On DVD: Tales from the Script

Tales from the Script is documentary that consists solely of interviews with prominent (and a couple of not-so-prominent) screenwriters exploring the triumphs and tragedies of being a writer in Hollywood. The interviewees' comments are cut together in thematic groups that cover everything from making a pitch to working with superstars to the role of the writer on a film set. This compendium of anecdotes and insight is an excellent record of the writer's perspective on the film production process, and will be an invaluable document for those considering any kind of career in the movies.

Participants include Oscar-winners William Goldman, David S. Ward, and Bruce Joel Rubin; writers who have experienced huge commercial success such as Shane Black and John August; independent writers of more personal material like Ron Shelton and Paul Schrader; as well as writer-directors like John Carpenter and Frank Darabont.

Almost each and every interviewee in this documentary talks about the positive and the negative - the dark and the light in screenwriting. Their experiences have almost all been roller-coaster rides - and we're talking about some of the most successful writers in the business. This was the most surprising thing I learned from the documentary: that all of these writers have had markedly similar experiences - although well-paid and having a relatively good time, they all must confront the insurmountable frustrations of studio executives, their "ideas," and the vast unpredictability of the studios' decision-making process.

William Goldman expounds upon his theory that, in the film business, no one really knows anything. Paul Schrader explains why his Dutch Calvinism has gelled so well with Martin Scorsese's Italian Catholicism. Ron Shelton claims that all of his screenplays derive from his own personal background and interests. Shane Black talks about early successes (Lethal Weapon, etc.) that left him blocked for several years thereafter. David Hayter explains how he essentially fell into screenwriting while working on X-Men. Guinevere Turner pulls no punches discussing Uwe Boll's hijacking of her screenplay for Bloodrayne; on that project, Turner wrote only a single draft before it was accepted, heavily modified, and shot by Boll.

Although there is much to glean from the documentary, especially for those interested in pursuing a writing career, several of the interviewees (particularly Carpenter and Goldman) are adamant about the unpredictability of it all - that there are no hard and fast rules and that the ground is constantly shifting beneath a writer's feet. A need to stay agile, motivated, and informed seems to be one of the few substantial "rules" for Hollywood writers - and a key to maintaining one's creativity and sanity.

Tales from the Script was a parallel film and book project (see the above image), and First Run Features generously sent a copy of the book along with the DVD screener. The book is more thorough than the film, running about 350 pages. But the whole is a straightforward, well-organized set of material. The film alone is alternately inspiring and discouraging, although the discouraging parts grow out of a sense of realism rather than being merely depressing.

No comments:

Post a Comment