Jim Uhls is an American screenwriter best known for his work on the iconic film “Fight Club.” Born in 1951 in the United States, Uhls began his career in the entertainment industry as a script reader and development executive. He worked his way up the ranks, honing his skills as a writer and developing a reputation for his unique voice and style.
Uhls’ big break came in the late 1990s when he was approached to adapt Chuck Palahniuk’s novel “Fight Club” for the big screen. The project was seen as a risky and unconventional choice, but Uhls was drawn to the dark and satirical tone of the book, as well as its themes of individuality and rebellion.
Working with director David Fincher, Uhls approached the writing process for “Fight Club” with a focus on staying true to the spirit of the novel while also adapting it for the screen. He spent months researching and studying the novel, immersing himself in the characters’ world and exploring the story’s deeper themes and meanings.
One of the biggest challenges of adapting “Fight Club” for the screen was finding a way to translate the unconventional and fragmented structure of the novel into a cohesive and compelling film. To achieve this, Uhls worked closely with Fincher to develop a visual and narrative style that would capture the book’s spirit while making it accessible to a wider audience.
Uhls’ hard work and dedication resulted in a film that was both a critical and commercial success. “Fight Club” was praised for its bold and innovative style, darkly humorous tone, and powerful themes of individuality and rebellion. The film has since become a cult classic, and Uhls’ screenplay is widely regarded as one of the best adaptations of a novel to the screen.
In addition to his work on “Fight Club,” Uhls has also written and produced several other successful films and television shows. Despite his success, he remains humble and dedicated to his craft, always striving to push the boundaries of storytelling and create unique and impactful works of art.
Overall, Jim Uhls is a talented and innovative writer who has significantly impacted the entertainment industry. His approach to the writing process, which emphasizes research, dedication, and a deep understanding of the source material, has earned him a reputation as one of the best screenwriters of his generation.
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Alex Ferrari 1:31
Today we go inside the twisted mind of Jim Uhls, the writer of one of my favorite films of all time Fight Club. And after listening to this episode, I just have fallen more and more in love with Jim, I just have to say it. Enjoy today's episode with guest host Dave Bullis.
Jim Uhls 1:54
Thank you for having me on.
Dave Bullis 1:56
You know, you're well, thank you for coming on, because you're a person who I've been trying to get on for, I think, almost a year now.
Jim Uhls 2:05
Yeah, that's totally my fault. And that's because of like, I keep trying to find what's the right perfect time. It's like, you know, you know, you can't find the right perfect window time. So I finally decided stop trying to do that.
Dave Bullis 2:24
The real story is Jim is I've been wearing you down and kind of stalking you on Twitter and Facebook. And finally, you're just like, look, if I agree to this, we leave me alone kid. And I'm like, sure.
Jim Uhls 2:36
I wasn't supposed to talk about that. According to the law enforcement that's right here in the room with me.
Dave Bullis 2:44
Up so they want you to keep talking so they can trace the call. Right?
Jim Uhls 2:48
Yeah, right. Definitely. Keep talking. Yeah.
Dave Bullis 2:53
So your job just to get started, you know, you actually got started off with I mean, it would probably be like a Grand Slam. And in terms in movie terms, because you started off with Fight Club. I mean that, you know, just just be writing the adaptation of the novel by I think it's Chuck Palahniuk, I think is I pronounce his last name. Yeah.
Jim Uhls 3:13
Paul Palahniuk. Actually, I know it's so different. finit sounds but
Dave Bullis 3:20
Yeah, and by the way, I actually got to write him a letter one time and he sent it back to me. Very, very interesting guy too. But, you know,
Jim Uhls 3:29
Oh, he is He's great. He's like, he's great. And He's participated in a lot of strange things. So he's got a lot of stories. Really?
Dave Bullis 3:39
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And, you know, it's funny, I actually knew a, a, a person who used to do like, she, I think she worked at a borders or Barnes and Noble. And she said, Whenever he did a book event, she goes, it was the, it was so fun, because all the people would come out. But she's like, it also was kind of a little edgy, because, you know, some of his fans and some of the stuff that he would write, you know what I mean? They kind of bring out the people that, you know, let's just say a little more outgoing. Let's just Let's shoot
Jim Uhls 4:14
Energetic, outgoing extroverts who happen to have a lot of tattoos, piercings and stuff and that kind of thing, right? intimidate people. Although, you know, it's funny that Chuck is Chuck is he's pretty tall I am to keep. He's like, really built out and everything must muster. But he is like, he talks like the softest, kindest voice in the world. It's just a it's kind of like it doesn't go with the image of you. Looks like I can throw you off a bridge
Dave Bullis 4:57
Well, I guess that's it. So it's kind of like the month Tyson syndrome then where, you know, looks very intimidating when you hear him talk. He's very soft spoken.
Jim Uhls 5:06
I guess except Chuck's horse's mouth. Hi, my chest is a high voice.
Dave Bullis 5:11
Yeah he does get. But But, but yeah, you know, he was such an interesting guy to just get a correspondence from. And I know he does a lot of really cool things in the writing community. I mean, there's even a thing he does on lit reactor where it sells out in like seconds when he does like a online class, but But you know, just such a, it's such a really interesting guy. And, you know, when he wrote Fight Club, which I actually talked to him about, that's what I really talked to him about was because I am always interested in people's like, first outing and our first, you know, project out the gate. So basically with you, you know, his first project was Fight Club that actually got published. And then your first project was the adaptation of, you know, of Fight Club. So how did that all come together?
