The Ethics of Reading



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  • Re: The Ethics of Reading

    Originally posted by michaelb View Post
    I'd say that's pretty ridiculous.

    Some clients of mine wrote this really great script. It was very "talk to the reader" engaging in style. The same sort of thing Shane Black did 20+ years ago.

    No one comes along and re-invents the wheel.
    Completely agree. If people are reading specs to try and predict what the market and therefore decide what they should write? No way.


    • Re: The Ethics of Reading

      Originally posted by Geoff Alexander View Post
      This turned out to be a much longer post than I intended, please don't take it as something directed only at your statement, it sparked a bunch of thoughts, so I went with it.

      One thing I disagree with a bit here is the notion that Hollywood "doesn't know what it wants." I don't think this is really accurate. I believe that you are referring to those successful movies that seem to come out of left field, and then do well, win awards, etc., etc., and seem to defy "conventional wisdom", i.e., the "Juno" and "Little Miss Sunshine" type break outs.

      But, the vast majority of the time, people in Hollywood know exactly what they want, and they have a clearly defined set of parameters. They want a tentpole that they can put a movie star in and sell to their studio partner, which is going to be pretty clearly some sort of big spectacle, sci-fi, or action. Or they want something for a specific star, or they want something that they can do independently and make money on, which means a specific genre in a specific budget range with casting options that will capture a certain minimum of pre-sales. When you ask, "what are you looking for," people tend to be fairly specific. And, these days, unfortunately, the marketing teams at studios and foreign sales departments at the mini-majors are much more involved in early decision making than they have been in a long while.

      Yes, there are those who say "we are just looking for good scripts". But, typically, that doesn't mean they are looking to take chances. Even the companies that are heavily capitalized and appear to be risk takers rarely are, i.e., the Annapurnas of Hollywood. You'll find that mostly those companies that are making "risky" movies, are typically just buying in late in the process once there is a package assembled that has elements which will mitigate a certain level of risk.

      Now, all that being said, there will always be people that want to make interesting movies and will find a way to do that, i.e., Butter, The Voices, etc. but they are few and far between, and seem to ebb and flow with the amount of "dumb money" that is available to Hollywood. Currently, we're at a bit of a nadir in that arena, I'm afraid.

      I do think that, ultimately, if you LOVE the really wacky/out there stuff, and you are talented and can find a way to make interesting ideas powerful for a lot of people, you will do fine. The vast majority of writers just don't have that incredible hybrid of originality and generality. But, if you LOVE Hollywood movies, if you LOVE genre films, if that's what you would write regardless of the cycle, then do that. And if you're good, your time will come.
      Agreed. I know you weren't just referring to my statement but I think what I wrote probably came off as a bit more declamatory than intended. I meant more that I think you have to write from the heart and write themes that resonate with you, or find a way to make commercial concepts resonate with you personally, or you won't have anything of value or anything that Hollywood (or anyone else) will want to make.


      • Re: The Ethics of Reading

        It's funny, I've had four different people email me copies of that scriptshadow secrets book (pdf) in the last couple of weeks. I didn't ask for it at all and don't plan on reading it, that would be unethical.
        It's the eye of the Tiger, it's the thrill of the fight


        • Re: The Ethics of Reading

          Whatever you do, please don't put it on sendspace and them send links to thousands of people. DO NOT. And especially don't do that in the comments of his blog, where most of his potential customers are. That would be wrong.


          • Re: The Ethics of Reading

            Originally posted by jcgary View Post
            I'm not Michael, but I'll play a little at this one --

            This is all part of the grand fiction amateur writers tell themselves, that they need to 'decode' what Hollywood wants, that they need to scour deal sites and read spec scripts and find out what pitches sold yesterday in some great bid to understand the industry. This is the attitude of the writer who chases trends, who thinks they can hop on the contained thriller train or the torture porn express all the way to a career. But that's all backwards.

            The truth is that these writers would all get so much closer to their goals by looking inward and figuring out what kind of writer they are, what kind of story they want to tell, what genre they work best in, what characters they respond most to. That's stuff that reading any number of specs won't help with, and will probably hurt.

            The final piece of the puzzle is looking at what you want to do and what you're good at doing and looking at what Hollywood does and likes to do (which just doesn't change -- I don't need to read recent spec sales to understand that period dramas don't get made very much but spy stories do) and then figuring out where your interests and Hollywood's interests intersect.

            Straight talk:

            Do what you do. Do it better than anyone thinks possible. Worry about doing just that. If Hollywood is interested, you will have a career. If Hollywood isn't interested, you won't. But you cannot create a career out of being any other kind of writer other than who you are.
            This is good advice.

            Personally, I've always taken any advice with a grain of salt. I listen, if it makes sense, fine, if it doesn't then I forget it.

            But in fairness to new writers, this isn't something 'they' make up for themselves, or at least in all cases-- it's something some are told by people in the industry that they need if they want to compete in the industry. This information may come from managers, producers, agents and sometimes other writers.

            Is it possible that someone misunderstands what they 'think' they heard? Sure.

            I've been in a meeting where a partner of a famous, now older but still doing films, actor's partner said that every year over Christmas break she reads all the Black List scripts and you should, too. (when they were accessible) Or an Agent who says if you don't read Deadline everyday you won't know what's going on in the industry, basically implying you're behind the curve if you don't.

            Or follow tracking boards because if you don't, "everyone else in the industry has an advantage over you, you need to know what's being bought now, because by the time the movie comes out it's too late." And honestly, tracking boards are a good resource-- I mean they wouldn't exist if people didn't use the information.

            When you're on the outside looking in, it's not easy to tell who knows their ****.

            So, I guess I said all that, to say this-- budding writers are sometimes given information and they don't necessarily have the skills yet to determine which they should take seriously, and which they should ignore. That skill takes a little time and experience to develop.

            Some get it quicker than others. Knowing when something will simply waste their time to no end. But some won't ever get it until a post like this comes along and says: Think for yourself.

            Some will, some can't.

            Believe me there are aspiring writers who are misguided and receiving information from people who want to continue to make money off them. It's like an addiction-- they take more classes instead of writing. And they're so convinced it's right that you can't hear anything to the contrary-- they defend them as if it's a religion.

            Apologies, sorta rambling here. Two cents nonetheless.

            Last edited by finalact4; 01-01-2013, 12:13 PM.
            "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso


            • Re: The Ethics of Reading

              I'm utterly confused by this forum sometimes. Here we have a million page thread where people are saying "Don't read in development specs and certainly don't talk about them in a public forum", but then right below this thread there's a "Best scripts you've read this year" where people are talking about reading specs that are in development.