Friday, March 12, 2010

Tales from the Script

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Hollywood Screenwriters Reveal Woes and Tricks of the Trade in Fascinating Documentary

A funny thing about moviemaking is that, for some reason, screenwriters are the low men (and women) on the totem pole in terms of the Hollywood pecking order, so to speak, if I may mix a couple of metaphors. This disrespect persists despite the fact that the script is the blueprint upon which the whole production is based. For one way to think of a scriptwriter is as the architect whose words a director follows in fashioning a vision into a feature film.
Nonetheless, screenwriters “don’t get no respect,” even those whose movies have been big hits. At least that’s the prevailing complaint repeated throughout Tales from the Script, a revealing documentary featuring interviews with dozens of the best in the business, including Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), John Carpenter (Halloween) and Shane Black (Lethal Weapon). This is a flick which ought to be mandatory for any aspiring writer considering heading to Hollywood to take a shot at punching up treatments, since the showbiz-hardened veterans speaking here have a lot of sage advice to share about the pitfalls of the profession.
For example, they suggest you take any accolades about a pitch with a ton of salt, since from studio execs are inclined to disseminate praise indiscriminately, saying things like “This is the best script I’ve ever read!” whether they really like it or not. “Inevitably, everyone tells you it’s wonderful,” laments one frustrated scribe.
Another impediment many bemoan is latter-day Hollywood’s risk-averse approach to moviemaking. The problem with this is that projects are being greenlit by industry hacks who are more concerned with keeping their own jobs than with producing cinematic masterpieces. Consequently, heavy corporate influence means that maximizing profits have become the bottom line, and what’s edgy or unfamiliar is rejected in favor of what’s worked before.
So, one writer relates how a studio changed his script’s genre entirely, while another relates how she didn’t recognize the ending of hers when she saw the final cut onscreen since the final scene had been sensationalized by the addition of a flaming severed head rolling down the street in front of a strip club.
Is it any wonder screenwriters have been described as “egomaniacs with low-self esteem!”

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 105 Minutes
Distributor: First Run Features

No comments: