Tamara Jenkins Talks Writing Process, Worst Feedback and 'Private Life'

"The stillness that is necessary to write — the act of silencing yourself, your cellphone, silencing everything to think, to bring words — there is something holy about it," the scribe and director told the Writer Roundtable.

Private Life writer and director Tamara Jenkins received some of the worst feedback of her life on her first movie, 1998's The Slums of Beverly Hills.

"I was at the Sundance Lab when I wrote [it]," Tamara Jenkins told the Writer Roundtable. "Hollywood screenwriters come and they read the script," she explained. "You do a mentor session where they tell you what they think. And this man, a male screenwriter, incredibly successful financially, sat me down and he said, 'You can't start a movie with a girl getting fitted for a bra. You can't waste five pages with a girl getting her first bra,'" Jenkins told the group, marking the experience as the worst feedback she ever received on a piece. Instead, she decided, "I'm going to keep that."

When it comes to her writing process, Jenkins said she likes "to read really nerdy things about writers, like where they write, what their room looks like."

She notes a technique she acquired from Twyla Tharp, after reading "a book about her and her creativity process," Jenkins explained, "She writes ideas down on index cards and just throws them in a box."

"I feel like sometimes I'm writing something, and then I get this idea for something else, because I'm actually doing the writing, and I don't know where to put it. I used to put it in the margins of things, but then I would never know where they were, so I took this technique of writing things and sticking it in the box."

Jenkins wrote and directed this year's film Private Life starring Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn. She previously wrote and directed The Slums of Beverly Hills and Savages (2007), the latter of which earned her an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.