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groovyjt Written by groovyjt
Mar. 2, 2010 | 1:51 PM

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For any aspiring screenwriter, the new film, “Tales from the Script,” is a must-see. The documentary, which interviews dozens of script gurus, is sort of a tell-all perspective of the highs and lows of the industry, from the people who know best….those that get paid to do it.

That’s the big difference between screenwriting “professors” and those who actually are on someone’s payroll to write scripts. The information within the film is more valuable, precisely because as it comes from the lips of successful writers who have navigated the hoops, hoopla, and sometimes shark infested waters of Hollywood. 

Aside from the cheesy intro and outro music, Peter Hanson’s doc gives you exactly what you want: war stories from the front lines. As far as entertainment value goes in the film, there’s nothing much more here than talking heads, but the culmination of gathered information and anecdotes, are the real story and that’s the through line for what makes it a compelling watch.  For anyone looking to become part of “The Biz,” in any capacity really, well, put this doc on your fast track. The nuggets of information doled out here could be the difference between driving a Bentley and parking one.

Highlights include the grizzled, slightly jaded old veterans, John Carpenter (“Halloween” “Escape From New York”) and Paul Schrader (“Taxi Driver” “Raging Bull”) as well as inspiring established writers like Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption”), Guinevere Turner (“Go Fish” “American Psycho”) and John August (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” “Go”). But one of the most interesting interviewees is someone you probably wouldn’t recognize unless you are a denizen of video store drudgery: Michael January. His films include “Deadly Target,” which is sometimes referred to as “Fire Zone.” Never heard of that one? How about “Hostile Force,” otherwise known as “The Heist,” or in Germany “Alarm Fur Security 13.” Okay, so none of these films probably made it to your local theatres. He’s as surprised as anyone. It’s very interesting and refreshing to see that side of the business as well as all of the “made” men and women.  But what makes them all endearing—for the most part—is the fact that nearly everyone comes off as very down-to-earth and self-effacing. It’s inspiring to see such a colorful cast of characters, young and old, making it in the world of screenwriting. In fact, I for one was ready to dust off all those unproduced screenplays and get crackin’.

Now, if you think getting a screenplay sold is difficult, try getting one made. Consider that Stephen Susco’s first pages that were put to film was “The Grudge,” also the twenty-fifth screenplay he wrote. Talk about dedication to the craft. More than anything, that’s what it seems to take: persistence. Writing is rewriting. And even then, as William Goldman (“The Princess Bride” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) so aptly puts it: “It’s a crap shoot.” The only thing necessary is structure when it comes to screenplays, according to Goldman, as he goes on to say that “the quality of writing, which is crucial in almost every other form of literature, is not what makes a screenplay work.” 

Despite the abundance of snide comments, these often curmudgeonly insights are really a metaphor for the misery you’re apt to encounter if you indeed make screenwriting your profession of choice. Because no matter their level of success, it seems to be a constant struggle to keep their vision and sense of humor intact. Words are the tools they use to fight with…and their words are constantly being rewritten, rearranged, and placed in turnaround. And that’s what’s so inspiring about this film: All the writer’s interviewed seem to write screenplays because on some basic level, they just love movies so much. Don’t we all? Opening up the curtain on all these screenwriters is a real treat for the audience, because, after all, this is where all that movie magic begins.

NOTE: If you want even more insider knowledge, the companion book—Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories—will likely fulfill your wishes.

Click HERE for information about ordering the DVD.