Why he will not read your fucking script
September 11, 2009 7:46 AM   Subscribe

"I will not read your fucking script."
posted by Artw (416 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read this yesterday. The guy is being a total dick about it, but there's a lot of truth to what he's saying. As someone who's been on both sides of "will you read my script," he is dead on about the fact that when an amateur gives a professional their script, what they are most often hoping for is not "here are some notes about story mechanics" but "holy shit, mister genius, I just sent this to my agent who can't wait to sign you."
posted by Bookhouse at 7:52 AM on September 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


Damn dangling participle.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:53 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I will not look at your fucking my.cnf file and consider your current fucking InnoDB settings.
posted by xmutex at 7:54 AM on September 11, 2009 [22 favorites]


I will not identify the fucking rocks you picked up while on vacation.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:55 AM on September 11, 2009 [22 favorites]


What he says about being able to know whether someone can or can't write in only a sentence is indeed true.

I'm the literary manager for a theater company; we get a lot of unsolicited submissions. Usually -- if they're paying attention -- they only send a few pages and a cover letter, like we ask them to. And I was once able to decide to reject something after reading only three sentences of the cover letter.

Mind you, that third sentence read, "And of course, Cardinal Richelieu is played by a hand puppet."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:55 AM on September 11, 2009 [136 favorites]


I'm not really getting the dick vibe, not really. I know he uses a lot of harsh language, and seems to be critical of this guy he's talking about, and he's obviously frustrated about the situation, but I feel like there is actually this overarching feeling that he is sad it is this way, he really doesn't want to be a dick, but goddamnit, figure it out already people. Actually, it takes a lot of balls and compassion to be a thoughtful dick, if you know what I mean.

Not that he's the champion altruist of the world or anything, I just don't get the feeling he's doing this out of some sort of spiteful "fuck you, I'm the shit and you should lick my boots" kind of attitude, but rather, "no seriously, me reading your script/synopsis is not really the best idea and here's why."

For the record, I don't know shit about screenwriting, I'm not a writer. What he says really rings true to me though.
posted by dubitable at 7:57 AM on September 11, 2009 [25 favorites]


I will not read any more rants from egomaniacs.
posted by applemeat at 7:57 AM on September 11, 2009 [23 favorites]


Wow, he reads scripts as well as Picasso.
posted by chococat at 7:57 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


At this point, you should walk away, firm in your conviction that I'm a dick.

Done and done.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:58 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Mind you, that third sentence read, "And of course, Cardinal Richelieu is played by a hand puppet."

EC, I think you're an awesome person and all, but there comes a time when I must highly doubt your faculties as a critic and that time is right now.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:58 AM on September 11, 2009 [55 favorites]


Characters wander around aimlessly, do things for no reason, vanish, reappear, get arrested for unnamed crimes, and make wild, life-altering decisions for no reason. Half a paragraph is devoted to describing the smell and texture of a piece of food, but the climactic central event of the film is glossed over in a sentence. The death of the hero is not even mentioned.

I think he's talking about the Coen Brothers here.
posted by dng at 7:58 AM on September 11, 2009 [42 favorites]


I will not read any more rants from egomaniacs.

On a related note, I will not browse the Internet ever again.
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:58 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I will not read it in a train.
I will not read it on a plane.
I will not read it here or there.
I will not read it anywhere.
posted by yhbc at 7:59 AM on September 11, 2009 [20 favorites]


I'm still not clear on why "Sorry, I'm really busy. Wish I could." didn't work.
posted by josher71 at 7:59 AM on September 11, 2009 [16 favorites]


Maitre'd: I'm sorry, sir. But all of our tables are filled.

Josh Olson: I will not read your fucking script.

Maitre'd: I don't have a script. I'm sorry to tell you the hard truth, but you just can't have dinner at this restaurant without a reservation and I...

Josh Olson: I will not read your fucking script.

Maitre'd: I don't see what scripts have to do with making a reservation. And now you're just being rude.

Josh Olson: I will not read your fucking script.

Maitre'd: Look, I was going to pull some strings and get you a table. But you're just being an asshole about it.

Josh Olson: I will not read your fucking script.

Maitre'd: And I will not punch you in the fucking face. Because I'm a decent man. And you're not.
posted by ed at 7:59 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've been on every end of this. I used to get scripts mailed to me from distant relatives. I would have people accost me in the laundromat as I tried to catch up on my reading. Your put in an impossible situation where you can't possibly provide the validation that is sought.
posted by mrmojoflying at 8:00 AM on September 11, 2009


Oh, and:

I will not make you a web site.
posted by dubitable at 8:00 AM on September 11, 2009 [18 favorites]


Awesome. Articulate and scathing are my favourite types of rants.
posted by molecicco at 8:00 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's so much more general than this article. It could have been, "I will not fix your fucking computer," "I will not tune up your shitbox car," or "I will not help you unfuck your taxes."

The advantage of knowing a professional is that you have access to a qualified, trustworthy professional, not that they owe you their services for free. Now I'm off to the Boston meetup. I'm gonna see if Cortex or Jessamyn wouldn't mind taking a look at a few comments for me.
posted by explosion at 8:00 AM on September 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


He comes across as a very reasonable guy who is quite fed up with having to explain over and over again why he can't do this apparently simple thing for you.
posted by Aquaman at 8:01 AM on September 11, 2009 [11 favorites]


I will not tell you how much your shitty "rare" book is worth.

I once saw Kevin Smith do a Q&A in which 3 or 4 more people asked him to read their scripts after the first one was politely declined. The crowd was booing these dicks, and they still kept going up to the mike to ask. I don't know how Kevin was as polite as he was about it, because I wanted to murder them. I don't even know how this guy was as comparatively restrained as he was.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:03 AM on September 11, 2009 [15 favorites]


As someone with no connections in Hollywood who would love Josh and any other pro to read my fucking script, I thought that was terrific. Thanks for the link.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:03 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


That is not sarcasm, by the way. What he is saying rings very, very true.
posted by molecicco at 8:04 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I bet he's sick of the Swiss, too.
posted by interrobang at 8:06 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I will not help you find that book you're looking for...hmmm, doesn't work so well for librarians.
posted by Biblio at 8:06 AM on September 11, 2009 [15 favorites]


Mind you, that third sentence read, "And of course, Cardinal Richelieu is played by a hand puppet."

If the other two sentences indicated that it was a noir-styled 1930s detective piece where the characters where all played by people in werewolf costumes, well, I hate to say it, but I think you missed out.

Because in the third act, when mecha-Jesus makes an appearance, it all comes together really nicely.
posted by quin at 8:07 AM on September 11, 2009 [19 favorites]


I don't even think he's being a dick about it. The nerve of people to ask him to read their crap. Even as a teacher, I resented hours spent reading crap, and I specifically got paid to read crap.

No one should have to read crap. Ever. Make a note of it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:07 AM on September 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Why would people be giving their scripts to a jackass that basically copied the narrative he is famous for from a graphic novel?

At least Picasso had originality.
posted by ollyollyoxenfree at 8:07 AM on September 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


I will not put your fucking neighbor in the electric chair for you.
I will not lethally fucking inject your ex-husband.
I will not hang your fucking dog.
posted by swift at 8:07 AM on September 11, 2009 [14 favorites]


I once saw Kevin Smith do a Q&A in which 3 or 4 more people asked him to read their scripts after the first one was politely declined.

I wouldn't read Kevin Smith's scripts either.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:08 AM on September 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


I do think this is something where you have to be a working writer to get the full sense of his exasperation. I got enough people randomly asking me to read their work that I finally put a post on my Web site saying why I wouldn't, so I could point people to it -- which helps a lot, actually, since they can see it's been up for years and they know it's nothing against them personally.

Josh Olsen is playing up the exasperation for dramatic effect, certainly -- he wants to make the article interesting to read and also talked about -- but he's really not wrong on any of his concrete points.
posted by jscalzi at 8:09 AM on September 11, 2009 [15 favorites]


Josh Olsen's IMDB page.

He adapted A History of Violence from the excellent graphic novel and wrote Infested: Invasion of the Killer Bugs. He's a busy, busy, Picassoesque man who doesn't have time for the petty scribblings of his lessors.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:09 AM on September 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


One of the comments pretty much summed up my thoughts on the matter:

How did you you break into the biz? Someone gave you a chance.

History of Violence is also the biggest piece of shit I’ve ever seen.

posted by paisley henosis at 8:10 AM on September 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Whereas I, having a friend in the Hollywood biz, have been told that should I ever come up with a good idea for a movie (evidently she sheer amount of crap treatments she sees is whelming (yes whelming she's a professional, she can handle it), I can run it by her.

Suck it haters.
posted by Dagobert at 8:11 AM on September 11, 2009


EC, I think you're an awesome person and all, but there comes a time when I must highly doubt your faculties as a critic and that time is right now.

Actually, kittens, this deserves a serious response: there are a lot of scripts I've read that take a particular "look at me, I'm WACKY!" tone to them, to the point that they've actually become trite to me. They weren't outright awful -- but they weren't good either, they were just mediocre. They also had this strange sameness to them in the tone -- and when you're reading one script that's about Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thoreau waiting in an unemployment line for free cheese, and it sounds the same as another play that's a blatant ripoff of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT only with numbers instead of cartoon characters, there's something weird going on.

It took me years until it hit me: what I was picking up on was that all these "look at me, I'm wacky!" plays were by playwrights who were trying to pattern themselves on Christopher Durang. They all were going for that same kind of surrealism balanced with a matter-of-fact refined attitude, sort of like Edward Gorey on mescaline. The difference is: Christopher Durang writes in that surreal voice because that is his own genuine voice, and he knows what he's doing and he is brilliant. But a lot of inexperienced playwrights discover his stuff and think "holy crap, you can write that weird? Cool, let me try that!" And they just try to Be Wacky and think that's all they need to do. And instead it all just sounds the same, rather than them developing their own voices which will stand out.

And that is why I ended up rolling my eyes at that -- it was a sign that the script was just going to be another "look, I'm being wacky!" thing.

Besides, we'd already gotten six plays with hand puppets in them. I'm absolutely not kidding. Not only were they all plays with hand puppets -- they were all plays with hand puppets that also happened to be about 9/11.

yes, you read that right. 9/11 plays, featuring hand puppets. To this day I wonder if someone somewhere had released a memo or a scriptwriting challenge or something and I somehow hadn't heard of it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:12 AM on September 11, 2009 [90 favorites]


I used to get scripts mailed to me from distant relatives. . . . Your put in an impossible situation . . . .

I call obvious bullshit on this. Anyone who doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're" cannot write for a living.

I will not read your fucking response to my post.
posted by zekinskia at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


The same holds true for videogame designers.

A creative manager I once worked with had a funny story, about meeting a budding game developer who asked if he could pitch him a game.

"OK," said the creative manager, "let's hear it."

The young designer straightened up and launched into his pitch.

"In the early days of the 32nd century..."

"Stop," said the creative manager. "Your game idea sucks."

