6 Lessons Tarantino’s True Romance teaches First time Filmmakers

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Now I know the film buffs will immediately rebuke this title, since True Romance was directed by the late great Tony Scott. It is however Tarantino’s first feature screenplay and was written with the intention of being the writers directorial debut. As fate would have it Quentin sold the screenplay to Tony Scott and went off to make he’s second screenplay Reservoir Dogs.


What interests me is the story of True Romance and how it echoes the challenges faced by first time filmmakers trying to get their story told. So here is my analogy:

true-romance talent

Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette as Clarence and Alabama

1. The Talent and No Script

Clarence and Alabama are clearly the “talent”, eccentric, impulsive and loveable. As soon as they meet we know that it’s only a matter of time before something interesting will develop.



Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman) the pimp Clarence gets the Product from

2. The Product

Clarence accidentally stumbling on Drexl’s stash provides the perfect catalyst for the couple. They now have a product of potentially immense value but they need to call in the experts to get it “valued” and ultimately sold. Otherwise it is useless on its own.



Clarence asks his dad (Dennis Hopper) for help

3. Get Help from Friends and Family

I’m sure this step is familiar to many filmmakers. After we’ve written our script the first thing we do is ask the opinion of those we know. Clarence and Alabama do the same by first going to Clarence’s father for advice, and calling on Clarence’s Hollywood actor friend, Dick Ritchie, using his contacts to what might lead to a possible sale with a Film Producer no less.



The beginning of an epic shootout

4. Chaos and The Unexpected

A good example of the random chaos that can afflict a fledgling production is when Elliot, Dick Ritchie’s friend gets busted by the cops. This is just before he takes Clarence and Alabama to meet the big shot film producer.


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A defiant Alabama after mob enforcer Virgil’s brutal interrogation

5. You Gotta Be Tough

The brutal interrogation and beating of Alabama by Mob enforcer Virgil, can be seen as the strength and determination you require to get your film made. Alabama manages to best her persecutor but not before first going through some unspeakable horrors.


6. Get The Pitch Right

The scene where Clarence seals the deal with big shot movie producer Donowitz is quite brilliant in its depiction of a high stakes negotiation.  Get your story right, know your market well, and perfect the art of compromising for big ego’s and being firm about what you want for your product.