Film Reviews


By • Mar 14th, 2010 •

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As you can tell by the cast list above, which represents maybe 1/3 of those interviewed in this doc, it stands a chance of being the comprehensive talking-head flick on the difficult art of screenwriting. And it succeeds.

When I say ‘the difficult art,’ I don’t really mean the ‘art’ part. I’m a screenwriter (THE SUBSTITUTE, KILLER INSTINCT, STREET TRASH, etc.) and the writing part (walking around in a circle in my living room listening to inspiring, idea-generating music, riding the bus and observing human behavior, waking up in the middle of the night with one or more of my narrative problems solved courtesy of my friendly unconscious) is fun. It’s all the rest of it that sucks, and I do mean ‘all.’ Screenwriters are like the first stage of a rocket into space, the part that contains the fuel that gets the payload out into the universe – but when the fuel is exhausted, that stage of the rocket is jettisoned, never to be seen or thought of again. It’s a terrific and gratifying art, followed in quick, relentless succession, by a degrading, loathsome business, and each and every one of these gifted interviewees has their horror story to tell, even if they’ve had great success in the long run.

Bruce Joel Rubin starts the film off with a juicy story of elation and deflation, and the viewer is kept on the edge from then on. In summation he says, “A screenwriter is an abused entity.” What follows is a crazy quilt of personalities and styles, all pumped by unseen interviewers for stories that fit into chapter modes: “Breaking Into the Business”, “The Catastrophe of Success”, “The Art of Selling Scripts in Hollywood,” “The Development Process,” “Dealing with the Directors,” “Stars,” and others. The tales are nicely punctuated with clips or stills from the movies being discussed, and each chapter begins with a scene from a film (GET SHORTY for example) about screenwriting, usually one that makes a cynical point.

Being story-tellers, most of the interviewees are personable and deliver their morbid anecdotes with style and structure. It’s an entertaining and cautionary experience, one which will prove enlightening not just for budding screenwriters, but for audiences who like films and have perhaps been curious about just who is responsible for the highs and lows of the movies they shell out their dough every week to see.

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