Tales From the Script

Sitting down for intimate conversations with dozens of Hollywood’s best writers was a transformative experience. Although I’ve been a professional screenwriter for many years, most of my work has been in the independent realm, so collecting material for Tales from the Script gave me a crash course in the realities of writing movies at the film industry’s top levels.
1. Good things come to those who wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. A recurring theme throughout the interviews in this project is the long (and painful) gap of time that stretches from the moment someone sets out to become a screenwriter to the moment that dream comes true.  Bottom line? Winning the screenwriting race isn’t about speed. It’s about endurance.
2. Don’t hold your breath if you’re selling an original story. (I)n today’s climate, the writer who rises from obscurity on the strength of a pure spec script is a rare creature. We’re in the age of adaptations and remakes and sequels, so very often, the emerging writer’s best hope with a spec is to get noticed and then hired for an assignment on an existing project.  To pour a little salt into the wound, consider this comment from Shooter scribe Jonathan Lemkin: “If I could pitch Wheaties: The Movie tomorrow, I’d have a better chance of selling it than I would with an original idea. ‘There’s a cereal box, guys!’ It’s a very strange time.”
3. Don’t underestimate the value of cynicism.  The upshot of discarding youthful naïveté was discovering the importance of hustle, and learning that a career in film is built brick by painstaking brick.  John D. Brancato, who, with his writing partner Michael Ferris, has survived working on big-budget spectacles including Catwoman, The Game, and the last two Terminator movies (has this to say): “I’ve read screenplays, plenty of them, where the writer obviously hates what he’s doing, and thinks it’s B.S. That kind of cynicism is pernicious. It hurts the project. It hurts movies in general. So I try not to be cynical about the screenplay, about the movie – while being cynical about every single other thing attached to it. Staying innocent in the creative process is the thing.”
4. Learn to love your neuroses.  Agents lose interest, options expire, movies that seem close to production lose momentum . . . it’s a heartbreaking cycle, and even the strongest people experience self-doubt after setback upon setback. The one hope new writers have is that once they become established writers, things will get easier. Turns out that’s not necessarily the case. (S)creenwriter-turned-psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo (My Favorite Year) has observed: “A writer friend of mine once described screenwriters as ‘egomaniacs with low self-esteem.’ “
5. It’s worth it. Why not just self-publish novels or read poetry on street corners? There are easier ways to share your art, and the number of writers who achieve Hollywood success is dwarfed by the number of writers who don’t. The reason why the dream is worth pursuing is that the rewards are beyond imagining. Nothing touches audiences with the power of a great Hollywood movie.
The “Tales from the Script” documentary feature DVD Available for Pre-Order! Set for release on April 20, 2010, the “Tales from the Script” DVD is now available for discounted pre-order from First Run Features! Although the list price is $24.95, customers who pre-order now through this special offer will receive a 30% discount, getting the disc for $17.47. (First Run offers free shipping on orders of $30 or more, so buy one for yourself and one as a gift!) The disc includes more than an hour of fantastic special features, including “More Tales from the Script” (a collection of colorful stories that couldn’t fit into the movie), “The Gospel According to Bill” (spotlighting the wit and wisdom of William Goldman), and “Advice for New Screenwriters.” To pre-order the “Tales from the Script” DVD
http://firstrunfeatures.com/talesfromthescriptdvd.html
HansonHere’s an interesting article from Peter Hanson, co-author of Tales from the Script with Paul Robert Herman.  The book is a collection of interviews of famous screenwriters.  I’ve excerpted the 5 main points of the article but the full story is well worth reading.  It was first published in The Writers Store E-Zine.  You can read the whole article at the following link:  http://www.pitchfest.com/newsletters/march_2010/peter_hanson.shtml
Sitting down for intimate conversations with dozens of Hollywood’s best writers was a transformative experience. Although I’ve been a professional screenwriter for many years, most of my work has been in the independent realm, so collecting material for Tales from the Script gave me a crash course in the realities of writing movies at the film industry’s top levels.
.
1. Good things come to those who wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. A recurring theme throughout the interviews in this project is the long (and painful) gap of time that stretches from the moment someone sets out to become a screenwriter to the moment that dream comes true.  Bottom line? Winning the screenwriting race isn’t about speed. It’s about endurance.
.
2. Don’t hold your breath if you’re selling an original story. (I)n today’s climate, the writer who rises from obscurity on the strength of a pure spec script is a rare creature. We’re in the age of adaptations and remakes and sequels, so very often, the emerging writer’s best hope with a spec is to get noticed and then hired for an assignment on an existing project.  To pour a little salt into the wound, consider this comment from Shooter scribe Jonathan Lemkin: “If I could pitch Wheaties: The Movie tomorrow, I’d have a better chance of selling it than I would with an original idea. ‘There’s a cereal box, guys!’ It’s a very strange time.”
.
3. Don’t underestimate the value of cynicism. The upshot of discarding youthful naïveté was discovering the importance of hustle, and learning that a career in film is built brick by painstaking brick.  John D. Brancato, who, with his writing partner Michael Ferris, has survived working on big-budget spectacles including Catwoman, The Game, and the last two Terminator movies (has this to say): “I’ve read screenplays, plenty of them, where the writer obviously hates what he’s doing, and thinks it’s B.S. That kind of cynicism is pernicious. It hurts the project. It hurts movies in general. So I try not to be cynical about the screenplay, about the movie – while being cynical about every single other thing attached to it. Staying innocent in the creative process is the thing.”
.
4. Learn to love your neuroses.  Agents lose interest, options expire, movies that seem close to production lose momentum . . . it’s a heartbreaking cycle, and even the strongest people experience self-doubt after setback upon setback. The one hope new writers have is that once they become established writers, things will get easier. Turns out that’s not necessarily the case. (S)creenwriter-turned-psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo (My Favorite Year) has observed: “A writer friend of mine once described screenwriters as ‘egomaniacs with low self-esteem.’ “
.
5. It’s worth it. Why not just self-publish novels or read poetry on street corners? There are easier ways to share your art, and the number of writers who achieve Hollywood success is dwarfed by the number of writers who don’t. The reason why the dream is worth pursuing is that the rewards are beyond imagining. Nothing touches audiences with the power of a great Hollywood movie.
The Tales from the Script documentary feature DVD Available for Pre-Order. Set for release on April 20, 2010, the “Tales from the Script” DVD is now available for discounted pre-order from First Run Features. Although the list price is $24.95, customers who pre-order now through this special offer will receive a 30% discount, getting the disc for $17.47. (First Run offers free shipping on orders of $30 or more, so buy one for yourself and one as a gift.) The disc includes more than an hour of fantastic special features, including “More Tales from the Script” (a collection of colorful stories that couldn’t fit into the movie), “The Gospel According to Bill” (spotlighting the wit and wisdom of William Goldman), and “Advice for New Screenwriters.” To pre-order the “Tales from the Script” DVD click on this link:

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