3 Reasons Why Beau Willimon (House of Cards) Looks For Playwrights to Staff His Writers’ Room

Beau Willimon has followed an unconventional path, a painter turned playwright and then screenwriter, he currently is the Showrunner of House of Cards, one of the first shows created within the disruptive model that made it mainstream big and gets better one season after the next.

During an hour-long conversation with Brian Koppelman‘s podcast show The Moment, Beau Willimon talks about the reasons why he looks for playwrights when he staffs his room:


#1 – Playwrights Can’t Afford to Cheat When They Write 

“You can’t cheat on a stage. You can’t edit your way out of a jam. You don’t have any spectacle to speak of, even the most spectacular stage performance in terms of effects and what have you might be a fog machine and some lights or something, but you have a physical body, on a stage, in front of real people saying words that they can’t hide from, that you can’t escape and if those words don’t have truth to them then the actor doesn’t have the tool that they need in order to put truth out there. It is so obvious, you cannot lie in front  of a few hundred people.”

#2 – Playwrights Become Playwrights Because They Seek Telling Good Stories 

“There is zero guarantee and very very little chance of fame or fortune in writing for the theater, so the writers that gravitate towards the theater are doing it because they have a deep thirst. They will crawl across a desert to tell a good story, that sort of thirst, that sort of necessity which is not about glitz and glamour and Hollywood and red carpet and money is, I think, elemental to being a good writer.”

#3 – Playwrights Know How to Economically Write to Hit Human Emotion 

“Playwrights have to be far more economical [than screenwriters] because you can write a screenplay that has a 100 scenes in it and sort of lift them out, put them in, expand, track whatever, but there is a precision to writing a 20 pages scene, because you don’t have the pace of filmmaking and all you have is the word, you can’t waste a moment. And you only have human behavior to rely on so writing a 20 page scene is one of the hardest thing you can do in terms of writing because you’re trying to sustain interest purely through human behavior. You can’t rely on editing to do the rhythmic work for you.”

I find it to be an interesting angle and confirm a trend that’s been growing and talked about lately about the many writers moving more and more back and forth between TV and theater.

One Step Further:

More about Beau Willimon’s job as a Showrunner. Evertyhing about House of Cards on Writing tips from Brian Koppelman and his Hollywood Pitch anecdote.