Jim Uhls 5:57
For Yeah, well, actually, I was, I was writing the adaptation, strum the manuscript before the publishers actually put the ship on shelves. Because I remember the day we got a copy influencer, got a copy of the published book. But yeah, I was working on a manuscript at the beginning. I had been sent the manuscript by somebody I do work for a producer said, every studio and producer in town has passed on this. But I'm sending it to you, because I just know, you're going to like it. Just for fun. And who knows? Just keep your attention on it and see if anything does happen. So I read it, and it was like, wow, I mean, first of all, blew me away. Secondly, I thought it would be such a great gig to be paid to adapt this, even though it will never be made to a movie. It's just to be paid to write it at this peak. Great gig. Right. And so I, I had, you know, without my agent we like to see, well, everybody's pretty much passed on this. And then that was around the time. The fox 2000 was created, as long as this kid was running. And she's kind of like, you know, I don't know, she wants to do really out there stuff. And the book was considered unadaptable. Probably because it is a monologue. The whole book is like a model I can Afric I mean, Chuck even told me, he started by writing a monologue, meaning he wanted an actor to do it on stage. I really, I mean, it wasn't gonna be that long, obviously. But didn't have a lot of fully fleshed out scenes. They were described, I guess, by the guy was there. And so it had he got branded unadaptable by everything. Right. And, of course, I think Laura was saying that that's like a red flag. And basically, she was kind of like, no, no, really. Oh, and, but she wouldn't hire a writer until she hired it. So by this point, I started getting people, other people thought 2000. And the producers were Ross Bell and Josh donner. Yeah, I mean, I was, I was having meetings with them that started to turn into like, we're actually doing this with, you know, even doing SETI and they made socks 2000 aware of me and I happen to have a spec at the time that was I don't know it beats it made it there wasn't a blacklist them but it made some kind of list of best ones not produced original specs. I don't know why it was. So yeah, it's kind of have a reputation descript and that was what everyone read as a sample. And I kind of already knew Fincher, when I say he's somewhere between an acquaintance and a friend by that because there was this place called the paddock guide, where all these people would hang out like shave blacker, who are you from UCLA.
Alex Ferrari 10:04
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Jim Uhls 10:13
And Fincher was one of the gang because a good portion of we're from the south, the Bay Area, San Francisco Bay, and who moved to LA. So we kind of do each other, if any liked that script I'm talking about. And nobody still nobody ever said, at this point, you're hired to me, right? And finally, there's this huge lunch scheduled, it's going to have whare. This. It's going to have other Fox 2000. Executives is going to Fincher and me and the ideas. Oh, and our producers, of course, Ross, Bella Justin. And so and the idea was, I'm going to have to sell myself, or they'll move on. So it was sort of like, it's we're all having lunch, you're going to tell us why you have an idea of how to do this. It's pop up on? Well, like most writers, I don't like pitching. So what I did was I started this group conversation among everybody about how you know, was this work without work pitch to this? And it went on until the lunch? Oh, first sorry, I looked at it for it got there early enough to know what table it was going to be. I waited. And the next person who arrived was Fincher, we kind of since we knew each other, we shook hands. And he sat down and I made sure I sat down right next to Vin everybody else. Sorry, it already looked. Like I was connected to Fisher
Dave Bullis 12:14
Smart move Jim.
Jim Uhls 12:18
Thank you, Dan. Yes, I ran this conversation, which never was a pitch by me. But it was a very interesting conversation about the obstacles of trying to, you know, turn it into a film. And Kevin McCormick, who was basically, you know, law resistance mean, person there, I think, Fox 2000 at a time, we're leaving the lunches over. And Fisher is talking about when I should start on the saying, nothing's been said, Kevin McCormick, as we're walking out since YouTube. He's really given subjective pitch. I said, yeah, no. Right. And the next thing I know, my age is just making a deal. And, you know, I'm starting the first draft. So it was, you know, a little bit of cereal.
Dave Bullis 13:27
You know, that is a good strategy though. A gym. It's all about appearance, right? So you have to, you have to always look and kind of kind of set things up. So to set yourself up for the win wins, you know?
Jim Uhls 13:39
Yeah, you know, what's funny about that is I didn't see I didn't have that idea. Until I just accidentally got there early. Then, that's when I became cutting off. It's like, I've never thought about before. And then I was like, Yeah, I'm gonna sit next to Fincher because like, it all came to be like, I don't know, like, kind of a split personality, myself and the other personality came out this way.
Dave Bullis 14:12
You know, it's kind of that kind of ties in a fight club to having that split personality.
Jim Uhls 14:16
Right, right. I suddenly I was Tyler Durden. And by the way, you know, that was the first person narrator of the book. Doesn't have any. Ever. There's no name.
Dave Bullis 14:31
Jim Uhls 14:33
Right. And I think I talked to Ross Bell, and Josh was just done and at some point, I can't pinpoint it. But he stopped being a producer became an agent again, which he had been before. So I only left Ross bell for the first draft. And Fincher was doing something like just expecting me to just get first drafting and then we'll look at it. Talk about it right. So I forgot what started this won't copy onto this part of the conversation
Dave Bullis 15:16
With fight club and dual dual personalities and alter egos.
