Everyone is Writing a Script

Today, I drove up to San Francisco to speak at a writer’s conference this weekend. There’s a Borders next door to my hotel, so I went over to their coffee house  for a cup of tea while I proofed the copyedited manuscript of DIAGNOSIS MURDER: THE PAST TENSE, which I received yesterday and is due back in NY on the 23rd. Talk about "last minute"…

Anyway, I couldn’t help noticing all the folks around me with their laptops… working on their scripts.  There I was, 300 miles from Hollywood, and still everybody is toiling on a screenplay. It’s not like I was sitting in Vancouver or Toronto or New York, where there’s lots of production going on. This was San Francisco

If that wasn’t disconcerting enough, I heard a woman (let’s call her Sally) and her friend (let’s call her Betty) talking over the script on the laptop. Sally was getting Betty’s advice… and the advice was absolutely terrible. Everything out of Betty’s mouth was wrong, lame, and screamed that she was an uneducated, uninformed, unschooled wanna-be.  For instance, she advised Sally to add a lot more elaborate and detailed camera moves, angles, and editing suggestions or "the director won’t know what to do."  She also kept recommending that Sally add exclamation points to her dialogue to make it "urgent and important."

It took tremendous willpower not to jump out of my seat, scream at Betty that she didn’t know what the hell she was talking about and urge Sally to delete  the camera moves and exclamations points and every other stupid thing her friend told her to add to her screenplay.

Instead, I moved to a different table…and silently prayed Sally never sent her script to me.

9 thoughts on “Everyone is Writing a Script”

  1. What about bullet points and fancy fonts? Audiences love movies that are scripted with bullet points and fancy fonts. How does that work?
    Ball bearings. It’s all done with ball bearings. (Okay, I stole that last part from the movie FLETCH.)

  2. It’s not just San Francisco. I’m in a creative writing program at Eastern Michigan University in backwoods Ypsilanti and everyone in the FICTION writing program is writing a script instead of the short stories and novels they should be doing. My professor absolutely hates it. You go into the Borders in Ann Arbor and it’s the same thing, everyone working on a script. Of course I’m also working on a script so maybe I should shut up…

  3. I’ll tell you — I’m always amused to listen to people in L.A. talk about the scripts they’re working on. Three-fourths of the people are writing what they think they’re supposed to write (i.e., “the studios are looking for talking animal movies!”) and you’re right — the advice is always abhorrent.
    Then again, the scary part is you NEVER KNOW what someone will buy. That talking skunk football sci-fi time travel movie may actually make it to a multiplex and then wouldn’t we all feel stupid?
    Maybe there’s really no way around it.

  4. That’s a common fallacy anywhere outside of LA: anyone can do it, and do it from home. Just go look at http://www.donedeal.com The whole group dances to the out of LA career in show business. Chris Lockhart of ICM is there all the time leading them on. Unbelievable.
    Of course I wrote two after living here for 10 years but selling them is impossible, even though under the right cirumstances it could happen. But not with the agent I had.

  5. More camera moves? Ha.
    I took a screen-writing course at the University of Central Florida with a great (and now departed) writer named Stephen Becker. The class didn’t transform me into a screen-writing genius, but I did learn a lot. Mr. Becker would look at the student scripts and say “No, that’s the director’s job.” Or the editor’s job or whomever. I rapidly learned to keep it streamlined.
    Now back to my novel-writing … where I can do all the camera angles i want and even dictate the soundtrack.

  6. How about CATWOMAN? They took the script to the first SPIDERMAN, stripped it down to the outline, and changed a couple things around. No script needed.
    Of course, no story involved, either. “What? Story? We’ve got Halle Berry in a dominatrix outfit! We don’t need a story!”


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