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#1 Harsin

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 12:35 PM

The screenplay is the foundation of any film, yet that aspect still seems to get far, far less attention than the director, the actors or even the special effect house. I know that in Hollywood the role of the writer is still considered to be one of the lowest on the Totem Pole (I read a recent interview with Breaking Bad's Vince Gilligan who said you're lucky if you even get invited to the film you wrote).

The previous blight of the screenwriting scene was Akiva Goldsman, he kept getting handed prime projects despite consistently churning out utterly terrible scripts. Yes a lot were extremely profitable, but I'd argue that this was often because the properties themselves were powerful enough to generate a huge opening weekend regardless of quality. When he was attached to something without the built in audience, Lost in Space for instance, the studio had a flop on its hands.

The successors to his crown are Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. They've been paid megabucks to write the likes of Transformers 2 and Cowboys & Aliens. Their projects usually contain a blend of wafer thin characterisations, nonsensical motivations, gaping plot holes and cringeworthy humour. The only film with their names on the credits I've given a damn about is Star Trek (although personally I don't rate it as highly as many here). But in that case it was rumoured that J.J. Abrams tinkered with it heavily due to thevwriter's strike. Even then, I'd argue that the script is by far the weakest aspect of that film and that it's salvaged by a cast with great chemistry and energetic direction. Unfortunately these two hacks have already been handed the keys to the sequel to this Summer's Spider-man reboot.

I'd be interested in hearing others' thoughts on screenwriters - good and bad and past and present.
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#2 lordcookie

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 01:15 PM

Film is very much a director's medium which is why, rightly or wrongly, the scriptwriter is lower down on the pecking order and why it is hardly surprising when a lot of writers eventually try their hand at directing too. Think about the writers that are commonly known and the vast majority also directed their own work (Tarantino, Bergman, Wilder, Allen etc.). TV on the other hand is where the writer has far more control and when you consider a writer as auteur most of the names come from television (Potter, Serling, Kneale etc.).

There are very few non-director writers that are widely known. Charlie Kaufman is this generation's obvious exception but his films are very different and he tends to only work with very collaborative directors (Clooney excluded). Of course though there are numerous great screenwriters throughout history like Ernest Lehman, William Goldman, Dalton Trumbo, Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Hideo Oguni, Kôbô Abe to name a few but they are far from household names and many of those had long lasting creative relationships with a single director.

As depressing as it is, it is hardly surprising Orci and Kurtzman are the new go-to guys for blockbusters. The films they have worked on have been big money earners which is the only important factor despite the fact they are terrible writers. It is the same reason Jonathan Nolan is also in demand and why Whedon will no doubt be getting lots of calls now too (although at least both of those deserve it). As soon as any of them have a couple of films that under perform (even if it isn't their fault) then some new box office darling will take their place.
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#3 dng

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 01:39 PM

I never knew Kobo Abe wrote films (assuming it is the same Kobo Abe). I've read a bunch of his books and they're all pretty brilliant, especially Woman in the Dunes and The Ruined Map.
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#4 lordcookie

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 01:47 PM

Yep, he adapted his most famous novels for the screen. Woman in the Dunes, Pitfall and The Face of Another are all fantastic and definitely worth a watch if you are a fan of his. The Ruined Map isn't bad either but it is hard to find.
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#5 dng

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 02:00 PM

Excellent, cheers.

Also, there's a very interesting (and incredibly long) interview with Lem Dobbs (who wrote Dark City and The Limey and more) here about screenwriting

http://www.cosmoetica.com/DSI21.htm

and here's an article about his commentary track on The Limey, where he basically argues with Steven Soderbergh for an hour and a half

http://www.avclub.co...mmentary,23702/

which is quite interesting too


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#6 redbloodcel

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 02:08 PM

There's Aaron Sorkin too in relation to screenwriters whose names are well recognised, although coming from TV certainly helped there.
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#7 Eighthours

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 02:19 PM

I know a good few screenwriters, and there's a growing mutinous feeling about how low on the totem pole they are in Hollywood. Some of the stories about how studios treat their writers are absolutely horrendous. For me (although I'm mega-biased), the writer is in fact the most important person in the entire process. Without him or her, a film simply can't exist. As far as I'm concerned, a bad director can manage to come out with a good film if the script is strong, but even a really good director can't rescue a poorly scripted film.

This is my bugbear about Hollywood, but if the studios put a bit more emphasis on decent scripts, summer blockbusters would be fuckloads better and actually make them more money. It's such an inexpensive part of the process compared to mega-CGI that it's totally baffling to me how the importance of good writing is so often overlooked.

I'm sure that Marvel will be thinking that their masterplan to make The Avengers after all the individual movies has worked out beyond their expectations because of the success of Iron Man and the subsequent films. But that isn't the case - The Avengers is making so much money because it has a great script written by Joss Whedon that's well directed by Joss Whedon, and word of mouth about how cool the film is, is just as effective as whatever marketing budget the studio threw at it. If the film was as shoddily scripted as, say, Battleship, there is no way in hell that it would have made so much money. No way.

And that's the power of the writer. Give them more support and you'll inevitably make better films that more people want to see. I think that people are fast tiring of yawnsome CGI-fests with nothing to them. Doubtless, Hollywood won't see the link.
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#8 Mr Cochese

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 03:44 PM

Low on the tentpole, surely?
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#9 Taurus

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 03:17 AM

Excellent, cheers.

Also, there's a very interesting (and incredibly long) interview with Lem Dobbs (who wrote Dark City and The Limey and more) here about screenwriting

http://www.cosmoetica.com/DSI21.htm

and here's an article about his commentary track on The Limey, where he basically argues with Steven Soderbergh for an hour and a half

http://www.avclub.co...mmentary,23702/

which is quite interesting too


Fucking hell, Lem Dobbs is an insufferable cunt, isn't he?
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#10 Cheeko

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 10:56 AM

Jeff Goldsmith, the ex screenwriting magazine editor and podcast guy, who left and now has his own podcast series http://www.theqandapodcast.com/ (If you're a screenwriter and you haven't checked his interviews out, then seriously, do so now!) has a new magazine available on the iPad for free as a trial period(yearly, bi-monthly subscription is $24.99)

http://itunes.apple....mt=8&wdId=32800
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#11 merman

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 10:59 AM

Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais have done a lot of unseen polishing and rewrites over the years.

The late Douglas Adams commented that he was disgusted to have his name on one version of the Hitchhiker's movie script because it was so bad and so far away from his vision.
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