The point being, if you're starting with some deeply worked out, personally fulfilling, epic story, with your sweat stains and your little nerd footprints all over it, you're on the wrong track.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2009 [30 favorites]


No I will not do your fucking SEO or create a fucking website for you free of charge just because we knew each other in sixth grade. Nor did I show up at this little get-together to go into your den and "speed up" your fucking computer. I'm here to get fucking drunk.
posted by autodidact at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


tl;wfr
posted by orme at 8:14 AM on September 11, 2009 [41 favorites]


This was totally reasonable and altogether too kind. What he should have said was "I will not read your fucking script because I already know you are a terrible writer."

There's an old story about chess legend Paul Morphy that I only half-remember, but it goes like this: Morphy is sitting in front of a board in some pub somewhere, and he's asked for a game. Morphy accepts, and removes his own queen from the board before play begins. Offended, the other man says "You don't even know me! I could be just as good as you!"

Morphy replies, "Sir, if you were as good as I, then I would already know who you are."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:14 AM on September 11, 2009 [71 favorites]


I liked the article and I can see where he's coming from.

Oh, and I will not play for free on your fucking recording.

Well, OK, I'll do it. Maybe you can buy me a beer after the session?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:15 AM on September 11, 2009 [16 favorites]


Why would people be giving their scripts to a jackass that basically copied the narrative he is famous for from a graphic novel?

To be fair to Josh Olson, his script is significantly different from the graphic novel (I presume; I mean, the movie is). I do think it's funny that Cronenberg said he would never have read it had he realized it was based on a comic book -- I believe the story goes that the draft Cronenberg saw was missing its title page.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:15 AM on September 11, 2009


Lots of people used to give me scripts, but I never fucking read them.

So for me "I will not read your fucking script" is simply a true statement.
posted by unSane at 8:15 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been on every end of this. I used to get scripts mailed to me from distant relatives. I would have people accost me in the laundromat as I tried to catch up on my reading. Your put in an impossible situation where you can't possibly provide the validation that is sought.
Why is it that everyone writes a screenplay? I'm a computer scientist, and the only time someone sends me an unsolicited, "look at my code/idea/paper" is when they're actually a professional colleague.

This isn't even like asking a surgeon for free medical advice. It's like asking a surgeon what they think of your neat idea for a new surgical procedure. How did we end up creating a culture of the amateur screenplay writer who tries to get his script sold?
posted by deanc at 8:16 AM on September 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


Damn skip. I'm glad he got specific in his explication of 'a dick move'. I love that phrase, and he is 100% accurate with it.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:16 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then you don't get any of my fucking coke.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:17 AM on September 11, 2009 [21 favorites]


Artw, I will not read your fucking FPP.

Okay, I will. I just wanted to see what it felt like to say that.
posted by amyms at 8:17 AM on September 11, 2009


By the way, this thread is one of the best in recent memory.
posted by unSane at 8:17 AM on September 11, 2009


I will not identify the fucking rocks you picked up while on vacation.

I will
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:18 AM on September 11, 2009 [23 favorites]


By the way, this thread is one of the best in recent memory.

I don't have fucking time to fucking read it, fucking actually.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:19 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whereas I, having a friend in the Hollywood biz, have been told that should I ever come up with a good idea for a movie (evidently she sheer amount of crap treatments she sees is whelming (yes whelming she's a professional, she can handle it), I can run it by her.

Suck it haters.


Did you read the article? He's not saying he won't read a friend's script. Most everyone will read a friend's script. It's dude-you-barely-know who rankles.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:19 AM on September 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


I will not help you find that book you're looking for...hmmm, doesn't work so well for librarians.

Sure it does! You'll help people find their books when you are on the clock, getting paid for your knowledge and skills - but if a stranger came up to you in the grocery store and said "Hey, I recognize you from the library! Could you come with me right now and help me find all the research materials I need, for free?" that would be a different matter.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:20 AM on September 11, 2009 [12 favorites]


I will not help you find that book you're looking for...hmmm, doesn't work so well for librarians.

Sure it does... if you're in a bookstore.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:20 AM on September 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


I once was at a concert with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter and some dude on the drums whose name I forgot. At one point in the concert Herbie went up to the mike and told how everyone and their grandma gives him tapes of their music and asking him to listen (this was before CDs). And how he usually just tosses the tapes in the garbage bin.

It turned out that Dude on the Drums was also one of those guys who had given Herbie a tape. And for some reason Wayne Shorter had gotten his fingers on the tape and actually listened to it. And it was good. So good, in fact, that they asked the dude to do this concert with them. Herbie closed with "so if anybody here has a tape, please give it to Wayne."

Maybe he'll also read your fucking script.
posted by sour cream at 8:20 AM on September 11, 2009 [24 favorites]


> I call obvious bullshit on this. Anyone who doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're" cannot write for a living.

I assume that even professional writers will, occasionally, hit the Post Comment button before doing a thorough edit of their oh-so-consequential post on a metfilter thread.
posted by molecicco at 8:22 AM on September 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


"Yes Mom that's a cute idea for a cartoon, uh huh, did they? oh look at the time. GOtta run, bye!"
posted by The Whelk at 8:22 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The point being, if you're starting with some deeply worked out, personally fulfilling, epic story, with your sweat stains and your little nerd footprints all over it, you're on the wrong track.

Well and good, but the problem is that nowadays every "good" game pitch is obviously something like, "It's an FPS set in WW2, and there are zombies."
posted by deanc at 8:22 AM on September 11, 2009 [13 favorites]


Why is it that everyone writes a screenplay? I'm a computer scientist, and the only time someone sends me an unsolicited, "look at my code/idea/paper" is when they're actually a professional colleague.

One of these things, if done successfully, will get you invited to parties with Angelina Jolie. One will not.

Or at least, that's the belief some people probably have (including myself, ahem...I've got this script I've been working on...).
posted by dubitable at 8:23 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would not, could not, in a box.
I could not, would not, with a fox.
I will not read it with a mouse.
I will not read it in a house.
I will not read it here or there.
I will not read it anywhere.
I WILL NOT READ YOUR FUCKING SCRIPT!
Leave me now or you'll get whipped!
posted by mazola at 8:23 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I read scripts all the time. Plays, but still. About 90 percent of them are crap, but isn't that Sturgeon's law? 8 percent of the remainder are all right. 2 percent are terrific.

The two percent that are terrific are almost never produced. You can be terrifically talented and totally unknown, because what you write doesn't jibe with that what people want to produce. And a lot of people who are produced frequently are terrible writers. I read the screenplay for Fatal Attraction before it was released; I was reading for Pierce Brosnan in Hollywood at the time. I said I thought it was the worst piece of shit I had ever read, and then was told it had been in the middle of a bidding war and was, at that moment, the recipient of the highest big for a screenplay in Hollywood history.

The Picasso story is lovely and all, but this world is not a meritocracy. The mediocre and the terrible often rise to the top, and the genuinely talented often languish, unknown. And you think you know if a script is good in a few sentences? Nobody knows shit. There are authors with complicated, idiosyncratic writing styles who would be turned down flat, and have been. There are people who can't spell who make millions -- Tarantino among the most famous.

People should stop pretending this is a discussion of quality. It's a discussion of time. Nobody has time to read everything that's written. But they don't know, it's very possible that what they are refusing to read actually is as good as the author thinks. I mean, just look at A Confederacy of Dunces.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:23 AM on September 11, 2009 [51 favorites]


"I do think it's funny that Cronenberg said he would never have read it had he realized it was based on a comic book -- I believe the story goes that the draft Cronenberg saw was missing its title page."

Well this is the thing right. Hollywood is based on wild uncertainties. Movies are a crap shoot. The heterodox economist Art de Vany has written a book on this very topic. Olson is probably where he is because of a collection of probabilities that swayed favorably in his direction. He is lucky. How many people have been unlucky enough to be ignored by the very process that favored him? I'm not saying everyone is a glorious writer, just that he seems to be taking a dig at at part of a process that seems to eventually pay off on the rare occasion (rare script, big payoff).
posted by ollyollyoxenfree at 8:24 AM on September 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


>History of Violence is also the biggest piece of shit I’ve ever seen.

So, no one read his fucking script?
posted by chavenet at 8:25 AM on September 11, 2009


I read scripts all the time. Plays, but still.

*waves at Astro Zombie* We should trade stories sometime.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:26 AM on September 11, 2009


I'm writing a script about a brilliant director (played by Russell Crowe) who is slighty acerbic and hasn't found a good way of dealing with fans and hangers-on. He has a good heart, and some might say that's why he can't just smile and accept things or tell them that all scripts have to go through his agent or he faces some sort of legal ramifications. At a party there's a pushy, socially inept nephew (Michael Cera, in interviews he'll say he took this role to avoid being pigeonholed as a lovable geek) of someone he knows from, let's say, Ohio. He really wants him to read the script and just won't take no for an answer. He finally relents, but the script just ends up ontop of the taunt leather of a high-end Lexus, sitting there next to assorted official looking documents. Strange things start happening, coincidences, his girlfriend (Tilda Swinton) is involved in a seemingly random car jacking and the car is later found in a garage someplace the director doesn't usually go, say the Valley. Beer cans everywhere, the car is a wreck and he's cleaning it and notices the script explains everything that's happened so far down to the garage the car is found in. He notices that the next event that is to take place is an arson at his beloved mother's house and she becomes engulfed in flames as her oxygen tank explodes (this requires the director to dropt he script and take immediate action). He tells this to the detective (Chris Cooper) that happens to be involved in all things that's happened to him thus far. They go back to get the script, but the maid just happened to throw it out! There's a cat and mouse game as Russell Crow's character must you his amazing powers of director perception to guess what would happen next. It will culminate in a chase on a studio lot that will feature moving between a lot of diverse sets with Russell Crowe shouting things such as, "This isn't going to be your movie, the script has changed, whatever the ending is its changed!" and the it'll culminate in Russell Crow getting shot in the lower abdomen by Michael Cera, he'll put the gun to his own head and tell him how this is exactly the ending he envisioned and how Russell Crow inadvertantly ended up directing this little adventure and you'll hear a gunshot, thinking he's shot himself, but the body falls and you see Chris Cooper with a gun, and he'll run over and ask Russel Crowe if he's okay followed by another 10 minutes of wrap-up. If the studio thinks it is sequel worthy, they'll be a close up of the script in a dumpster somewhere showing that Michael Cera wasn't the one who actually wrote it and it was actually some secondary character we never suspected but kind of makes sense if you think about it.
posted by geoff. at 8:27 AM on September 11, 2009 [96 favorites]


(Also, considering I've been batshit insane with icy dagger fear recently about a pitch I made to Major Publisher for a New Series, cause I've never done pitches or outlines before and made EVERYONE I KNEW read it over until I finally just sent it out and It's gonna be one long gigantic ass-clench until I hear something from them cause DAMN this is a big step up for me and oh god I'm gonnascrewitupimgonnascrewitupjustlikeeveryonesaidIwouldgonnagonna-

Considering THAT. I'm a little fragile on the whole idea of people being dismissed by the 3rd line, even if as an editor, I know the feeling. )
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am a Landscape Architect. Other LA's will know this one: "Can you take a look at my yard?"

