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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"Gaming" the rewrite

Very thoughtful post at the artfulwriter about how some screenwriters may try to "game" the rewrite, or change more than 51% of the script, with the clear intention of getting credit. Craig Mazin points out how misdirected this is, and how the arbitration committee takes that 51% change as qualitative, not quantitative. My take on this is the same, and it comes from my experience on the set: (here's my post to Craig telling my story:)
Re-writing for credit and profit is bad business, as you point out. I came on as a production re-write man for FIRE DOWN BELOW with Steven Segal. I had one mission - make the stalled film, already in pre-production with millions in, locations built and cast hired, a go-film, as the studio was hedging because the latest script submitted was considered unworkable. Because of the nature of when I was brought in - locations selected, sets built, cast hired with no money for new character actors, etc. I had to stick to a great deal of the existing story line, locations and couldn’t change the characters. So I had to go deeper into the material, devise a more satisfying character and enrich the emotions, dilemas and set pieces already handed me. I wanted to make this a great movie, so I imagined Steve McQueen in a modern “western” in the hills of Kentucky. And turned the film into a go - and got co-screenwriter credit, sharing only with the original writer, Jeb Stuart, and the three writers inbetween didn’t get billing. The last thing I was trying to do was get credit, I was working my ass off to make a great story - and stuck in the structure and locations of previous writers’ work. So - there is proof of your argument in the making. We must always go to our deepest source, the one connected to our thrill of story telling, our thrill of writing, and if we truly hit that - then the rewards come. The gamers will always only hurt themselves.


Blogger Skarr said...

I did see Fire Down below and one scene there reminded me very strongly of an old Clint Eastwood movie, where he plays a preacher and knocks the bad guys with a stick.

Did anyone else point out the similarity of the scene in the Segal movie outside the store vs the Eastwood scene ?

Friday, June 24, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

No, that critique never came up. What was more of a concern to all the executives was that Steven didn't want to do any fighting at all in this movie, but make his performance purely dramatic. He wanted to move away from his old brutish image to one that was more dramatic in tone. The executives were obviously distressed, because they wanted to sell a Steven Segal movie that actually had fighting in it. They kept coming to me, asking me to talk to Steven and talk him into it. Remember now - I'm the writer, the one who's power lies in the words on the page, not on swaying massive egos. Regardless, we had a few chats about it, and Steven agreed that the idea of defending himself with simple real world items, and doing a bit less gun play at least, was more in line with what he wanted to do. Thus the scene in the hardware store. I wrote another scene where he confronts what were pot farmers in the script, and they approach him with rifles and no mercy. I wanted him to disarm them in three seconds, then hand them back their weapons then back out saying "i have no quarrel with you". A bit of transcendent energy, you know? The idea that you're so superior, yet you don't have to fight. He changed it to a more brutal attack in which he wounded and insulted them. Ah well, so much for transcendent energy and his committment to drama.

Friday, June 24, 2005  

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