Tales from the Script Review
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Okay…I think I need to preface this review with a brief selection from my stunning biography. In the mid- to late-‘90s I spent most of my days and nights devouring screenplays, reading Syd Field’s seminal works, and soldiering through the writing and re-writing process as I attempted to master the craft of the screenwriter. I got a couple of scripts written and rewritten. One even made it to someone at Disney, who sent it to the William Morris Agency in New York. And now, here I am, 12 years later, writing DVD reviews and teaching high school in Maryland. I lasted only four years as a screenwriter. I learned a lot, no doubt, but I just didn’t have the staying power. So it was with great enthusiasm that I viewed Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman’s documentary, Tales from the Script.

This is definitely a documentary for people who already love to write (whether it be prose or screenwriting) or who simply want to understand more about the process. I enjoyed getting to see and hear some of my heroes talk about the day-to-day grind of pumping out pages of text. The film paints a realistic (but nonetheless enticing) picture of what the average screenwriter in Hollywood must put up with on a creative and business level, as well as the lack of respect they receive.

Writers like Gerald Di Pego (Phenomenon), John Carpenter (Halloween), Shane Black (Lethal Weapon), and the godfather of all screenwriters, William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) regale us with entertaining anecdotes and revelations about the world out there in La La Land. But what I appreciated more than the giants of the business giving advice were the revelations from the more independent (and, dare I say, “jobbing”) screenwriters, such as Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging), Genevieve Turner (Go Fish and, much to her disappointment and shame, Bloodrayne) and Michael January, who looked like the next big thing at twenty but who now writes direct-to-DVD thrillers, such as Warpath, starring C-grade actors. However hard many of these writers work, no matter how high or low they are paid, they all agree that being a writer and making a living in the industry is better than the alternative—being a high school teacher in Maryland, for instance.

As I mentioned above, this documentary will appeal more to those of us who write or attempt to write on a regular basis, as we can hear our frustrations and anxieties echoed to us from the professionals in the business. For those viewers not as involved with the process, the film will simply come across as a series of talking heads (however informative they may be). I happen to enjoy this, as the insights and stories outweigh the lack of fancy editing. It does the job it sets out to do.

I would’ve liked to hear more from the struggling screenwriters about the process they go though on the lower rungs of the industry. Still, there is an interview with Ghost writer Bruce Joel Rubin’s son, who does not yet have a credit and is attempting to claw his way into the industry—even with an Oscar-winning father as a doorway. I appreciated his honesty. That alone speaks volumes about the power of the writer in Hollywood.

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