Yes, I will, because I love you, and you are my friend, and I can do it in a way that doesn't take a lot of time. But most people aren't really happy with my advice. It's either too vague - "Go down to a nursery, pick out plants you like, and talk the the nurseryman before you plant a damn thing." Or too specific:"Pave it all with brick or concrete, and put patio trees in large pots."

It's rarely what they want to hear. I am a designer, not a goddamn psychic. And you asked me.

There are some friends I will draw plans for, because they hung the moon. But designing personal space for people is a truly Sisyphusean task. It's hard enough to design my own space, it's really hard to please myself. Other people, if they care about the design...it's almost impossible.
posted by Xoebe at 8:28 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm with this guy 100%. Because when they ask me this question:

"Will you fix my computer"

...my choices are two. I can either throw away my free time trying fixing their computer, or I'm the bad guy because I won't fix their computer. If I asked them "Will you fix my teeth (assuming they're a dentist)", they'd tell me to call the office and make an appointment -- and to bring my insurance card.

In fact, I have made a professional trade in the past with my dentist -- I fixed his computers, he fixed my teeth. Value for Value. That's a fair trade. I traded my professional time for his. Not my free time for nothing.

Even better is when I stare at it, and say "X is toast, you're only chance of saving the data is to send it to ExpensiveCompanyX, which will charge you over a grand." Never mind that I didn't break the thing, and that I wasn't the one who didn't keep real, tested backups, suddenly I'm the bad guy because your data was gone before I even reached your fucking computer.

And if I do fix it, what do I get? "Hey, thanks" -- and another call in a week when it breaks again. The best case answer out of the entire answer tree is I lose more of my free time for nothing. All the others end up with me being an asshole for some reason.

Read that again. The *best* answer, in the entire answer tree, is that I'll just have to fix your computer again when something goes wrong. Otherwise, I'm an asshole, etc.
posted by eriko at 8:28 AM on September 11, 2009 [27 favorites]


Geoff, add Adam Sandler and make it a wacky comedy and you've got Box Office GOLD.
posted by The Whelk at 8:28 AM on September 11, 2009


I don't trade stories with people based in Brooklyn.

Jeez, KIDDING!
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:29 AM on September 11, 2009


I'm with vibrotronica, this guy is basically famous (or not even, but whatever the word is) for adapting a graphic novel into a mediocre movie... why should we even bother listening to him?

also, tl;dr
posted by ish__ at 8:29 AM on September 11, 2009


Why would people be giving their scripts to a jackass that basically copied the narrative he is famous for from a graphic novel?

I think this statement is a bit of nonsense. You're essentially saying that adaptation is nothing, no work at all. I can't imagine that's the case. You have to understand how to compress something from a different form into 1.5--2.0 hours, understand how to translate certain scenes that may be difficult or impossible to film into something that is possible to film, selectively choose the important parts of the plot and character development while throwing out the stuff that isn't, know how much dialogue is too much dialogue for a scene, and etc. etc. At least, that's just me, the non-screenwriter, assuming. I'm sure there's even more to it than that and I may have gotten something wrong. But assuming that the guy has no skills because something he's best known for is an adaptation seems kind of ignorant to me.
posted by dubitable at 8:29 AM on September 11, 2009 [11 favorites]


And they just try to Be Wacky and think that's all they need to do. And instead it all just sounds the same, rather than them developing their own voices which will stand out.

Why does this sound like almost every first date I've ever had?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:30 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Just yesterday I had a writer whose book proposal I had politely rejected (one of several hundred each week) actually call me to ask if he could have "just five minutes" to literally come into my office so I could give him a more detailed critique. (sigh) At least I was able to avoid using the word "dick" before ending the call.
posted by twsf at 8:30 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I meant more in the "have a beer and see who's read the weirdest thing" sense of trading stories. :-)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:30 AM on September 11, 2009


John Wagner, who wrote the Graphic Novel, has read my crappy small press comic, or at least politely pretended that he has.

(and, come to think of it, since then Vince Locke, who drew History of Violence, drew one of my fucking scripts. Ha!)
posted by Artw at 8:31 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Peter Jackson has a special mailbox in downtown Wellington where people can drop their scripts in and he'll read them and respond with his thoughts, often meeting up for a coffee with the budding writer for some 1 to 1 coaching.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 8:31 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I will not ask you to read my fucking script until you write a decent one yourself.
posted by HumanComplex at 8:32 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I meant more in the "have a beer and see who's read the weirdest thing" sense of trading stories. :-)

I'm always up for it. Next time I'm in Brooklyn or your in Minneapolis, let's get drinks.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:32 AM on September 11, 2009


Whoops. You're.

And I'm a professional writer.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:33 AM on September 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


The plain fact is is that the squeaky wheel gets the greese. So while I'm sure it's annoying for this guy to get constant pushy requests from aggro-careerists, as long as aggo-careerism is statistically associated with upward mobility, then his pained bitching is all for naught: Your brief annoyance is worth less to people than their own small chance of Big Success.

Furthermore, I'll bet if people like this take some time to honestly reflect on their own rise up from nobody-ness, there are probably key instances where they too imposed themselves as a gamble that actually paid off. But now that it's a thorn in their paw when others act likewise, it's best to conveniently forget those autobiographical details. Once you're at the top, the myth that you did it By Sheer Talent Alone, is too ego-fellating to not embrace.

Synopsis: Don't hate the player, hate the game.
posted by dgaicun at 8:35 AM on September 11, 2009 [12 favorites]


For a while, I interned for a film company that was just starting to get their production business restarted after a decade of inaction. Part of my job was reading scripts that had been forwarded by our script buyer- taking them from a giant pile, right next to the literal desk of a film producer. All of these scripts were two feet and a good day from actually being made into films.
And they were TERRIBLE.
In three months and probably a hundred scripts, I read one that I liked. Almost every other one was terrible, in completely mind-numbing ways. I wish I hadn't signed an NDA, because I read scripts that would make your toes curl. I began calling all of my writer friends, begging them to slap together something, anything- because no matter how bad it was, there was no way it was worse than what I was slogging through. If any of them had actually taken me up on it, well- I'm not going to call myself a "Diablo Cody-maker" YET....
posted by 235w103 at 8:36 AM on September 11, 2009


Come to think of it, because I wrote some movie reviews back in university and then had a couple different movie blogs in the early days (before people called it blogging, like starting in 1996), people still occasionally ask me to read their screenplays. I usually can't get through them because they're so personal that I just feel icky.

One was a guy's own version of Alice in Wonderland, and every single page had some kind of hallucination or "trippy" event taking place. The main character kept switching age and gender... couldn't get past thirty pages because it was sheer nonsense.

Another was my cousin placing himself in a bog standard romantic comedy. That one was not terribly written but just sort of gave me the heebie jeebies reading my cousin's idealized version of falling in love (a whole lot of "meet cute") mapped onto territory worn into a rut by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant ten years ago. To his credit he has gone out and filmed some test footage, and if he ever makes the full thing there are a few digital effects I would help him do for free (create a blackout in city shots).
posted by autodidact at 8:38 AM on September 11, 2009


yeah, where I come from, we call all of this type of stuff "networking", and usually it works. The minor inconvenience of the professional screenwriter is probably not offset by the possible payoff for the amateur one; this is kind of how the world works.

Granted, if I actually had any skills that people would want to take advantage of, I probably would not be nearly so generous.
posted by Think_Long at 8:40 AM on September 11, 2009


It's so much more general than this article. It could have been, "I will not fix your fucking computer," "I will not tune up your shitbox car," or "I will not help you unfuck your taxes."
I will not look at your fucking my.cnf file and consider your current fucking InnoDB settings.
I will not identify the fucking rocks you picked up while on vacation.

These things aren't like his complaint. If you're a professional mechanic/tech/geologist/doctor etc, then yes it's a pain if acquaintances try to mooch your skills from you for free. But that's not what people asking him to read their screenplays are doing -- as he points out more than once, they're not asking for a critique or screenwriting advice, not really: they're just asking for encouragement and a pat on the head.

This isn't "I type facebook into Firefox Google Explorer and it goes to hotsex.com can you fix it?" it's: "Does my ass look big in these pants? No, really, tell me the TRUTH".

There are many ways to deal with the first question. With the latter, you just unequivocally refuse to answer it and any like it, lest the whole night be ruined. It's not a dick move, it's the only move.
posted by fightorflight at 8:41 AM on September 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


Josh Olson has written some really great films.
posted by fire&wings at 8:41 AM on September 11, 2009


"You're essentially saying that adaptation is nothing, no work at all."

No, I was having a dig at his creativity, hence the Picasso comment that you left out. He copied the basic narrative. I didn't mention anything about work ethic.

"But assuming that the guy has no skills because something he's best known for is an adaptation seems kind of ignorant to me."

It's ignorant of you to assume that people get where they are in Hollywood based on skills, rather than luck.
posted by ollyollyoxenfree at 8:42 AM on September 11, 2009


I work in a library and I have had people approach me on the street, asking me for information or how their inter-library loan request is doing or whathaveyou.

I live in a small town though, and I'm not comfortable swearing at strangers, so I just sort of act like I have to pee or something and they usually don't keep me too long.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:42 AM on September 11, 2009


Geoff, add Adam Sandler and make it a wacky comedy and you've got Box Office GOLD.

It doesn't need Adam Sandler; it already has taunt leather.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:44 AM on September 11, 2009


I can't hate on this guy, it gets fucking tiring. I make and sell t-shirts. I also do custom bulk orders for bands and the like. But I'm tired of having this conversation:

"Wow you make t-shirts?"
"Yes, I have a small press set up in my apt., my website is-"
"MAN i saw this hilarious shirt on bustedtees, it said, get this, "MORE COWBELL!' haw haw haw!"
"...Yeah, that's--"
"Hey, so if I gave you a design you could put it on a shirt?"
"Well, there's limitations, I'd have to see it and dither it some, my price list for custom work is--"
"Because I have this totally hilarious idea for a shirt, it's gonna have a pirate and a ninja on it, and it's gonna say MORE COWBELL, isn't that hilarious?!"
"Um..."
"So you could make that right?"
"Well, for a minimum 25 one-sided shirts, I waive the screen fee for the first color, so it would be--"
"Wait wait, I just want one, can't you just make me the one? That'd be awesome, i'll totally pay you"
"Well, it's not so simple, the process for developing a screen is somewhat intensive, and for just one shirt--"
"But you just MAKE them, right?!"
"Sigh..."

So yeah, when people start in with "I have an idea for a shirt" I just say "Ok, not gonna make it, but go ahead."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:45 AM on September 11, 2009 [12 favorites]


One was a guy's own version of Alice in Wonderland, and every single page had some kind of hallucination or "trippy" event taking place. The main character kept switching age and gender... couldn't get past thirty pages because it was sheer nonsense.

This sounds like Alan Moore.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:45 AM on September 11, 2009


These are not the fucking droids you are looking for.
posted by stevil at 8:46 AM on September 11, 2009


I will not ask you to read my fucking script. My currently mythical script will be excellence incarnate. People I don't know will not be allowed to see it until its radioactive purity of talent can light a small city, perhaps a medium one. So, if my script should land in your world, read it or don't. I don't care. Someone will read it, they will love it, and that person will make the movie. You, them, I don't care. So, don't read my fucking script, your fucking loss. If it never goes anywhere I don't care. I will have created something I believe to be art, and thus it shall stands for eternity, regardless of who views it. I sure as shit don't want your advice, you seem to know less than nothing about people. There are a million ways to let someone down gently, and you can't figure out even one of them.

