'Brooklyn' Screenwriter Nick Hornby: "There's Way More Opportunity for Self-Doubt in Movies"

"I started trying to write scripts before I wrote books, and I didn’t know what I was doing, who I was writing for, what they were."

Award-winning novelist and screenwriter Nick Hornby talks about the difference between writing films and writing books during The Hollywood Reporter's Writer Roundtable. "One of the things I've noticed working in films and books is there's way more opportunity for self-doubt in movies because you get turned down endlessly, by endless numbers of people," he says.

"With my books," continues the writer, "I'm dealing with my editor, and it's a long, established relationship, and unless I've completely screwed up the book, they will publish it, and if I've completely screwed it up, they will work with me very patiently to get it to a state where it's publishable. Whereas, with movies, it's, every week: A financier's not interested, an actor's not interested, a director's not interested."

"In a novel, if you're writing a scene that works, there's no real reason to stop writing that scene," says Hornby. "If it's 15 pages, and everybody's enjoying those 15 pages, then an editor will leave it and say, 'This is great.' But a 15-page scene in a movie, that’s a big … that’s a big moment. So it's having to lose stuff you liked or are proud of or pleased with simply because of demands of the form."

Before his success as a writer, Hornby was a teacher. He shared the early angst of being poor as a consequence of choosing the life of a writer. “The thing that gets you down with writing is you feel like you’re walking a plank, and everyone behind you has got jobs and mortgages, and you're getting older and older, and you're still the guy who everybody else has to dip in for when you go out for a pizza, and that can become a bit embarrassing," he says. 

Despite financial fears, notes Hornby, "I've never regretted embarking on the journey."

THR's Roundtables air on Sundance TV. The shows air Sunday at 8 a.m. PT on channel 557 on DirecTV, 126 on Dish nationwide and at 11 a.m. ET/PT on cable (channel 625 on TWC in L.A., 94 in NYC).

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