TUESDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

TAKE MY NAME OFF!


I have taken my name off films - it's always a mistake. It's pride - one of those Seven Deadly Sins.

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Getting a movie made - ANY movie made - is almost impossible. It's like gearing up for a war... then actually winning the war. So if you are the writer of BEACH GIRLS or VAMPIRE LUST or THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH or TONIGHT FOR SURE (a soft core porn flick) or some Roger Corman movie about naughty nurses - you have accomplished something close to impossible! You have become a produced screenwriter! It took the guys who wrote TOP GUN a decade to get one of the projects they were paid to write up on screen. I have a friend who has been writing scripts for the past ten years that haven't been made (after three films did get made - one was a big hit).

You may look at BEACH GIRLS and want to take your name off - but there are dozens of paid professional writers who have never had anything go to screen who would kill or die for that credit. They would love to have their name on some soft porn movie like TONIGHT FOR SURE. When someone asks them what movies they've written, they could say, "I wrote this art house film called TONIGHT FOR SURE about a virgin struggling with his sexuality in a post sexual revolution world - it's on CineMax tonight." That's certainly better than saying nothing you've written has ever been made.

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Your name on a movie also insures you keep working. "What has he done recently?" Even if you've written WILD WILD WEST - that's something. (In fact - that's something huge - it's better to have written an awful big budget film than a really great low budget film). If you are producing scripts that people sink the entire budget of a film into - you must be doing something right. The difference between paying you to write a script, and making the huge commitment to fund the film means something.

Your name is also a money issue... not only will having a produced credit help raise your quote, production bonus money is usually tied to a film's final credits. If your name is on the film, you get paid. Credits are also tied to residuals... if your name is on the film, you get paid. So taking your name off a film may be a really bad financial decision. It's bad enough to have your script screwed up on the way to the screen... but do you want to be paid less money, too? My theory is - if they screw up my script, they're gonna pay for it! That means my name will end up on the film, and a big check will end up in my pocket. Once you reach a certain payment level, your name MUST go on the film - your name is considered a selling point and removing it might impact the film's earning potential. That's why you see big name writers names on big awful films.


YOU NEVER KNOW...
UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE!

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You also have no idea how a film will turn out. What you think is crap, everyone else may see as brilliant. A director and I both worked on a film that turned out REALLY crappy. He was hired to replace a fired director, I was hired to replace a fired writer. We both worked hard to make the film good - but we had little to work with. The director asked me if I was going to put my name on the film, "Hell no." "That's what I was thinking." Neither of us has our name on the film... and it gets better reviews than many of the films where I did take a credit. One of the video guide books calls it the best in the genre (which includes other films I've written). The lesson we both learned from this - one man's ceiling is another man's floor.

I may think the film is crap - but I am not a film critic. The audio commentary on the DVD for THE LIMEY has a great conversation between screenwriter Lem Dobbs and director Steven Soderberg: Dobbs thinks his script was ruined... even though the film was a critical favorite. As writers we know what the film COULD have been, and that clouds our judgement when it comes to what the film actually is. THE LIMEY is a great film... just not in Lem Dobb's eyes (he thinks it's only a good film). If the director and I had taken credit on our film, would it have advanced our careers? We'll never know. I think it's funny when I read a capsule review of the film and the plot elements and scenes they mention were MY inventions rather than the credited screenwriter.

The odds are close to 1 in a million that a spec script will end up actually made into a film, so getting your name on a film is like winning the lottery. No matter how bad the film turns out, it's still an amazing accomplishment. And here's the sad truth - no one in Hollywood actually watches movies anyway, so no matter how bad your film is, they'll never know it. They will only know that it got made... And they know how difficult it is to get a film made. They will appreciate that someone had the faith in your script about a virgin struggling with his sexuality in a post sexual revolution world to turn it into that soft porn masterpiece TONIGHT FOR SURE that is playing on CineMax tonight. You are a PRODUCED screenwriter with actual credits.

By the way - the guy who wrote TONIGHT FOR SURE won an Oscar for screenwriting a few years later for PATTON. Everybody starts somewhere... but if you don't start, you're nowhere.


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Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to know for your screenwriting career: from thinking like a producer and learning to speak their language, to query letters and finding a manager or agent, to making connections (at home and in Hollywood) and networking, to the different kinds of meetings you are will have at Studios, to the difference between a producer and a studio, to landing an assignment at that meeting and what is required of you when you are working under contract, to contracts and options and lawyers and... when to run from a deal! Information you can use *now* to move your career forward! It's all here in the Biggest Blue Book yet!

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