So read my fucking imaginary script or don't. Fuck off.

Can you tell if I am a writer or not? That was more than a sentence. Now piss off you sod.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 8:48 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I will not watch your movies nor read you posts. At this point, you should walk away, firm in your conviction that I'm a dick.

Josh acts as if he's earned my attention. He has not.
posted by LakesideOrion at 8:50 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am a pro-life pharmacist, and I will not fill your fucking script.
posted by Legomancer at 8:50 AM on September 11, 2009 [18 favorites]


I will not let you break your fucking lease unless you're fucking dead. And even then I'd want, I dunno, ColdChef to make fucking sure you're fucking dead.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:51 AM on September 11, 2009


I will not fix your fucking computer...unless you bake me brownies.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:53 AM on September 11, 2009


It's ignorant of you to assume that people get where they are in Hollywood based on skills, rather than luck.

I didn't say that, and in fact I don't disagree with you on this point. However, what I was responding to was you giving someone shit for not being creative because they adapted someone else's narrative--which is what you do when you adapt. I think it would be a more valid criticism to say something like "his adaptation for A History of Violence was crap because he didn't account for X or made these mistakes in the adaptation." Saying he is not creative because he did an adaptation just makes no sense.
posted by dubitable at 8:54 AM on September 11, 2009


deanc: How did we end up creating a culture of the amateur screenplay writer who tries to get his script sold?

'I have Microsoft Word, therefore I am a writer.'
posted by shakespeherian at 8:55 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I will not help you find that book you're looking for...hmmm, doesn't work so well for librarians.

"Hey, since you're here, could you organize all my books by LOC number real quick?"
posted by Deathalicious at 8:56 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Skimmed this yesterday.

To my knowledge, Mr. Olson is not a producer who could fund one of my films, or an agent who could represent me. I already have a writer's group who give me excellent notes. Why would I have any interest whatsoever in having a mildly successful screeenwriter I have never met read my script?
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:56 AM on September 11, 2009


I will not archive your fucking computer history.

OK, fine, give it here.
posted by jscott at 8:57 AM on September 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Well, I am glad Walker Percy read John Kennedy Toole's fucking novel.

Also, I will not answer your fucking medical AskMe!

unless I know the fucking answer
posted by TedW at 8:57 AM on September 11, 2009


I will walk with my firm dick in your (you're???) conviction...wait...do-over...
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:57 AM on September 11, 2009


make fucking sure you're fucking dead.

I will not watch your kinky shit.

I'm lying. I'll watch.
posted by quin at 8:58 AM on September 11, 2009


You'd also think someone who fancies himself such a great writer could come up with something more original to say, or at least a less trite way to say it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:58 AM on September 11, 2009


I will absolutely try to identify that bird.
posted by rtha at 8:59 AM on September 11, 2009


Saying he is not creative because he did an adaptation just makes no sense.

Agreed. Different literary forms have different rules. The adapter's creativity comes in with the "translating" from one form to another.

Sometimes you get really, really, really lucky and are working with one form that is already well-suited to another (I've adapted an Edith Wharton short story for the stage, but I made the attempt largely because the dialogue was to die for already), but sometimes if you compare the two versions, you can see exactly what the adapter brought.

My favorite example: take a look at the cinematography in the film Road To Perdition, and then take a look at the actual graphic novel it was based on. I saw the film first, and was so blown away by a lot of the visual language in it that I'd assumed it was taken direct from the graphic novel. But the imagery in the graphic novel was very, very different, and I realized it was all in the adapting. (I like the movie way better.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:59 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I will not find you fucking funding.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:00 AM on September 11, 2009


To my knowledge, Mr. Olson is not a producer who could fund one of my films, or an agent who could represent me. I already have a writer's group who give me excellent notes. Why would I have any interest whatsoever in having a mildly successful screeenwriter I have never met read my script?

You would be surprised, drjimmy, at how many aspiring writers don't think about basic stuff like this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


He was way more interested in telling his one story than in being a writer... I advised him that if all he was interested in was this story, he should find a writer and work with him

But this is a two-page synopsis of the story, not the screenplay itself. Of course he's more interested in explaining the story than in the writing itself. No wonder the guy thought it was a dick move.
posted by naju at 9:00 AM on September 11, 2009


He should try working in a profession where a mistake can kill people; no matter how spectacularly dangerous something is, people still want to get free help and get all kinds of pissed off when you say no because your E&O insurance doesn't cover them.

Scripts? Pfft. Poor baby.
posted by aramaic at 9:01 AM on September 11, 2009


The *best* answer, in the entire answer tree, is that I'll just have to fix your computer again

I think this may just encapsulate the whole thing. If you do it professionally, you must love to do it, right? And love to do it in your off time, and 'help' other people do it too.

By 'help' I mean fix it your own way, that, if you're the professional, is understood to be better than theirs. Even if it isn't.
posted by LD Feral at 9:01 AM on September 11, 2009


So script reading is pretty much the "hey, will you fix my computer for free?" of the entertainment world? Because yeah, barring only a handful of very special exceptions I will not fix your fucking computer*. Besides, the computers I do my actual work on resemble the computer you bought at Office Depot in a few fundamental ways, but my deep knowledge of web application programming, UNIX system administration and porting, automation scripting, network security, datacenter operations, storage, and virtual cluster management doesn't somehow magically transform me into a walking, talking catalog of obscure Windows malware workarounds and fixes. Even if I were to bring myself totally up to date on Windows desktop repair -- which admittedly wouldn't be a backbreaking stretch -- I'm not going to do it for free.

So yeah, I can understand why the guy eventually turns into a dick about it. Those of you who aren't in fields where you're constantly asked for your professional time might be shocked or irked by the dude, but those of us who are find it all too familiar. Politely declining doesn't always work. There are people who are too clueless, too pushy, too thickheaded, too selfish, or just too rude to accept that. Maybe there are more of them in the entertainment field (which involves a lot of self-promotion and pushy networking, right?) than in my own. If you encounter enough of these folks you'll probably start to get jaded, too.

My next door neighbor is a handyman guy. When it was time to do some handyman guy stuff around the house here, I sure as hell wasn't going to ask him to do it for free. Last week a crack developed in the stupid plastic upper of my Honda's radiator, and I didn't ask my mechanic to give me free parts and labor. My vet called in a radiologist to interpret some films of my cat, and I definitely paid for that "just take a quick look" privilege (and yes, it's cancer). I consulted with my doctor yesterday and submitted to a brief examination, and I'm pretty sure my doc would be unhappy if I elected not to pay him for his services.

I'm not going to ask a professional -- even an apparently small-timer like this dude -- to spend his time providing his services purely as a personal favor. What, am I some kind of mafia don?

* Unless I get to wipe it and set it up in such a way that you'll never need to call me again and you have no administrative privileges to your own computer, then because you're my wife's best friend or my stepmom or something I'll make an exception. Or maybe you feel like paying for my time?
posted by majick at 9:02 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


> Olson is probably where he is because of a collection of probabilities that swayed favorably in his direction. He is lucky.

It's not purely talent (at economics, at scriptwriting, at drawing on napkins) and luck. You have to have interpersonal skills, business sense, the willingness to get out there, pound pavement, learn how to make connections, and put yourself where the people who can hire you are. That, too is a talent. In some disciplines, this kind of talent is necessary in addition to whatever natural skill and work ethic is applied to the discipline. In others, it can at least make up for not being the creme de la creme.

If somebody else's script was picked over yours, it might be because it was better, or might be because the author was the brother-in-law of the producer, or because the author had an existing rep, or because the author knew enough to move to Los Angeles and attend the right parties, put himself in front of the right people, network among the people who know the right people, and do other things that do not involve staying at home in rural Ohio and whine on the Internet in writers' forums about how Hollywood can't tell a quality movie from a used car commercial.
posted by ardgedee at 9:02 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Actually Mr. Olson:

You can read one of my scripts.

Maybe. If you ask nicely.

You see, I'm a writer, and you're a writer. Fuck "aspiring." You happen to have had some financial success at it, while I have not, yet. People who sell Amway make a lot of money too.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:03 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here is a less harsh, but also important take on unsolicited manuscripts; if you don't read them it might help defend you against charges of plagiarism.
posted by TedW at 9:04 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


So script reading is pretty much the "hey, will you fix my computer for free?" of the entertainment world?

No, it's something writers who respect each other as artists do for each other. The problem here is, while of course there are dilettantes who call themselves "writers" and can't write, there are also tons of serious, good writers who just happen to not have made money at it yet.

Mr. Olson's mediocrely-written message to these people is: "Fuck you, I have more money than you and am therefore a better writer."
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:06 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


drjimmy: he's actually not talking to you.

He's talking to people like people who've never had any training or experience, never took any interest in literature, never studied the craft of writing, never made even the slightest effort to look into the nuts and bolts of the craft or the business of it all -- because they think it doesn't matter because they KNOW the story they've got is a kewl idea and so OBVIOUSLY it could be a movie, and hey, my girlfriend's neighbor does something in movies, maybe he can show it to someone?

THAT'S who he's talking to. You are a writer, you know the way it works. You know better. He's talking to the people who don't know how it works.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 AM on September 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


One was a guy's own version of Alice in Wonderland, and every single page had some kind of hallucination or "trippy" event taking place. The main character kept switching age and gender... couldn't get past thirty pages because it was sheer nonsense.

This sounds like Alan Moore.


I thought it sounded like Todd Solondz.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:08 AM on September 11, 2009


As an ex-professional editor, a knifemaker, and a management-level networking professional, I get this all the time. Can you fix my virus and spamware-ridden windows box? Can you sharpen/regrind/rehandle my knife? Can you read my article? Or, worse of all, can you teach me how to do it?

In some cases, sure. If there's a power imbalance (i.e. I'm your boss, or you're mine) it's either a training opportunity or a good chance to brownnose. If you offer something decent in return, like a good bottle of single malt, or some concert tix, you're probably on. But just for a favor?

I'm highly skilled, in several fields, and make stuff that people want. My day job is running an NOC an an ISP, not a trivial task. You? What do you do that I can't, won't, or dislike doing that you will offer in return? You're in sales, and watching TV is your main hobby? Sorry, you have nothing to offer.

I'm also self-trained in most things I do. Knifemaking has taken me 20 years of evenings and weekends, thousands of hours, to get to the point where I can do damascus, swords, and other technically complex operations. I have equipment that cost thousands of dollars and took weeks to set up and get running properly, and longer still to learn how to operate properly and safely. The first person I took on damaged my anvil, both of my grinders, used up consumables and stock, and still can't make a decent-looking knife to save his life.

So, no, I no longer teach, other than some private lessons with already-skilled knifemakers who want to learn a specific technique. No, I won't sharpen your wallmart-bought crap knives, buy a $2 stone and do it yourself. No, I won't fix your windows box, install Linux or get a Mac and we'll talk.