Jim Uhls 15:21
Oh, yeah. No Name. So yeah, we discussed. I think it was it was mostly me and Ross Bell, we put the word Narrator down as the name. And I said, you know, that's good. Just get really, really tiresome. Narrator goes to the door. Narrator laughs narrator says it's, it's just, I mean, in a place where you put the character name before a dialogue, okay, not too bad. But in all the actual descriptions, everything is like, Okay, we're going to name it in the script. For us. It's never in dialogue. It's never in the movie. But we have to call him something. So I said, Jack, I mean, what's the first name that comes to mind when you make an example? All right, so the guy comes in Jack. And he said, you know, the first thing anyone picks up is Jack, and I said, Jack, yeah. All right, we'll call the character Jack. So that I could write Jack. In the screenplay. It says Narrator All right. And then, somewhere along the line, we found out the Reader's Digest, completely denied permission to use their old series of articles, which was like I am Joe's heart, I am Joe's liver, which is referred to in the book, because the house on Paper Street has a billion old magazines all over the place. And so we said, well, we'll just change it to Jack and legal clarity. If you say I am Jax, whatever, Oregon, they can't do anything. You don't mean the magazine? I am Jax lover. They can't do anything. Okay. So that actually gets set. And some people think that the report was actually saying when he said I am Jack, whatever the name of his character, but he wasn't. It was the name of the articles. And then he made parodies of like I am Jack's complete lack of surprise. Actually, I bring that up because I had to write I wanted him to say it out loud, because I knew we'd be so used to him narrate. And heavy his own comments that I wrote, I couldn't just leave off the VO. Because my biggest mistake. So in addition to leaving off parentheses, Bo, after I wrote in the parentheses below his name, said, wow. Because he has been thinking this all along I am Jack's teaming, outrage, whatever. The boss says something to him. And he actually says that I am Jack's complete lack of surprise to the boss. And it's the only time he actually said something that he normally does it narration but he said it out loud. Like, and I thought that also shows that his mind is there's less division between what he thinks and what he says because he's coming apart. Right. Right. So
Dave Bullis 18:58
As the alter egos go back and forth, right.
Jim Uhls 19:02
Yeah, I mean, yeah, I mean, it's just still before. He said that out loud before he discovered the true
Dave Bullis 19:11
Jim just to just to ask a quick question there. You know, when you when people hear things like about screenwriting rules, and etc, about you know, you shouldn't do this in a screenplay. You shouldn't do that in a screenplay. If somebody were to do something like this in a screenplay, and they submitted it to a competition or what or an agent or what have you, you know, what kind of response you think they would get. If they did something like that. Do you think somebody would think it was you know, original? Or do you think somebody would say like, oh, you know, you have to kind of write a cut and dry screenplay as the first one. When and then when you get a little cash, you can move on.
Jim Uhls 19:49
But why don't we wants to do what is this?
Dave Bullis 19:54
No, just like, you know, kind of how things are, you know, like he's writing parentheses said out loud, you know, just kind of like To try to either you know, in a competition or even just sending it to an agent, you know, do you think that they would ever get any kind of backlash if they did something like,
Jim Uhls 20:09
Oh, yeah, the only way that would work. I mean, it wouldn't be a good idea unless you had already established that this guy thinks these things and do what he says. And you do it repeatedly enough over a long enough period of time, that you make a point of saying, This time, he's saying it out loud that you okay.
Alex Ferrari 20:32
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Jim Uhls 20:41
If it was just out of the blue, and there was no setup for probably would look like, you know, not good form, I guess?
Dave Bullis 20:53
Well, because, you know, you always hear what the screenplay rules and you always kind of wonder where I least I wonder, you know, how how, how much should they be really? How much do they actually carry weight? You know what I mean? Cuz I've read so many books on screenwriting. And also just, you hear so many people talk about it, we actually start to wonder about all the different rules, and you know, where they actually came from. And if they even if some of them even matter anymore? You know, what, uh, you know, you know what I mean, Jim, because I mean, I'm sure you get a lot of quotes too, because, you know, you still run the writers lab out there in LA, and I'm sure you get a ton of people saying, Hey, why heard this? And I heard that, you get that a lot?
