewed. He read aloud some artfully-constructed examples. A common query he gets: whether he writes the action or merely lets the stunt guys “figure it out.” So his playful rendition of a final action sequence from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, had everyone laughing: “Coffin falls. Bunch of shit happens. Stunt guys take over.” On top of being very encouraging to the writers in attendance, Black kept the audience very amused.