--d
posted by Blackanvil at 9:08 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mine is: "I will not listen to your fucking mix CD"
posted by empath at 9:09 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why is it that everyone writes a screenplay?

Because your daft idea for a sponge in pants or reptiles who are also fight in an asian style might somehow be able to be pimped into something worth more than you can think of.

The odds are better than winning the powerball - or at least the odds depend on your idea working - and one can control their own ideas moreso than the powerballs.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:14 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


You would be surprised, drjimmy, at how many aspiring writers don't think about basic stuff like this.

Ah... you would be surprised (I would guess, based on your post) how many working screenwriters became working screenwriters by getting working screenwriters that they didn't really know to read their scripts.

AK Walker (Seven, 8mm) called David Koepp and convinced Koepp's assistant to get the writer to read Seven. Koepp did and gave him the help he needed.

David Ayer was installing a satellite dish in client Wesley Strick's house when he mentioned not liking his job and asked Strick what he did to have such a kickass house. "Screenwriter," said Strick. Ayer got him to read his script.

Etc.

The major differences between Josh's rant and everyone else's (fix my computer, look at my lawn, etc) are: 1) he lives in a city where pretty much any person that flocks to the city that isn't already in the film business wants to be and 2) every damn how to be a screenwriter book advises amateurs to exploit every connection they have in Hollywood no matter how tenuous the connection.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:18 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why would people be giving their scripts to a jackass that basically copied the narrative he is famous for from a graphic novel?

I feel the same way about biographers. I mean, really. All you're doing is copying down the events of someone else's life. The whole narrative is right there for you to crib off of.

No, wait...
posted by bpm140 at 9:18 AM on September 11, 2009


Peter Jackson has a special mailbox in downtown Wellington

Well sure - there's like, what? 600-700 people in New Zealand?
posted by jalexei at 9:19 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


when I am fixing computers there are only three people I'll do so for free. My wife and my in-laws... everyone else can fuck off...
posted by edgeways at 9:20 AM on September 11, 2009


I *will* unfuck your computer. Once. Because I like you. You'll get your Windows box back with a limited privs account, a backup system (on your dime), and the password to the admin account so you can install the next Mahjong game you run across without bothering me. The second time you ask me to unfuck your computer you're getting Ubuntu with a limited access account. I get the admin account on that computer and the right to run whatever web services I want from it.

Either that or it's $50/hr with a half hour minimum.

my mom runs ubuntu and, oddly, has never been happier about her computing experience
posted by Fezboy! at 9:21 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't see how "I do that professionally, not as recreation. This takes more time and effort than you might think. I will consider it in a professional capacity, with the usual contract, for payment. Call my office if you are still interested." isn't both more explicit and polite.
posted by adipocere at 9:21 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey, whatever all y'all think of A History of Violence (I think quite a lot of it, but more for performance than for the screenplay), dude got an Oscar nomination for writing the screenplay. And, whatever you think of the Oscars (I don't think much of 'em in general, but this particular nod was fine by me), that puts him in farely rare company among working screenwriters. I'd want him to read my script, too.
posted by Joey Bagels at 9:24 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


drjimmy: he's actually not talking to you.

Right, but if I meet him, is he going to take the time to find out I am serious about writing? He basically states in his article that he will not lower himself to speak one word to me once he finds out I am "aspiring," ie not as successful as him.

So he is
a) lumping me in with all those "I got this AWESOME idea for the next Armageddon bro!!" people

and
b) asserting his superiority to me simply on the basis of financial success.

So yeah, still fuck him.

Self-link.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:25 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Somehow this attitude doesn't translate into my work at all.

Recently a close friend passed away and the family had no church and knew no one in the ministry other than myself.
Now, I went to school for 7 years and am paying down massive loans and funerals are hard to put together and challenging at the best of times - a downright headache when it's your own buddy you're saying goodbye to. But what the heck am I going to say?
"I will not fucking bury your son."

Eesh... that's just evil. "I will not fucking baptize your baby. See this whole room full of babies over here? Those are babies I get paid to baptize. See these other babies? These are babies of friends and every time I baptize one of these babies I feel like I'm not doing my job. So, sorry."

Yeah. Doesn't really work with the pastor job so much.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:26 AM on September 11, 2009 [13 favorites]


No, I will not give you free fucking travel advice. You have my guidebook - you know, the one it took me years to write and update? I'm not a travel agent.



I will, however, give you my time-polished advice on How To Become A Travel Writer: 1) Start small. 2) Don't quit your day job, or marry someone who has one.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:27 AM on September 11, 2009


I'm not saying undiscovered genius doesn't exist, you should see the other guy. And I'm not saying that once in a blue moon, lightning doesn't strike. It does -- Confederacy of Dunces was finally published because some guy finally decided to give the writer's mother a break and read the work she'd been asking everyone to read for years. It happens in acting too -- Lana Turner was discovered in a drug store when she went in to get a Coke.

The thing is, though -- it only happens that way really fucking rarely, but everyone thinks that it happens that way all the time. So for every David Ayer or A.K. Walker out there, there probably were a boatload more who tried to do the very same thing, but their script blew goats, and so it didn't get them anywhere. But people still keep trying to pass scripts on without giving much thought to, "wait, let me make sure that my script is actually GOOD before I show it to someone" first.

THAT'S Josh's point, ultimately -- if you really want to be a scriptwriter, learn how to write a script FIRST, so that when you DO finally convince someone to read it they actually like it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Did you read the article? He's not saying he won't read a friend's script. Most everyone will read a friend's script.

This is actually a very slippery slope. I am not a big budget screenwriter or published novelist, but I do write for a living. And I've been asked to read/edit numerous things my friends have written ranging from cover letters and short essays to novels, play cycles, memoirs and grants. I've read more graduate school statements of purpose than I even care to recall at this point, most penned by applicants to non-writing programs (though I've looked over writing samples for Journalism School and at least two portfolios for friends applying to MFAs). If you're not careful, your friends, usually unintentionally, can take advantage of your time. And I mean this with all due love and respect. They don't understand that you're doing for them for free is what you do for clients for very real money. And it takes a long time to communicate what's wrong a piece. It's often easier to fix it for them, but, for me anyway, that can be tricky, especially if what they're been judged on is the quality of their writing and you're not legally contracted as a ghostwriter.

When it comes to the creative side of things, it's almost more treacherous. No two people take the same criticism the same way. Being judged an unapologetic dick because you suggest amicably that the author might do well to rewrite a sentence or two is the least of your worries. You never know when you're going to get handed the lifeblood of some guy who's been slaving away at his magnum opus for twenty years and you'll be stuck trying to figure out, like the subject of this post, whether it's better to lie to him and tell him it's brilliant or be honest and tell him that it's just not very good.

Most writers know exactly how hard it is to be a writer. (And it is hard, by the way. You could finish the best story ever told in the most glorious evocative language and still be light years away from the end of the process.) We do it regardless, in spite of the odds and the hard work and the rejection, because we can't not do it. It's as much part of your daily experience as eating and breathing. Even if no one reads what you write, you simply can't turn off that part of your brain. And you find yourself wondering things like--How would I write this down if I were stuck on a desert island ? Could I capture a squid? Could I learn how to make paper from palm leaves?

Despite this, I think every writer worries they're nothing more than a hack. That they've spent a large portion of their lives believing themselves capable of turning a phrase and telling a tale, that they've identified as a writer, even if they've never admitted to writing a word, but maybe, just maybe, they were meant to be making lattes/ selling life insurance/practicing law/ playing the banjo instead of living by pen. Every time you hands you their manuscript, you think about every time the shoe's been on the other foot and you desperately hope that it will be good enough that you won't have anything negative to say.

I don't Josh Olson is a bad person at all. I envy him being able to say what I've so often thought. Maybe he could have put it more gently, but I promise it won't stop people from asking him to read their scripts any more than it will the stop the studio valet from spending every night writing what he believes, in his heart of hearts, to be the next "Citizen Kane."

I call obvious bullshit on this. Anyone who doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're" cannot write for a living.

Most writers, even those that edit other people for a living, suck at self-editing, which is why copy-editors have jobs. I offer the inevitable typos in the above screed as evidence of this fact.
posted by thivaia at 9:29 AM on September 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Why is it that everyone writes a screenplay?



I would imagine for similar reasons as everyone writes poetry. People have stories to tell and emotions to express. They admire these forms as "the way to do it" (among others). I feel like I had the good sense not long after going to Hollywood to realize that I would only ever be an average screenwriter with a small possibility of monetary success, but I had a knack for development. But when you work at an agency (which I did as a lit assistant and a reader), for a producer (as I then later did), and at a studio (as I then did later still before grad school) everyone thinks it's your job to be their sounding board for their big idea.

I used to tell people that if they had a really deserving idea that they truly believed in they should find like-minded filmmakers to collaborate with and figure out how to do it themselves. At least this way they may actually see their vision come to life. But most people are living a pipe-dream where they see their script as the next NBA draft pick or they treat it like a lottery ticket that might, just might hit big. I've seen enough "overnight success" screenwriters to know that each of these stories was 10 years in the making.

People constantly asking you to read their stuff and it's no less annoying than that person who wants to enlist you in an AmWay distributorship. Who wants to define their relationships by what they do for a living?
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:30 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Alright, so we shouldn't ask Olson to read our scripts or John Grisham to read our prose fiction. Fair enough. But who should we ask? I don't know whether any of you have tried to find a source of useful critiques, but I have and it's a tough row to ho.

I once joined an email list for this purpose. You know the drill; writers submit short pieces and then critique each others'. It was a cut above most free, internet based type operations. There were various rules designed to keep the wheels on the track. For example, minimum levels of participation were required and those who didn't meet them got booted. All in all, the participants seemed to take the enterprise very seriously. But the quality of the writing was, overall, abysmal and the critiques were next to useless. Some were only a few sentences. Most offered vague, general comments such as "I could picture the whole thing." Everyone was too nice. For them, this thing was a hobby; no one had the time or energy to do it properly.

My in-person, local writers group is better, but it's still a far cry from a thorough evaluation by someone who knows what they're doing. Participation is spotty and, while I generally like the people, I have to say that most of them have large sticks up their asses. I can't write about sex or drugs in any detail. Politics and religion, likewise, are mostly no-go.

What are the other options? There's the stuff you pay for (seminars, workshops, what not), but, judging by their promotional material, most of these outfits concentrate on providing pats on the head.

So, for the aspiring writer in search of feedback, what options are left?
posted by Clay201 at 9:33 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


He's not saying he won't read a friend's script. Most everyone will read a friend's script.

I'm going to bet that when says 'friend', he means 'a friend who is a professional screenwriter.'
posted by empath at 9:33 AM on September 11, 2009


Most writers, even those that edit other people for a living, suck at self-editing,

Heh...that (very true) and some don't feel the need to bring their bona fides to a casual online quasi-anonymous environment.
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:34 AM on September 11, 2009


You see, I'm a writer, and you're a writer. Fuck "aspiring." You happen to have had some financial success at it, while I have not, yet. People who sell Amway make a lot of money too.