Jim Uhls 21:30
Well, yeah, they're always relaxing rules, they're always getting, you know, it's, it's always been a process of slowly becoming more and more, you know, however you want to write it, I mean, within certain parameters, you know, I mean, if they have to know, if something is what we call a slugline, you know, the shocked exterior in interior, living room day, they have to know that after that there is action or description, they have to know that when someone's talking, they have to see the name, where you put the character name in all caps, the center of the page, and then their dialogue. So some things have to look like a screenplay. But in terms of other rules, you're getting into style questions, because there's actually a style beyond just obey format. Like for example, you don't do too much directing on paper, that's not good. You know, shot his face shot his watch, shot his feet, step into the shot, you know, I mean, it's not not a good idea. So, we're gonna writers write in masters, say where it's taking place, and then they just write the seat. Now, are there exceptions of that, of course, there are other important ones that you can use. One of one of them as the first example I always give to where you're actually talking about the camera is pulling back to reveal more than what you were seeing. At the top of the seat is thrillers, and comedies. Use this a lot, which is like, you know, a comedy guy says to another guy, I will never do something as boring as fishy cut to. It's the other guy he was talking to. The guy likes to fish just sitting there with a fishing pole and above, and you pull back to reveal that on the other end of the boat is the guy who said I will never do something as boring as fishing in these fishes. Right? You first thought it was just the guy who likes to fish there. As you pull back into reveal the guy who just screamed they never do it is sitting there also fishing. So that's a reveal. And you know, thrillers do it a lot by showing the lead character, whatever they're doing, pulling back so that they reveal the killer. We're silly character doesn't see ever we do now. Those Those are the things you definitely do it right. It's that is part of your narrative and storytelling. It's not telling somebody how to shoot tell. It's it's saying, you know, this is the intention when I start the scene, and then I'm going to reveal somebody or something. So that's all right. You know, that's an example of something where you don't have to just write in masters. You can have a moment like that. Um, I think writers, I mean, from what I've read, they basically started to go way into, like, what the camera does? I don't know if that's why is if somebody's starting out? I don't know. I know that there's a cringe factor to seeing something that looks like you're directing the whole movie on paper. So I would say you use it when the storytelling is saying that, you know, the suspense thriller. If you're writing this, you have the right to say that we think there's this fairly peaceful scene with the lead character. And then you pull back to reveal that the killer is right behind this tree, but whatever it is. That's, that is right. That is print screen. But yeah, I don't know yet. I have to go down which rules we're talking about one by one. To know what my answer your question
Dave Bullis 26:13
I should have, I should have been more specific to him. But I know, I know, it was kind of a blanket statement. But, you know, you just hear different rules of screenwriting. I mean, a, they even did one on script notes one time where they kind of went through these rules, quote, unquote, next, I mean, next time off to send them to you. But they kind of went through those script notes is that podcast by Craig Mazin and John August, but oh, yeah,
Jim Uhls 26:36
I know, I know. John Locke is a great source of inspiration. He is amazing. Yeah. Man, he has things that people agree with people don't like, for instance, courier is what typewriters do. Right. That's why they that's why it's been pleasure still done it for. Because on the typewriter back in the days when there was only a page equals a minute, but they don't want you to suddenly start having smaller or bigger, or they want it to look like that old typewriter. And that's courier. 12. Point. font. That's what they wanted it, period. So I don't even know what that point was me.
Dave Bullis 27:37
See, I told you, I told you, Jim, I get too heady. And now we're going down that path. Right, right.
Jim Uhls 27:43
You know, I liked that part. Yeah. What are the rules? What are the rules? You're talking? Oh, no, wait, sorry. I know what they're gonna say. John August agrees with. And a lot of people do that in courier 12 point font, which looks like the typewriter used to look like you could put a period instead of two spaces after. And the reason for typewriter was with that font. A period with only one space, sort of you could miss that. I guess your eyes go over it. You might not it doesn't make a statement that this sins in and this wouldn't begin. So I know that John thinks there should be two, two spaces after which is the traditional way of using that font. But other fonts. Since now, we have computers themselves the fonts, right? Notice the saralee DT two spaces after a period. And some people brought it back to screenplays to courier 12 point. I'm only putting one space. John says to the way I've had I just have two businesses to half the business as one. Yeah. And it's kind of a mocking Oh, well, you know, if you want to give away that you're older to two spaces, you know. So people are rapidly only putting in one space after a period because by God they're not gonna look old. But that's an example of something that you know, actually is so inconsequential. I don't even know why I talked about so you got to give me another rule.
Dave Bullis 29:40
I don't know some of them off the top of my head. I have to look at that list. That was actually because that list was more like definitive with kind of a hard and fast rules. But But Jim, are we at a time?
Jim Uhls 29:54
No. Oh, no, no, no, we're not actually The thing that I was gonna go to is starting, like 45 minutes later. It was originally so I'm not. I'm fine.
Dave Bullis 30:14
Okay, awesome. So we'll, we'll keep going. I have a, I have a ton of other questions. But so, you know, I sort of just to get back, you know, because we were talking about, you know, just screenwriting in general. So, I know you, you do a lot of work with the writers lab, you actually also did the class of Creative Live, you know, so, you know,
Jim Uhls 30:36
The writers, I just want to say this real quick, just so it's publicly out there. While you're calling the writers left there, it's still going on called Safe House.
Alex Ferrari 30:46
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Jim Uhls 30:56
As the name I came up with, because the idea is it's only the writer actor that are involved in it that are there, you can't bring in someone who is could be a buyer. And the purpose of that is experimentation is just complete experimentation, you can do stuff, and it might not work. Or you don't want to do something, it doesn't work in front of buyers. So we don't want that atmosphere. Right. So I call it safe house. Definitely still going.
Dave Bullis 31:35
And so, you see, you still do that. And then you still do you know, you have the classic creative life, you know, just about the art and craft of screenwriting, you know. So, as you kind of have done this journey of screenwriting over the years. So, you know, again, you were able to break in in 1989. With Fight Club, you know, as you kind of, you know, have gotten all this knowledge over the years, what are some of the, you know, some of the things that you've seen, or some of the advice that you could give to people who are out there just starting their own screenplay right now?
Jim Uhls 32:09
Well, I mean, I probably said this before in somewhere else. But I mean, I think you should, people, people who are beginning to get really obsessed with with their first script, like, this first script, it's just, they're stuck with it. It's like, I've got to get this perfect. And it's, and it has to be the one that and I think that will you, I think you should write all the way through the first draft of it. typed the, you will hear all the way through. And then take your attention. You know, in the typewriter days, they would have said, throw it in a drawer. So metaphorically throw it in the drawer. Start writing a difference. Because, okay, then you have to get all the way through the first draft, which frankly, number two. And then take your attention off events, third screenplay, all the way through to the first draft. Go back first. Because the kind of objectivity and even the wisdom you've gained by writing to morphine, but makes you a different person, looking at your first paper, you're a different writer. You're a better writer, really, no matter what, you're a better writer. If you've done three, and you're going to look at it differently, and you're going to get hit with a lot of great ideas that would probably never have occurred to you. If you hadn't had that much time away from and then when you've worked on that, well, your path is set. Where do you go to where you play number two? Wow, you're looking at that one, like you've never looked at it. If you do this with three in terms of working, starting out writing, with for no money write us back. If you do a second draft, a free scream difference. I think you've done almost all the work that you need to do before turning your attention way more rapidly to the business part of it. In terms of writing that bet, you know, I don't think anything's lacking a second draft of three screenplays. I mean, you, you're just you're better, they're better. And you have more than one thing to show. Which means that you're somebody who could be hired. Because you keep writing. You're I mean, you didn't just write one screenplay. How many people have written one screenplay probably, you know, half this country has written one screenplay.
