The Art of Storytelling: Insights from Bruce Joel Rubin

Recorded at the past online LondonSWF festival, we met with screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin.

The Art of Storytelling: Insights from Bruce Joel Rubin

In this blog post, we dive deep into the world of storytelling with renowned screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin. From his Oscar-winning films to his personal journey as a writer, Rubin shares valuable insights and experiences that have shaped his craft.

Entertaining and Inspiring

Rubin believes that the primary job of creative people, including writers, is to entertain and provide a new perspective for the audience. By shifting the audience’s perspective, stories have the power to show them a world beyond their own imagination. This realization can be a relief for many, as it opens up new possibilities and helps them understand the bigger picture.

The Value of Stories

Rubin emphasizes the importance of storytelling and the impact it has on both the audience and the storyteller. He believes that every story should have a relatable protagonist who experiences a disruption in their life. This disruption sets the stage for a journey of self-discovery and growth, culminating in a higher level of understanding and harmony.

Going Beyond Screenplays

While screenwriting is an art form within the film industry, Rubin encourages writers to explore storytelling beyond the confines of traditional screenplays. He believes that limiting storytelling to screenplays would mean missing out on the opportunity to delve deeper into the human experience and tackle profound themes.

Finding Your Voice

One of the challenges many aspiring screenwriters face is finding their unique voice. Rubin suggests that finding your voice requires a personal initiation—a deep insight or experience that shapes your perspective on the world. For Rubin, this initiation came in the form of a life-changing LSD trip that led him on a spiritual journey. Through meditation and exploration of mystical traditions, Rubin found his voice and discovered the stories he needed to share.

The Power of Authenticity

Rubin advises against writing solely for the industry or trying to conform to its expectations. Instead, he encourages writers to embrace their authenticity and write from a place of depth and truth. When a story comes from a genuine place, it has the potential to touch people on a fundamental level and provoke meaningful change.

Jacob’s Ladder: Exploring Death and Reality

Rubin’s film Jacob’s Ladder delves into the mysteries of death and reality. Inspired by a dream, the movie follows a man named Jacob as he navigates a journey filled with emotional and spiritual challenges. Rubin wanted to create a visual representation of the profound experience he had after his LSD trip, and Jacob’s Ladder became a vehicle for that exploration.

Embracing the Unknown

Rubin acknowledges that writing authentically and exploring profound themes can be daunting. However, he encourages writers to embrace the unknown and not be afraid to reveal their true selves on the page. By doing so, writers can connect with their audience on a deeper level and offer them a sense of understanding and empathy.

The Rewards of Authentic Writing

While writing for the industry may offer fame and fortune, Rubin believes that the true reward lies in writing from a place of authenticity. He encourages writers to prioritize their own creative fulfillment over external validation. By staying true to themselves, writers can create work that resonates with others and leaves a lasting impact.

Writing as a Spiritual Practice

Rubin highlights the importance of stillness and going inward as a way to access creativity and find deeper meaning in storytelling. He suggests that meditation and self-reflection can open doors to new insights and allow writers to tap into the collective consciousness. By connecting with something greater than themselves, writers can infuse their work with a sense of universality and transcendence.

The Journey of Discovery

Writing, according to Rubin, is a journey of discovery. He advises writers to embrace the process of not knowing and allow the story to unfold organically. By trusting the creative process and being open to surprises, writers can uncover hidden depths and create work that resonates with both themselves and their audience.

The Impact of Authenticity

Rubin believes that authentic writing has the power to touch people’s lives and provoke meaningful change. He encourages writers to dig deep and write from a place of vulnerability and truth. When a story is infused with authenticity, it has the potential to inspire, challenge, and transform both the writer and the reader.

Final Thoughts

Bruce Joel Rubin’s insights into storytelling and his personal journey as a writer provide valuable lessons for aspiring screenwriters. By embracing authenticity, exploring profound themes, and finding their unique voice, writers can create stories that touch the hearts and minds of audiences. Rubin’s films, such as Ghost and Jacob’s Ladder, stand as testaments to the power of storytelling and the impact it can have on both the storyteller and the audience.

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