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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.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cable Movie

The thing about tv is the blistering speed. You've heard that making a film is like getting troops into battle and waging a war against the clock. If a writing life could be oranized with that in mind, writing for tv should be required the way boot camp is for soldiers. You have to perform, under absurd deadlines, and if you live, you're a lot stronger.

That happened to me over the last two months. Three drafts, that were turned around in three weeks, two and then one, respectively.

And we go into production on July 19th.

I learned some interesting things, and got some very funny notes. I love the difference between creative notes and production notes. Creative note: "I don't feelt the main character would do this." Production note: - "You wrote a scene for 30 national guardsman, but we can only afford six." What do you do with that? You have to do the scene, how to play it? The other guys were sick? The rest of the National Guard are in Iraq...?


Blogger Unknown Screenwriter said...

Commanding Officer
Seargeant, get thirty of your best men and take that hill!

Sir, we only have five. Six, if you go with us.

Commanding Officer
Sorry Seargeant but I have to go into town. Okay, make it happen with the five. Goddamn budget cuts!


I hear ya...


Friday, June 23, 2006  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Yes! Actually the choice became one where a politician character in town was trying to block the action of the 'good' guys, so made a viable force one that merely became a token and therefore useless. It was an interesting way to go...

Friday, June 23, 2006  
Anonymous Phillip Vargas said...

Welcome back, Phill. Can't wait to hear what insights you've gleamed from the past couple of months.

Friday, June 23, 2006  
Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

Good on ya for coming back. Looking forward to what you have to say. (Hell, I can't even manage a blog, let alone a TV script.)

Friday, June 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't afford 30 uniformed extras?

Is the production budget getting sucked into an invisible vortex?

You probably have too many producers on the show! Fire one! Two is even better! Then watch production value magically return!

It didn't take ten producers to make "Rockford Files" or "Flipper" - and their ratings are unreachable in today's world.

Because if "Flipper" had 10 producers it would have ended up being a show about a waterproof hand-puppet.

Is it better to produce a show/pilot that's boring and visually uninteresting because it's staggering under the budgetary weight of producer salaries?

Sunday, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

No invisible vortex, cable movies are just cheap and you have limited time and resources regardless of your story. So creative as you get, production realities will then rear their fiscally bound hands and you just have to deal with it.

Sunday, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Bill Cunningham said...

Roger Corman did something similar:

He was supposed to have 200 Roman soldiers for an 'epic' he was shooting in Italy (or possibly Greece)- but he only had 50.

So he set the shots up where they would march past camera in step, going around behind camera and swapping columns.

You saw the same troops every time but the faces were different because the column of men nearest camera were changed around each time.

Monday, July 03, 2006  

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