That is that you've earned the right to like, seriously, change your focus to hustling on the business side. Because you've done two drafts each of three screenplays. The second of which is enormous improvement over the first. And that, by the way, can all be done without a teacher, without instructor or anybody, because I'm not saying it should be without, it could be enhanced greatly by being part of something where it instructor is, you know, guiding, or whatever. But what I'm saying is, if you don't have that, if you can't afford that, if, whatever, if you're in a town that doesn't have that, you can write three screenplays, right, second drafts of all three, and you are a better writer, I don't care where you are, or who's seen it, you're a better writer, and the second drafts are all better versus what's just going to happen. So that's screenwriting without a teacher, you
Dave Bullis 37:02
Screw it without a teacher, you I like that. So basically, if you were to take that out, you know, just take that even a step further, you know, just a person without a, you know, any type of, you know, manual or anything to go by there, just, you know, just them maybe a pad of paper and a pen in a room somewhere. You know, what are your thoughts on audio? Do you recommend outlining? Or do you think it should just be one of those cases where you just you have an idea and just kind of fly by the seat of your pants?
Jim Uhls 37:34
Well, well, I was saying, I hate pitching. Although I have done by the way. There have been times when I later I tried to start a conversation. They said, No, we're not having conversations. Yeah, what's the pitch. But it was perfect. I hate it. I have done good pitches. And outlines I feel the same way about I'm not very, very, very friendly to the idea of outlines. And here's the reason for it. An outline is something that documents what you're going to write before you write it. Now, if you're telling your entire story, before you tell your story. I mean, this fundamentally doesn't make sense. But also, an outline is clinical. It's, it's a very bloodless, clinical phase. I mean, if you have an emotional scene, you just say they have an emotional scene, like, wow, that's just when I read that sentence, they have an emotional scene I just broke down. And it's like, no, of course not. And no one has nothing in it. Except literal plot. Many you take time to maybe describe a character or whatever you're going to have you all obviously have, you can behave in their way away that just makes them distinct. You can do all this stuff in an outline. But ultimately, it's still clinical. Now, I can't say don't write outlines, because W people who hire you want an outline, as you're going to write it. So what I like to do is switch off my time between an outline and just some scene. The scenes, give me what I call the scent of blood, which means I'm, I'm in the living, breathing, people are starting to come alive. They're behaving and speaking. And I go back to the outline. And I feel like I'm creating on that other levels so that it allowed me to feel better. are up. Because I know that I've got these scenes where the these characters really are working.
Alex Ferrari 40:08
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Jim Uhls 40:18
So that's what I do, I kind of go back and forth between the two thing. I mean, if they need an outline by X amount of time, obviously, I'm not going to be writing a lot of see on the side. But some enough to just feel like, I know these people, you know, and they work. And I'm excited about so okay, I'll just continue with plot out. If I don't have to write it out, I don't think I ever do. I don't, I don't consider it flying by the seat of my pants, I think that I have enough of an idea to move forward. But the thing about writing a script is if you allow yourself, you will, you discover as you go. And that's really where the best stuff comes from. Something you discover you had pre thought it, you know, the characters were behaving, and something should happen, isn't always going to happen. And that's when it really gets fun and exciting to do it. It just can't be predetermined. Or wouldn't be what I'm talking about. Right. But you do have to have an idea, you know, I mean, yeah, I think you have to have an idea. And I even think there's a form this is a there is a mutated form of outline and script. That is basically but it's sometimes it goes to full script right there in the outline, and it goes back to outline form. I think they call it a script, like combining scripted treatment. That that could be a way that works for you that that is definitely something you're doing for yourself. I mean, there's, I don't think there's any way hires, you can say I want a script, they want an outline, they want an outline. But in terms of how you work on your own, I think that's that that's a viable option. To do it that way. At first,
Dave Bullis 42:39
You know, what I was talking about Chuck earlier, one of the pieces of advice he gave me was to, you know, have to have some kind of opening in mind, have some kind of ending in mind and write the end sort of kind of, so whatever you're writing feels finished. And then he goes, so you have your, your beginning and you kind of envision how the story would end. You're kind of imagining how the characters are transformed. So you're basically imagining this, you're not you're not like, you know, what has to happen, so to speak, if if I'm making this clear enough, but basically, you kind of have the ending and you're you're kind of letting them have to start filling in all those gaps of how do we go from point A to point B, or point Z? Really? Yeah, the story? Yeah.