But the person who signed up for Amway and hasn't made a dime off it isn't a businessman, is he? If you're not doing something professionally, then it's either a hobby or an aspiration. I think that the de-professionalization of writing and screenwriting is just a way to keep all the people in the field sufficiently poor, insecure, and paranoid. Is there no market for staff writers anywhere in the entertainment industry?

Because your daft idea for a sponge in pants or reptiles who are also fight in an asian style might somehow be able to be pimped into something worth more than you can think of.

Did any of these start out as a cold sales-pitch being shopped around to the industry? TMNT started out as a moderately successful small-market comic book which was later turned into a cartoon and line of toys before becoming a movie. 30 Days of Night started off as a screenplay which was (wisely) ignored until it was re-conceived as a comic and published by an independent publisher and then after a track record of making money, turned into a movie.

Yeah. Doesn't really work with the pastor job so much.

In Olson's defense, since he's a screenwriter, it's not actually his job to read other people's scripts. That's not what he does for a living. I liked the response from the guy who said he would give a script to an agent. Why? Because it's in the financial interest of the agent to find and read good scripts. The analog to being a pastor would be to have people read their theological treatises. Sure, it's something you know something about, but reviewing theological claims isn't really your job.
posted by deanc at 9:34 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can't ever hear about scripts without thinking of:

Ron:           Well, well, there is this one thing.  It's about a
               killer robot driving instructor that travels back in
               time for some reason.
Executive:     I'm listening.
Ron:           Okay, okay, well, you see ... this robot, he's got a
               heartbreaking decision to make about whether his best
               friend lives ... or dies.
Executive:     Eh.
Ron:           His best friend's a talking pie!
Executive:     Sold!  Howard, you've done it again!


So script reading is pretty much the "hey, will you fix my computer for free?" of the entertainment world?

He's not really objecting to doing it, he's objecting to people asking him for a critique who, it turns out, do not actually even want a critique, just praise for their meager efforts.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:34 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


'I have Microsoft Word, therefore I am a writer.'

Heh. I have seen people on internets announce that they have Final Draft and should be respected as a proper writer now.

Not sane people, obviously.
posted by Artw at 9:34 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Saying he is not creative because he did an adaptation just makes no sense."

I re-read what I wrote, and you are right, there is more to the process than that. It was an off-the-cuff snarky remark that I tried to defend without bothering to think about.
posted by ollyollyoxenfree at 9:34 AM on September 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


Ah... you would be surprised (I would guess, based on your post) how many working screenwriters became working screenwriters by getting working screenwriters that they didn't really know to read their scripts.

I know working writers have agents, so I would certainly ask him to pass it on to his agent if he seemed open to it and I didn't feel like I was imposing too much.

The one thing he *is* actually right about is that the "can you read my script?" thing really just means, "can you show it to someone who will give me money for it?" The reason I would use the word "read," though, if I were making this request, is that I wouldn't want to ask him to pass something on his agent that he thinks sucks really bad. I am giving him the implicit option to approve it before passing it on, just pass it on without reading it, orif he reads a bit and thinks it sucks, he can throw it in the trash.

So, "can you read it?" is the polite way of making the request. I would never blurt it out in the first five minutes, but if I met someone and we seemed to be getting along, yeah I would probably take a chance.

What's really obnoxious is that Mr. Olson probably got his first success in a manner not unlike this. So now that he's on top, he just wants to pull the ladder up after him.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:35 AM on September 11, 2009


Heh. I have seen people on internets announce that they have Final Draft and should be respected as a proper writer now.

I have Final Draft SEVEN motherfuckers.

SMASH CUT TO:

drjimmy11 accepting Oscar(tm).

And we...

FADE OUT
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:36 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nobody actually ever asks me to do library things outside of the library. Which is too bad, since I keep a complete flannel-board version of "If you give a mouse a cookie" on me at all times.
posted by Biblio at 9:37 AM on September 11, 2009 [11 favorites]


I will not get this inexperience, wide-eyed, hack elected to city council or the school board.... oh wait...
posted by munchingzombie at 9:38 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: No one should have to read crap. Ever.
posted by wabashbdw at 9:39 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's right. He's also very successful, and IMDB only lists a small fraction of his credits.
posted by paperzach at 9:40 AM on September 11, 2009


EmpressCallipygos, I agree with Josh. I said so in my first post--and I'm someone who could use him reading my stuff. I think he's dead correct.

What I was responding to was not whether he's correct or not but merely telling you why an unproduced writer would want a produced writer to read his/her script even though writers don't greenlight films.

Oh, and DrJimmy, I think you're taking it way too personally. You and I are pretty much in the same boat, far as I can tell (both unproduced, wanting to be produced), but I don't see how you cannot see Josh's dilemma.

And I'll throw this out just in case anyone's interested. If there are screenwriters in the thread who want the first 15 pages read and harshly, honestly, critiqued (and possibly asked for the remaining pages), I'll offer to read and invite anyone else who wants to read to volunteer as well. Note that I am not a produced writer, I have zero connections to Hollywood, and do not even live in the USA. But I think I'm a pretty good screenwriter and I do have a BFA in film production/screenwriting.

So, if any MeFites are interested in a little online back-and-forthing on some finished pages, I'm game.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:41 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I will happily read your old family documents.
posted by jb at 9:42 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I will fix your fucking computer if you want me to, but you need to understand that it's probably going to take all fucking afternoon, so you better lay in a case of good beer and my kid's coming over to play with your kids so I hope you're cooking something nice for dinner.
posted by IanMorr at 9:43 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


"What's really obnoxious is that Mr. Olson probably got his first success in a manner not unlike this. So now that he's on top, he just wants to pull the ladder up after him."

Or maybe he didn't. Hard as it is to believe, there are times professional writers (even ones who write for the screen) get the gigs they get because they wrote something someone liked, no personal connection involved. I got my first full-time writing gig because my clips were good; I didn't know anyone to give me a good word. I sold my first novel because an editor liked the work; I didn't know him personally, nor anyone of consequence in the fiction half of the publishing industry. Etc.

People make a fetish out of "it's about knowing someone." But, you know, if you do work that is good -- and you work at keeping yourself out there -- that often works well, too.
posted by jscalzi at 9:43 AM on September 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


I re-read what I wrote, and you are right, there is more to the process than that. It was an off-the-cuff snarky remark that I tried to defend without bothering to think about.

Probably meta-talk territory (and a derail so if this goes away I won't be surprised), but it doesn't seem to justify a whole thread: Do you know how refreshing it is when someone takes something back online and admits they have made a mistake and avoids a stupid flame-fest? Very fucking refreshing, that's for sure. Kudos to you, ollyollyoxenfree.

And for the record, to make sure it's clear, I'm not rubbing anything in, and I apologize in turn if MY initial response seemed overly snarky to YOU. I can certainly state things very...brusquely if I want to.

Hugs all around. Back to the topic at hand.
posted by dubitable at 9:43 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I call obvious bullshit on this. Anyone who doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're" cannot write for a living.

I call typo. :) I work with communications experts and journalists -- folks who write for a living. Most of them are terrible spellers and make tons of typos when they type.

Great writers, though.
posted by zarq at 9:46 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I will not Project Manage your......project. Dick.
posted by spicynuts at 9:47 AM on September 11, 2009


I will not suggest a fucking wine for your dinner party.

oh, what? I'm invited? And you invited your cute sister who was asking about me? I see...

I think the Macon offers great values, as do many wines from the Loire Valley...
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:48 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I will not judge your fucking wet t-shirt contest.

That's simple enough, isn't it? "I will not judge your fucking wet t-shirt contest." What's not clear about that? There's nothing personal about it, nothing loaded, nothing complicated. I simply have no interest in judging your fucking wet t-shirt contest. None whatsoever.
posted by naju at 9:53 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


ironically... TL:DR ;)
posted by rampy at 9:57 AM on September 11, 2009


Mine is: "I will not listen to your fucking mix CD"

While I completely agree with the sentiment (mine is I will not fucking critique your startup idea), I find it gleefully ironic that your username is "empath".
posted by bpm140 at 9:58 AM on September 11, 2009


I absolutely feel Empath's pain on that.
posted by Artw at 10:00 AM on September 11, 2009


Mark Evanier weighs in on the article.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:00 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


What does he have against stories set in Austria?

(link marginally less safe-for-work than this thread).
posted by zippy at 10:01 AM on September 11, 2009


Mark Evanier weighs in on the article.

I'd be more "Holy shit, you knew Jack Kirby? Really? wow! Jack Kirby! Wow! Can I touch you?"
posted by Artw at 10:03 AM on September 11, 2009


I will help you unfuck your taxes. I enjoy it.
posted by mrhappy at 10:04 AM on September 11, 2009


No, I will not give you free fucking travel advice.

you can do better than that - "of course, i will give you free fucking travel advice - go to hell"
posted by pyramid termite at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


imdb sums up his latest script ("Until Gwen"):

This dark crime drama explores a relationship between a father who is a con man and a son who has been raised on the edges of society, without going to school and without a Social Security number. The relationship turns complicated when the son falls for a woman who helps him find his own identity.

I don't want to read that fucking script.
posted by blucevalo at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


From all of us who labor as writers and have yet to have a break, he is the one being a dick. Good writers, too, have to be hustlers. While I respect his right to not to spend his time sorting the wheat from the chaff, or not giving a damn about someone else's wheat, he could recall he once went through the insecurity and struggles of being an unknown and just give a polite, "no."
As for me, as a professional, I am happy to share my expertise when asked. It is part of giving back.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I will not judge your fucking wet t-shirt contest.

I call bullshit. ;) Even just as a talking point to put on a resume, that's gold.
And yes, it is a strange resume.
posted by LD Feral at 10:06 AM on September 11, 2009


IAAL. IANYFL.
posted by The Bellman at 10:06 AM on September 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Why would I have any interest whatsoever in having a mildly successful screeenwriter I have never met read my script?

Connections, baby, connections!

(Though I have to wonder what his "job" is that requires him to read others' material in the first place. Guess the scriptwriting thing isn't working out so well for him after all. Next stop - teaching writing. Which would get him out of this problem, at any rate.)

Lawyer friend of mine refuses to give out free advise on the grounds that it is a waste of both parties time. He claims, with reason, that they do not value advice given out for free.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:06 AM on September 11, 2009


Mind you, that third sentence read, "And of course, Cardinal Richelieu is played by a hand puppet."

That's okay; since you passed on it, my sequel to "The Producers" has been optioned by a major studio.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 10:07 AM on September 11, 2009


So, for the aspiring writer in search of feedback, what options are left?

Bluntly, unless you're very well connected, the shortest version of the long frustrating journey toward getting your spec-blueprint (ie: screenplay) turned into a building (ie: movie) starts with coverage (ie: paying a pro to read your script and respond with relevant analysis, which, if your work is good enough, might include some guidance as to WHO to direct it to in the production community). But, of course, it's not even remotely this simple, because given the nature of the Screenwriting Market (ie: EVERYBODY has a script), most coverage services are little more than rip-offs.

What you need to do is find the RIGHT pro to do coverage on your work, and be prepared to PAY THEM WELL FOR IT. In Canada, this can mean as much a thousand bucks for a read, or so I've heard. Sounds extreme but what you get for it is a guaranteed serious read (or three) with detailed notes and discussion as follow-up.

