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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Painfully funny.

An article in the July/August issue of Script Magazine, "How to Sell Out!" made me laugh...and nearly cry.  The authors (Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant) use tongue-in-cheek humor to share tips on how to make money as a Hollywood screenwriter.  I love that kind of humor--the kind that makes me laugh at the painful truth.

They state that in order to make money as a screenwriter, you have to sell out to the big Hollywood Studios.  Here are a some favorite excerpts from their article:

    1. Check your pretense at the door! You may be saying to yourself: "Hey, I want to write subtle, interesting films ... I don't want to spend weeks writing some crap about Martin Lawrence being put in charge of a Girl Scout Troop."  WELL GET OVER IT SMARTYPANTS! Us sellouts relish the idea of thinking up scenarios where Martin Lawrence is a "fish out of water." ...
    2. Give up on the idea of ever winning an award. If you're selling out properly, this problem won't ever come up.  ... If you have your heart set on winning awards, DO NOT BECOME A HOLLYWOOD SCREENWRITER.  Write art films.  Art films are easy to write.  They don't even have to make much sense.  ...   
    3. Write every day, compulsively.  Don't approach your "craft" like some auteur who stares longingly out the window at the moor, occasionally putting quill to paper when the muse strikes you.  No.  It's not a "craft." It's a job. ... If you are not prepared to write as though Simon Legree  was standing over your shoulder, whip in hand, do not attempt to write movies for the big studios.
    4. Have no ego.  To write for the studios, keep in mind that over half of what you write will be thrown away.  ... And you must learn to nod and smile while it's thrown away.  Remember: The writer is the easiest person to fire.  Always.
    5. Be wonderful. ... Hollywood is a small town.  You'll run into the same 75 people over and over again.  Assistants will become executives. Executives will get fired, then become producers.  ... Make no enemies, because whoever brought you a bottled water last week will be the woman you'll be pitching to in three months.
    6. Develop a drinking problem, it helps you through steps 1 through 5!
    7. Dress like a professional. ... Lots of wannabe screenwriters throw on whichever of their Doctor Who T-shirts has the least amount of Cheeto dust on it.  Stand out from the crowd by dressing like a grown-up, with a real job.  People have to take you seriously if you want to write the stupidest films in the world.
    8. If you're going to sell out, SELL OUT AND STOP [GRIPING] ABOUT IT.  Don't "kinda" sell out.  "I'm gonna take half of their notes, but keep the 'integritty' of my screenplay."  NO!  ... DO WHAT THEY TOLD YOU TO DO ... !  If you don't, they're just gonna fire you and hire somebody else to take out the parts you liked anyway. ... Practice this, in the mirror, every morning:  "Wow, I think that's a GREAT idea!"  "Change the subplot about sweatshops in Cambodia to one about two monkeys who just can't get enough Sierra Mist?  I LOVE THAT!"
    9. Remember: After you sell your screenplay to a studio, it is not your movie anymore.  It is theirs.  So don't dig in your heels and defend it. That's like being a contractor, and arguing with the client over how big you think the bathroom should be.  If they want 10 sinks and no toilet, you say, "Yessir boss, coming right up!"
    10. Studios do not want "brilliant screenplays."  They want screenplays that make money.  No one hires you to be brilliant.  No one wants a thought-provoking work of genius.  ...  And THE MOST IMPOTANT RULE IN SELLING OUT:  Do it for the money.  ... Your writing is your art, your art is your soul.  ...  Do not sell your soul ... unless it's for a [butt-load] of cash.
(I added bracketed words to replace some I didn't want to use on this blog.)

This morning I read the article, in its entirety to Kurt. We both howled with laughter. Then I told him, "This is why I don't plan marketing my screenplays to Hollywood.  I'll go to Independent filmmakers."

"NO!  Stop writing brilliant stuff!" Kurt joked.  "I'll be Simon Legree with the whip when I get home tonight, and I better find you writing a script about monkeys fighting over Sierra Mist. You can write your brilliant stuff later, after you've made a buttload of money, and we are lounging on our yacht!"

(Er...he was joking...right?)

Oh dear.  What did this clever article get me into?  And why am I considering purchasing their book: WRITING MOVIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy July Fourth!

It's Independence Day, and to celebrate I wanted to spend the day reading a novel.  I am a reading pig when it comes to novels...I want to read the entire book in a day, none of this read a little one day and a little more the next.  AAAaaahhhh!!!  To me, that is like pausing a movie a million times.  Drives me nutty.  So, I have to block out a day, which I don't do very often.  This was to be a royal treat for myself.

However, since writing screenplays, and reading screenplays, I am spoiled.  I'm used to tight writing styles that give description only if it is pertinent to moving the story. Now, I try to read novels and find myself feeling very impatient with all the description and blah-de-blah-de-blah. Oh  my goodness!!!  Get to the point!  The novel I selected is a disappointment so far.  The author writes too much exposition into the dialogue. The characters are talking about things that are common knowledge to both of them, which makes it obvious the writer just wants the reader to know the information.  It would be like me talking with my husband about details we both know.  For example:

Trudy said, "When we met in February of 1978 in Twin Falls, Idaho, you were visiting your parents during a military leave of absence."  Kurt smiles and responds, "Yes, I remember.  I was with my brother, John, the youngest out of seven siblings of which I am the middle child."  Smiling wryly, Trudy teases, "And I was with Lonnie, the boyfriend of my roommate Jeannie."

See what I mean?  No one talks like that, making the dialogue in the novel annoying. In reality, our conversation would go something like this:

"Remember when we first met?"  Trudy asked.
Kurt smiles, "Yeah."

I've read three chapters and I don't know if I can continue.  I think I will switch gears and watch a movie.

Happy July Fourth everyone!