Jim Uhls 43:24
I think I think, yeah, he's got a great point, I think, I think I probably just think that way. I always think like, because you're you're going in that direction. That's also why I think he stepped title. My joke about it is untitled dirty cop, porno ring, pizza joint rules project or something. Untitled and then it has all these words in it. You can you see that? With stuff. It's not titled. I don't think it helps you write something that is just on title. A title points you. In a lot of everything's in the same direction, same story, character, they're all going in that direction. That title is pointing. And sometimes in the middle of the process, that title you're holding on to that that's your suspension is above a huge abyss. And that's the only thing you're holding on to. So I titled, The ending, that's all good. Because you're allowing yourself to go okay, I'm going to get there. But I'm going to I'm going to discover which is great. Definitely.
Dave Bullis 44:50
Yeah. That kind of takes away from the kind of, like you mentioned, where it's kind of robotic or kind of, you know, our, I guess cliched. where you kind of have an outline and it's kind of set in stone. But the problem is it's not spontaneous. It's feels kind of contrived. You know what I mean? It's kind of like the story by formula.
Jim Uhls 45:11
Yeah. I'm not even necessarily saying, Oh, it makes you write down cliches, or, you know what I mean, you could be writing an outline with like, it's, it's really fascinating. It's just a you're not, you're not playing with behavior action, the dialogue at all, really? And you want to be in that, you know?
Yeah, you can always can be completely written with every idea. And this is rich. Like, I'm not saying at all that they force you to come up with cliches, that's, they don't, it's just not a script. That's all. Really,
Dave Bullis 46:00
It kind of takes the emotion out, right? Because that's what you want. Yeah. You want the?
Jim Uhls 46:04
That's what I think. Yeah. I think I mean, unless you're going to like, go novelist on it. And really, right. Because if you're writing a novel, okay, yeah, good. You can get all that you can have a motion, you can have a novel. You know, I mean, an outline is just told me what happens in this shoot. That's not the same as a novel. It's certainly not the same as the screenplay. Right.
Dave Bullis 46:42
Right. And that's why when I you know, imagine with with that advice that you just gave, and you're the one that Chuck gave to, it's kind of like, you can see how Fight Club kind of came together from that. You know, you start off with a guy who absolutely, you know, has something missing in his life. And he ends with, you know, what, spoiler alert, everybody, just in case you haven't seen it yet. You end up with, you know, him at the end with with Marla and they've just blown up a bunch of buildings in Wilmington, Delaware.
Jim Uhls 47:15
Right, right. I mean, it's okay to coda, which we just think wouldn't have work. The book doesn't stop there. Right. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, he realized he had to get to create this person to be everything he couldn't get himself to be, you know, and then it didn't need this person anymore. This person was like, insane. 20 the last stuff that had to be stopped.
Dave Bullis 47:54
But most writers can write Yeah. Alter Ego, and it kinda ends up consuming you.
Jim Uhls 48:03
Yeah, that's true. Well, yeah. That was happening to me right before you why we were calling, like, right in the middle of this, and I fixed it, but I was done. Always okay.
Dave Bullis 48:20
So, you know, you know, Jim, I wanted to ask, you know, with, you know, we've been talking about screenwriting and everything like that, you know, what are you currently working on?
Jim Uhls 48:29
I mean, oh, sorry. Go ahead.
Dave Bullis 48:36
No, I'm sorry. I was just gonna say like, you know, I know, you can't go into details. But you know, just in general, you know, what kind of project are you working on now?
Jim Uhls 48:45
Well, I mean, the screenplay gig, so to speak, that I have is doing an adaptation. Actually a series of graphic novels that come from South Korea, and we're changing, you know, I mean, that we're departing from the source material and a lot of ways, but it's, you know, it could be called in the action genre, but within that, I try to do as much character work as possible, and make it relate to the action that's happening, but there do have to be like, there has to be some breathtaking astronaut. And sometimes I find that more challenging, and it's like, oh, what's going to make this different kind of moment of action? But anyway, yeah, I'm doing that. And there's some there's some things that are just holding the pitches for Television, which is more of a pitching industry. And so, I don't know I divide my time up the stage.
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Dave Bullis 50:24
So basically, Yo, did you decide what to work on? You know, just based upon your I mean, do you juggle projects a lot is what I'm trying to say, do you juggle projects, multiple projects at one time?
Jim Uhls 50:36
Why? Yeah, I mean, I have, it's usually their stack. So they're sort of legally protected from each other in a way that people don't start this until this, whatever, but if that happens, but if not, if I'm just wearing one thing for pay, then I'm still spending some time working on ideas for other things. You know, my own ideas. So it gives me a lot to do.
Dave Bullis 51:14
So Jim, I wanted to ask, are you ever going to direct your own film? Would you ever consider directing your own film?
Jim Uhls 51:23
I don't know. I've got about three or four screenplays started that are. The impulse was that I would direct him, I have never gotten finished.
But I probably should. I've done some shorts that are not really for public distribution. They were just exercises. And I found that it was a mentality I could get into. But you know, it does involve every single human being around you is looking at you for an answer. All the time. So it's intense. But to answer the question, I think it's possible I might.
Dave Bullis 52:20
So basically, did you go into this sort of fight club and, and see like what Fincher was going through, and you were like, there's no way I've gone doing that screw the head?
Jim Uhls 52:30
Well, I mean, you couldn't really tell, you know, for me, what I what I know, from directly to short is, you can't watch a director and know what it feels like. You can't guess what it feels like you can't be. Because when you're direct, then, you know, there's only one way and I was like, what everybody is looking at you for the answer, and the next answer and the next time. And that is if you're in a position, you can watch someone else, but think you can have an idea of it, and you probably have some idea of it. But you don't know until you're doing. And, you know, I watched him and he's a master detail. I think all this stuff came to him. instinctually just just amazing. You know, it had been really great just to work with him on the script. Meeting up and talking about this, change this change that that was a lot of fun. And I know that I didn't see it, but I know it causes demand on the crew. I mean, I just saw everything looking like it was being shot by a master, which was, yeah, so it was great.