How do you find this RIGHT pro? Good question. I'm currently working on it but I've heard they're out there.
posted by philip-random at 10:07 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Script, schmipt. Nobody actually writes movies anymore, it's all remakes. Instead of writing a screenplay, what you do is find a studio exec and suggest either a remake of an old movie but with female nudity, or a remake of an old movie that had female nudity to start with, but replace said nudity with CGI monsters and get a PG-13 rating. My plan is to make it to the big time with either The Empire Strikes Back With Breasts (in 3D!) or Showgirls with CGI monsters (in 3D!)
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 10:09 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you're looking at him reading your script as a potential break, rather than an opportunity for a proper critique, are you not being a dick?
posted by Artw at 10:09 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


NB To whole "fix computer" thing, I have a very effective way of dealing with it. Pretty much nowadays the only thing that won't resolve itself with an update or a reset is malware, in fact I've yet to see something not malware related that doesn't take 5 minutes over the phone. I tell people to try MalwareBytes and if that doesn't fix it than I'll need to format and reinstall Windows. To do that I'll need the original Windows install DVD and the serial number (usually on the sticker). If they can't furnish those I apologize and say I can't do it without the original (and really with all the activation crap that Microsoft has, they should release the ISOs for free, no one will be able to install without a valid license). I tell them that they need to back everything up they don't want to lose and once they do that I'll be more than happy to reinstall Windows. This is usually a very simple process. This is something I can do watching HBO on a Sunday night on auto-pilot, even if it takes an hour to finish.

I don't think it is too much to ask to have people backup their own computers, try Malware Bytes and provide the installation DVD. Every manufacturer I've talked to will provide one, even if it is for a nominal fee. I'll even e-mail instructions on what to ask for, but no I'm not going to wait on hold and do it for you. No one has ever complained and about 80% I never hear back from. I think once people realize it isn't a simple fix and I don't merely have to wave a wand, they either realize they don't want to bother me with it or themselves don't want to be bothered with the simple task of backing up.

It is important to put give some agency to the person asking for help, do these reasonable things and I'll gladly take a look at it. By taking a look at it, here's what I mean and I'm explaining the entire process so it doesn't seem like a mystery.

I had a friend I asked for some advice on some remodeling, he came over, looked things over and gave me some great advice. A couple days later I received architectural drawings and a short price list. It was amazing, it probably didn't take him more than a couple hours, but his time is not cheap. I sent him over a case of nice champagne and he thanked me profusely. This is how adults interact with each other, it doesn't always have to be on a professional "I charge $50/hr" basis, but it doesn't have to be free either.
posted by geoff. at 10:10 AM on September 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Likewise if you just want a handjob.
posted by Artw at 10:10 AM on September 11, 2009


I will not scan your fucking brain.

Wait, I take it back. I will totally scan your brain, even the parts related to fucking.

I will even pay you.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:11 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm sure the guy is a talented writer (not sure how directly they're correlated, but I loved History of Violence...you know, the one good movie the guy wrote?) but perhaps his problem is he's not a very talented and/or generous teacher. The two, like the ability to differentiate between "your" and "you're" and the ability to put together a compelling narrative, are not necessarily related.

I know it's annoying to have people be obtuse about their networking as well as their craft, and that there are a lot of thick-skulled people out there who need to learn that screenwriting, like anything else, involves a shitload of work (not networking or cornering people at parties, although I hear that's part of it, but actual work), but come on, jesus, what a great problem to have. Not to be famous, but be successful in your line of work.

Isn't that just the cost? To complain of this kind of attention seems masturbatory, no matter how sincere the complaint may be. If that's you're biggest career problem, brother, it seems like we should be hearing a lot more from you, huh? A lot of irons in the fire? A lot of conversations involving many interpretations of the phrase "dick move"? I mean, how fucking awesome are you if you can craft and submit a professional rant in a non-trade publication and use a lot of fratty slang like eponymous terms like "dick move"? I really do hope that in a couple years, this rant look hopelessly dated. His, I mean. I mean his rant.
posted by theefixedstars at 10:13 AM on September 11, 2009


I think that's less being a dick and more being a n00b, Artw. Same difference in some ways.
posted by Mister_A at 10:13 AM on September 11, 2009


Metafilter: And, of course, Cardinal Richelieu is played by a hand puppet.
posted by jonp72 at 10:13 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


While I respect his right to not to spend his time sorting the wheat from the chaff, or not giving a damn about someone else's wheat, he could recall he once went through the insecurity and struggles of being an unknown and just give a polite, "no."

I kind of have the hunch that a polite "no" is what he actually says, and he maybe was using poetic license when he wrote this and exaggerated a tad.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on September 11, 2009


A few people succeed because they have a raw, honest, innate talent. Many people succeed because they are very, very, very, very persistent. Most people in the second category are in that category because they believe they're actually in the first category.

Most people that succeed, however, are in both categories. And that's why there are so many people in the second category, because they don't equate lack of success with their not being in the first category, nor should they -- after all, there are tons of people with raw, honest, innate talent out there who aren't in the second category. Who wants to be one of them?

of course, there are tons of people in neither category who believe they're in the first category
posted by davejay at 10:13 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


drjimmy, Astro Zombie is right. This is about time This guy does not owe you one second of his time. And it's rude in the extreme to assume that he does.

Jeeze. I'd be reticent to bug any of my producer friends with a script, let alone a stranger.
posted by tkchrist at 10:14 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oi, I could fill a page up with snarky "I will not (verb) your (expletive) (noun)" statements. Sadly, I am enough of a nice guy that I often end up (verbing) (expletive) (noun)s for people who really ought to be knowledgeable enough to (verb) their own (expletive) (noun)s themselves.

Maybe I should work on that.
posted by Alterscape at 10:15 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


tkchrist, can I have cell phone #s for some of your producer friends? I have a story about Jim Brown, latex fetish gear, and badminton that I think would make a dynamite movie.
posted by Mister_A at 10:16 AM on September 11, 2009


I have a small nursery of scripts on a drive somewhere. Everytime Final Draft updates their version I rush out and upgrade, because lord knows WHEN THAT IDEA STRIKES I wanna be READY TO ROCK AND FORMAT IT!

Lucikly, FD hasn't updated much the past few years. I mean, they're pretty much done with FD7.

FADE OUT:
posted by cavalier at 10:16 AM on September 11, 2009


A few people succeed because they have a raw, honest, innate talent. Many people succeed because they are very, very, very, very persistent. Most people in the second category are in that category because they believe they're actually in the first category.

Most of the successful writers I know who I would place in the first category would place themselves in the second, which I think is one of the great unteachable secrets of writing. You have to believe that you suck big-time, so much so that you'll polish and tear down and rebuild endlessly, but you also have to simultaneously believe that you're good enough to have someone spend millions of dollars filming your words. It's a fucked up mindset, and I don't know how you get there purposefully.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:18 AM on September 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm sorry, but if I ever happen to cross paths with this person I'm going to have to ask him to read my script, even though I don't have a script. So I'll likely be handing him my register receipt from lunch or my printed off Google map. I'm sorry, but I'll just have to.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:19 AM on September 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


If you have no foot in the second category you are simply not going to succeed, period. Go get a livejournal account and complain about it or something.
posted by Artw at 10:20 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Course, this isn't unique to screenwriting.

... cause around every block
There's Harry, Dick, and Tom, with a demo in his palm
Now I'm with helping those who want to help themselves
And flaunt a nut that's doggy as in dope
But it's not the mood to hear
The tales of limousines and pails
Of money they'll make like a pro
I be like, "Yo black, just play me the tape"

But at the show the time to spare I just make
But the songs created in they shacks
Are so wick-wick-wack, situations like this
And now I hate they give me smiles Kool-Aid wide and ask,
"Was it def?"
And with the straighest face I be like, "Hell yes."
I slip them the digits to Papa Prince Paul
So I don't go AWOL but yet I know when they call
They get ...

posted by fightorflight at 10:22 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Artw, if I hadn't been drinking last night, I would've beaten you with this post. Excellent piece, excellent thread. I gotta say, I'm pretty much hundred percent onside with Mr. Olson. Harsh as he may sound, he's nowhere near as harsh as the reality of the spec screenplay market.

Seriously, if you're an "aspiring" writer and he's pissed you off (as opposed to "educated" you), then I suggest you're a little too fragile for the biz. Which is nothing to be ashamed of. It can be a very nasty business.

But that said, here's my favorite line in the article:

"If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you're not a writer."


Keep on screenwriting, folks. Movies are our dreams ... and we always need new dreams.
posted by philip-random at 10:24 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I had a friend give me a novel he'd written, asking for feedback. It was OK, but I could see some ways it could be improved-- too much focus on mundane details, which slowed the story down, and he didn't provide any motivation for his villian so it was hard to connect to the conflict he'd set up. He was insulted that I thought it needed any rewriting at all, he was certain it was a masterpiece as it was.

I think people who would give their script to a stranger are likely to have that same attitude, maybe even stronger. They struggled over something that means a lot to them, and they want you to acknowledge how good it is. They don't realize that what they have is a first draft, and the work is just starting.

I have some sympathy with that, because it took me a while as a songwriter to understand that criticism is often given because that person was moved by what you did, and can see ways it could be improved. It takes a thick skin to accept criticism, and then change something you did based on it. If I was in a position where stangers regularly approached me for approval rather than critque, then got upset by honest answers, I'd probably be a dick about it too.
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:26 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yeah. Doesn't really work with the pastor job so much.

Oh yes it does. There are plenty of pastors who'll say "I will not marry you in my fucking church." Not just to gay couples, even.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:27 AM on September 11, 2009


I'm an EMT, studying to be a Paramedic and, no, I'm not going to save your fucking life.
posted by Avenger at 10:29 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


No, I will not lay some fucking pipe for you.
posted by Mister_A at 10:31 AM on September 11, 2009


Now I feel a bit bad because I realized that what would make me really really ferociously upset about people asking for my opinion on something is a constantly growing suspicion that I'd already gone past the limits of the talent or knowledge that made my opinion valuable in the first place.
posted by theefixedstars at 10:31 AM on September 11, 2009


I don't know why people bother anyway. Probably the money. But you're a writer. You're not going to get the money. Every writer I knew when I lived in Hollywood was broke all the time, except the teevee writers, because they got a regular check. But the screenwriters? Broke. Sell a screenplay per year at guild minimum -- which is what they will pay, and was about $40k when I lived there -- you've made half your living cost if you live a relatively modest life in Los Angeles. For a screenwriter, that is. I was living on $18k per year, but I was stone cold broke. The millionaire screenwriters? They represent, like, 2 percent of working screenwriters. Most eke by on two or three scripts that are trapped in dveelopment, but the option gets renewed every year, so they get another little chunk of dough. And the ones that do make it big? They can fall pretty hard too. I've known more than a few ex-bigshots who were swirling the drain.

