He doesn’t have a long list of screenwriting credits to his name, or a library full of masterpieces, but Professor Robert McKee is a titan in the writing community. Since 1984, McKee has been preaching the tenants of great screenwriting through his intense 3 day seminar geared to inspire the creative mind. Paired with his blog and resource website “Storylogue,” McKee’s words have reached countless students including Director Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings” Series) and celebrated screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (“Being John Malkovich”). In fact, Kaufman’s 2002 oscar winning screenplay for “Adaptation” casts McKee as a character, played here by Brian Cox.
His gruff, direct, nature while delivering this seminar is legend among Hollywood. Among the lessons he teaches is the cardinal rule: “Do not use voice overs.” He’s gone on to say that he’s not really opposed to the voiceover, he simply prefers that it make a point. Often times voiceovers in film are used to describe something we can see anyway so it becomes redundant.
Critics of his seminar cite the fact he does not have many screenwriting credits. McKee argues that all his screenplays have been optioned, they simply have not been produced. He is credited with writing the film “Abraham,” which led to modest success. Criticism still abounds as some journalists call him the very personification of the phrase “Those who can’t do, teach.”
Whatever the case may be. One cannot ignore the fact that McKee’s lessons have a ring of truth to them. Screenwriting is a difficult and bitter business to be in. However, with Robert McKee as a guide it may just be navigable.