Dave Bullis 53:58
You know, I actually had on Bob signs, Bob was an ex was a actual cab driver and zodiac, also directed by David Fincher. So it was yeah, he was he was telling an anecdote that he saw him Bob as the cab driver is driving Jake Gyllenhaal. And they did about 100 takes of this. And finally Jake, just just popped his head into, you know, he got out of the cab and this and that. So he looked at and goes to Bob, because Bob, do you want to do this anymore? And he goes, What do you mean, he goes, Do you want to do this this scene anymore? Because I don't. And he wants to do it like so. And Jake bumped to David Fincher because I just can't do this anymore. Because Dave we have 100 takes me getting out of a cab. At some point. It has to look good. And Dave was like, no, no, no, no, no. And then Jake so So Jake, is goes y'all goes you know what? I'm done. He was it's finished. And my friend Bob was still singing the cat like should I get out or is this thought I don't know. But, but yeah, just a funny, funny story. I told Bob He should just kind of stand, you know, just kind of drove the cab off at that point and call it they call it a day. But now he the I think
Jim Uhls 55:08
It would actually be funny if he just drove off the set the Latin. Exactly. Yeah. No, I mean, I never saw anything bad intensely repeated myself. But, you know, certainly he, he would shoot. And sometimes it wasn't because every take is wrong until I get the right one. Sometimes he was doing things to have choices. So do a little differently, you know, so I didn't see anything like that, or you described. But yeah, reminds me, I think there's the 70s. You know, there was a movie where the director said, well, it was the actor who wanted doing takes the movie star that is, and the director said, Okay, well, I'm done with this today. And he left and the actor kept doing. The movie star kept doing it. Because he controlled the situation really. Anyway, that's, it's just funny, that reminds me that you're saying
Dave Bullis 56:20
It because it's just because, you know, that's a mistake I made. I'm just doing my short films was I didn't get different. The takes were different for different choices. That's something I learned. And I was like, you know, I should have did this, I shouldn't do that. So when I started making other ones, I would make sure that different takes, you know, things were said differently. You know, there was different, you know, reactions, big small stuff like that, you know, so that we have something in the editing room to choose from when you're picking and choosing all your you're piecing all this together.
Jim Uhls 56:52
Right, right. Yeah. I think it's pretty smart to do that. I don't know what was going on with the cabs. But I do think that having choices is smart. I mean, I saw him do it. So it just seemed like yeah, it could be this. I think that's pretty intelligent.
Dave Bullis 57:19
Well, that's why I get David Fincher on this podcast to talk about it. So and I'd be willing to bet you, Jim $10, that he probably would say, I have no idea what you're talking about. So because he won't remember me.
Jim Uhls 57:34
Everything does seem instinctual. Just what you mean? He does seem to like, it just sort of comes out of it. Because he's been asked what you realize that this pattern and this what no way that person behaved, whether you must have purposely done that, like, he's has this look like what are you talking about? But he is doing it? The fact that he's doing it instinctually doesn't change the fact that he's doing? He knows that he's getting what he likes? Yeah. So he's operating off his thinks is really a good idea for him. It's worked out well.
Dave Bullis 58:17
Yeah, yeah, definitely. It has worked out well. You know, the growth of dragons had to Zodiac Fight Club. And, you know, it just he's, you know, he's, he's a machine. Definitely, definitely one of the best directors working today.
Jim Uhls 58:37
When I, when I was when I was working with him, you know, there was it was, it was just maybe after slightly after a time, or maybe it was still very time when some people were saying, you know, these visual directors, these MTV directors, you know, or whatever. I guess we need, you know, obsession with something visual or cutting the water. I don't know what it was. And when we worked, when we sat down and talked about the triptych, I was 100% good at talking about everything, character, plot, you know, scene structure. He was fantastic. I never saw anything he wasn't good at. Actually. He doesn't particularly write himself. But I mean, I'm just saying in terms of dealing with other people, but he's working artistically with he, he had everything they were calling him. I don't know. I think Trump probably after seven I think everybody got it. This guy's amazing, whatever. But possibly before that, oh, the visually obsessed. Well, he isn't He's obsessed with every part.
Every element of it He thinks about all of them really well. When he gets back in, so I'm assuming you already said
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Jim Uhls 1:00:20
Right, which is, which is great.
Dave Bullis 1:00:25
Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Because sometimes, you know, I remember I remember when they were saying like the MTV generation of directors, the one they always pointed to his guy, Richie. If you ever seen lock stock or snatch, I don't know if you have.
Jim Uhls 1:00:41
Oh, yeah. Oh,
Dave Bullis 1:00:45
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I think they're a great films. But like, you know, when people were always saying negative things about him, and you know, in the reviews, it was always about how it's an MTV style of editing and shooting, etc. I just think it's, it was a, I don't agree with that assessment. I just think that sometimes people don't know what they're actually looking at. Or maybe it's so it breaks the mold of what they're used to it kind of, it kind of breaks, it kind of breaks that mold, and they can kind of handle that change, if you want. I mean,
Jim Uhls 1:01:15
Yeah, we'll have the time I'm talking the period of time I'm talking about it was kind of like, that was the the theme to attack. You know, that was the that was the popular target for certain critics, you know, not all, but I remember that it sort of was its own thing. Like, let's go after those MTV directors. First of all, they're all different. And say late, you know, they think about everything. I'm assuming. I can't speak for everybody, every one who was accused of being that way. But, you know, I think they think about everything.
Dave Bullis 1:02:02
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, and they and if anyone's talking about a massive, you want something, right, right. If someone even knows your name, if somebody even knows your name, you've gotta be doing something, right.
Jim Uhls 1:02:15
Oh, right. Yeah. I heard the word gal is and actually, you know, I am sort of creeping up on the time where I'm gonna have to go
Dave Bullis 1:02:28
I was gonna say this.
Jim Uhls 1:02:30
Our parameters were so
Dave Bullis 1:02:33
I told you, it's, it's my, you know, it's just this, this idea that we don't because we I know we had a time schedule. But I didn't know. I now that you were able to go a little bit over. But you know, Jim, to actually just have one final question. And just in closing, do you want to put a Is there anything you want to say that we didn't talk about or anything you want to say now to kind of put a period at the end of this whole conversation? Any, any parting wisdom anything?
Jim Uhls 1:03:05
Well, you know, I think I did it. That was the thing I did was the three scripts for somebody starting. I mean, it's probably the other thing would be to read screenplays. So I mean, I mean, a lot. I have read online survey saying that they've got this advice, who's going to sit around and reads? Well, now I don't know, I don't think you should spend all your time reading screenplays, when you're not writing, but it's a good idea to have a flow of them going and kind of keep up with reading. I don't mean, keep up with as in the most current it could be really complacent in the 30s or something. But just keep reading, you know, doesn't have to consume all your time to to manage your time, but it's a good idea that just because they are in the format, but they're different. There's different things about different screenplays. I think that and you can even wait. You know, there's different sorts of setups you can do for yourself. I am going to see a movie then read the screenplay. It's probably way better idea than doing it the other way around. The screenplay that you got the video that you've you've already read it all or you know, there's just a classic or whatever. You've seen it. Maybe a while back, go back and see what it's like to read the screenplay. And I think that is a good part of the exercise of learning. And it's no I don't think anyone should be buried under a pile of scripts or something as far as they're all on the computer or whatever they are. I'm not the pad. I don't think I'm not saying it has to be overdone. But I think it should be sort of a steady practice, you know? Because it helps.
Dave Bullis 1:05:16
It can be kind of like the Fight Club, a house gym, where instead of, you know, reading a bunch of, of old magazines, it's just old screenplays. They're just reading old screenplays.
Jim Uhls 1:05:31
Yeah, I guess. But as I said, I don't I'm not telling anyone that they should overdo it. Or watch too many as possible, or was it just just to sort of like, you know, just sort of keep keep them going? That's all.
Dave Bullis 1:05:50
You know, just before we go, I just want to tell you a quick little anecdote, very quickly. One time, a friend of mine, had to it was it was like, he called me up and he goes, Hey, Dave, can I ask you to for help with something? He goes, I have this friend, he lives, you know, in the middle of nowhere, and he needs some some help with some IT stuff and this and that. And I go well, and you know, he talks me into it. So you know, I say fine, because I kind of sort of go in that general direction anyway. It was gonna go past where I needed to go. But you see, kind of, you kind of get where I'm going with this. So the guy on the way goes, Oh, yeah, he goes their house. I call it the Fight Club House. And I go, why? He goes, Well, wait, do you see it? So we get there, Jim. And the house was just like the house and Fight Club. It was like falling apart. There was like, exposed wires everywhere. And I'm just like, what are they squatting in this house? So eventually the guy. So as I'm helping the guy out with his computer, which thankfully, thank God, it was really, really easy. He starts telling me how Justin Bieber had been tweeting at them. And I look at him, I go Justin Bieber. He goes, Yeah, he's talking to me privately. He's on tour, and he's talking me privately. And he's like, you want to see these tweets? And I go, yes, I want to see these tweets and direct messages. And it's clearly some dude, just just fucking with them. And this guy had no clue. I'm like, Alright, man, you know, best of luck with that, man. Hey, and I gotta go fix him. And he's like, Hey, you should come back sometime. You know, thanks for all his help. And I'm like now? No, it's cool, man. Yeah, I'll definitely come back some time to the to the house. And so I left there. And I told my friend that when I were leaving, I told my friend I said, Don't ever ask me to do this again. I said, I literally felt like I was about to get stabbed in that house at any point in time. But But it was funny because it was called they call it the Fight Club House. And it was just it was just that that's the anecdote. I wanted to tell you, Jim. But what you know, so just in closing,
Jim Uhls 1:07:55
Probably yeah, there's probably other house like that's all
Dave Bullis 1:08:01
I have. I've seen a few houses like that in Philadelphia, because that's where I'm actually at and I've seen a few houses where it's just you walk in there. There's you know, waters dripping in from the third floor all the way down to the basement. And you're like why the hell hasn't this house just been you know, bulldoze or demolished but, you know, but so just in closing, Jim, where can people find you out online?
Jim Uhls 1:08:23
There's no, there's no see and I can be bad about remembering just check in on social media. But anyway, that's it. Well, you know, I mean, you and I indicated on Twitter @Wohojak.
Dave Bullis 1:08:46
Jim Uhls thank you so much for coming on, sir.
Jim Uhls 1:08:50
Thank you, Dave. I'm glad we did. It was a lot of fun.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:54
I want to thank Dave so much for doing such a great job on this episode. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/288. Thank you for listening guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. We'll talk to you soon.
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