If it's not about the money, then fuck Hollywood. There was a time when that was pretty much the only place you could go to make and distribute a movie. It's not that way anymore. Shoot your own goddamn film on digital, release it in segments on YouTube. You probably won't get a very big audience, but so what? It didn't cost you much, and you're making movies. And if you do strike it big and find an audience, Hollywood will come looking for you. If you've got a story to tell, go ahead and tell it. Unless you have no income at all, there's nothing stopping you. Hell, even with no income, there might be a moviemaking collective nearby that will lend you equipment, or you could probably Craigslist up some talent. Just be modest in your initial ambitions. Actually, let me rephase that: Be modest in your production values, be hugely ambituous in your ambitions. Tell the best story the best way you can.

You don't need this guy to read your script. He's not going to like it anyway, and, even if he does, and passes it on to somebody who can represent it, and shops it around until a company decided to buy it, and then sits on it for a few years until somebody really wants to do it, and then finds the money, and then manages to get it made without being completely ruined by idiots, it's only going to be in a theater for two weeks, and then it might as well be on YouTube. Skip all that nonsense. Just make the fucking movie.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:31 AM on September 11, 2009 [25 favorites]


he was certain it was a masterpiece as it was.

Everything creative I write is sheer fucking genius ... while I'm writing it. Or else, why would I be doing it? I imagine this particular psychosis is true to most (if not all) artistic creativity.

The question is, how well can you roll with the extremely likely reality that what you've created is NOT beyond negative critique? How do you learn to listen with open mind to what, at first, feels like a desecration of your very soul?

How do you learn to learn?
posted by philip-random at 10:32 AM on September 11, 2009


I think the answer is experience, philip-random.
posted by Mister_A at 10:35 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, for me it was the times that somebody else's suggestion made the song better than I ever thought it could be. Makes you humble.
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:37 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the thread three spots down:
Chimps can cooperate to get food that they can't get on their own, but if there's the slightest chance for them to fight over it, they will. For humans to evolve as we did, Hare says, "We had to not get freaked out about sharing."
posted by Chuckles at 10:38 AM on September 11, 2009


He should of just left it at, "no, I will not read your script."
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:39 AM on September 11, 2009


Skip all that nonsense. Just make the fucking movie.

Thanks for saving me the time. As I pointed out recently in an AskMe thread:

There are millions out there mud-wrestling for a break and even if only 10 percent are actually any good, those are still long odds against you.

For what it's worth, my strategy after years of varying success has been to NOT do anymore spec-screenwriting. That is, I either write stuff that I can see myself someday directing (ie: low budget, low concept) or I get a producer (or a director) interested at the idea stage. This really narrows the odds quite significantly.

posted by philip-random at 10:39 AM on September 11, 2009


Everything creative I write is sheer fucking genius ... while I'm writing it. Or else, why would I be doing it? I imagine this particular psychosis is true to most (if not all) artistic creativity.

Not me. It's genius before I start writing, but then the wheels come off. When I write it's to a mental chorus of fraud and hack.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:39 AM on September 11, 2009 [17 favorites]


Wait...... What was the script? Surely someone has tracked it down by now. We must read it.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:40 AM on September 11, 2009


He should of just left it at, "no, I will not read your script."

I believe that's pretty much the conclusion of the article.
posted by philip-random at 10:41 AM on September 11, 2009


And if I had a script, I wouldn't need him. It's the shoe box full of notes that could use some professional help.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:43 AM on September 11, 2009


The Picasso story is a story about Whistler, misremembered.
posted by Major Tom at 10:44 AM on September 11, 2009


Well, I guess I know who I'm not sending my screenplay to.
posted by Pecinpah at 10:46 AM on September 11, 2009


Metafilter: That, my friend, is the very definition of a dick move.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:48 AM on September 11, 2009


To be fair Whistler was, in a land of gigantic assholes enjoying a popular fad for gigantic assholes, a completely fucking gigantic asshole.


I cite as evidense Wilde's The Remarkable Rocket. It's about Whistler. He didn't get it.
posted by The Whelk at 10:48 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


He should of just left it at, "no, I will not read your script."

I believe that's pretty much the conclusion of the article.

The conclusion of the article was still one word too long.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:48 AM on September 11, 2009


evi-dense, eh? Whistler didn't get it, but I do you sly devil.
posted by Mister_A at 10:49 AM on September 11, 2009


I truly am evi-dense.
posted by The Whelk at 10:49 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not me. It's genius before I start writing, but then the wheels come off. When I write it's to a mental chorus of fraud and hack.

For me that's 95% of my writing time, and then there's 5% where I'm in some kind of weird zone and it all just flows... that's when I actually enjoy it and I get better stuff.

Of course, all of this is about getting to the first draft. Then you have to edit the fucker. I suspect that where critiques can be useful is showing people what they should be looking for in that editing process. Learning that has certainly been what has been most helpful to me in my (extremely modest) writing career.

Of course, there's always going to be a time when you start out and you're a n00b (maybe not a dick, as Mister_A points out) and you don't know that the critique can help you in this way, and really you just want the handjob. That is a time at which you are annoying to people, and maybe should just join a writing group or something instead of pestering real professionals.
posted by Artw at 10:51 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: Holy Shit, Mister Genius.
posted by Mister_A at 10:51 AM on September 11, 2009


I get people asking me to design stuff for them all the time, If i don't know them well, I tell them how much I charge, and they stop asking. If they're friends, i love doing it. But what I rarely get is someone asking me to look at their designs.

Of course the difference between Design and Hollywod is that people aspire to Hollywood. For some reason people think they can just call themselves designers, because they bootlegged a copy of Photoshop. But like this guy says, you can spot the hacks at a glance. I have a few friends who manage to get a freelance job now and then, but are nowhere good enough to get fulltime agency work, which of course is what they want more than anything. The best I can do is tell them "if you really want it, don't give up" Anything approaching actual critique of their work falls on deaf ears. But I'm never a dick about it, because I remember what it was like starting out. I wouldn't have gone anywhere if someone hadn't noticed my talent and encouraged me.

I know two people who I helped get started who are now creative directors at companies big enough that I read about them in magazines every now and then. That's a great feeling. I don't even care that they make more money than me,although it's weird when people who used to beg you for help are now offering you jobs.

As to screenwriters, I know there are "successful" screenwriters out there who actively help newcomers. Roger Avary, who I'm not the biggest fan of creatively, used to be quite generous with tips and advice on his website. I have a friend who met Christopher McQuarrie (Usual Suspects, Way of the Gun) randomly, and he didn't read his script, but exchanged info and encouraged my friend to look him up if he ever needed advice.

I get this guy's point, but if you feel like you HAVE to make the dick move, then you're probably just a dick.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:52 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Picasso story is a story about Whistler, misremembered.

James Rosenquist answered me in about the same way. "How long did it take to paint that?"

"Putting the paint on took me about two weeks, knowing how to put the paint on took me about 30 years."
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:54 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's got to be a good Damien Hirst version of that story.
posted by Artw at 10:55 AM on September 11, 2009


I'm reading a book by Orhan Pamuk right now (The Black Book), and there was a really great piece of advice in there:

Don't sit down at the desk before you have your first sentence.

I make myself nuts with the first sentence. Sometimes I just type FIRST SENTENCE THINK OF SOMETHING LATER MORAN and then move on...
posted by Mister_A at 10:55 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The page was the colour of a snowbank, smothering the body of a blocked writer...
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


The night was sultry.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:57 AM on September 11, 2009


See, you guys are way better at this than I. Mind if I steal yours, AZ? I am working on a novel called The Sultry Night, your sentence may work.
posted by Mister_A at 10:59 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


The page was the colour of a snowbank, smothering the body of a blocked writer...

My preferred method (method being a polite way to describe the waves of screaming panic I get when I Have To Do Something) is to collect together some scenes or lines or bits of dialogue or whatever, that I actually Don't Hate With All My Being, and just throw them on the page and then try to stitch them together.

then you pester your creative-industry friends to read it in exchange for drugs and handjobs

this thread is really helping me avoid finishing my slightly over-due book review!
posted by The Whelk at 11:01 AM on September 11, 2009


Everything creative I write is sheer fucking genius ... while I'm writing it. Or else, why would I be doing it? I imagine this particular psychosis is true to most (if not all) artistic creativity.

Sorry, I guess I FAILED here. What I meant to say is:

"Once I'm finally in the zone, doing it ... everything I write is sheer fucking genius ... " And so on.
posted by philip-random at 11:01 AM on September 11, 2009


A History Of Violence was the worst fucking piece of shit put to film. And I will not look at your fucking mole.
posted by docpops at 11:02 AM on September 11, 2009


A History Of Violence was the worst fucking piece of shit put to film.

Spoken like a man who hasn't seen Queen of the Damned.
posted by Mister_A at 11:04 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


The night was sultry.

My fave is when "the clouds were scudding ... " What the hell's scudding? Has anyone anywhere EVER, in the last 50 years anyway, used the word scudding (scudded) in regular conversation?

Sorry, I suddenly had to get that out.
posted by philip-random at 11:05 AM on September 11, 2009


It was always leading to this.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:06 AM on September 11, 2009


A slightly different take from a (better) script-writer and ex-Mefite who would've gladly read your script.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:07 AM on September 11, 2009


A History Of Violence was the worst fucking piece of shit put to film.

Spoken like a man who hasn't seen Trash Humpers.
posted by philip-random at 11:07 AM on September 11, 2009


My hypothesis is that most of the really great first lines weren't written first. You may disagree with me, but then you would be a dipshit.
posted by Mister_A at 11:07 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was the gaffer in Trash Humpers, goddammit.
posted by docpops at 11:10 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has anyone anywhere EVER, in the last 50 years anyway, used the word scudding (scudded) in regular conversation?

Yes.
posted by Artw at 11:11 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


The page was the colour of a snowbank, smothering the body of a blocked writer...

Actually let me go back and edit that: The page was the colour of a snowbank, smothering the frozen corpse of a blocked writer...

Wait, can a corpse be smothered, maybe I should change that...

(repeat for day while rest of story goes unwritten)
posted by Artw at 11:12 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was the gaffer in Trash Humpers, goddammit.

Actually, I haven't seen it. I'm just feeling a little compelled to post that link any time I can.
posted by philip-random at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2009


tkchrist, can I have cell phone #s for some of your producer friends? I have a story about Jim Brown, latex fetish gear, and badminton that I think would make a dynamite movie.

Okay. Well that idea right there is an exception. We must set up a meeting immediately. In fact I have my checkbook, name your price. Too low. Name a higher price. HIGHER! What? There are PUPPETS! Check your email there are two tickets to LA waiting for you at the Delta counter right this second.
posted by tkchrist at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I will not write your fucking javascript.
posted by Ratio at 11:19 AM on September 11, 2009


A slightly different take from a (better) script-writer and ex-Mefite who would've gladly read your script.

Well, Dobbs is setting the parameters himself. He's saying here is the formal setting and conditions under which I will read your script. Which means he is managing his time and creating some sort of critical filter.

I'm sure he get's mighty irritated when people just, unsolicited, walk up to him at a party or at the dry cleaner and ask him to read a script.

Like Dobbs said calling an agent or producer and setting up an appointment to review a script or talk business is, well, that's how business is done. Just like I got no problem reviewing a photographers or illustrator portfolio that way. People want to do business. We just want it on on our own terms.
posted by tkchrist at 11:21 AM on September 11, 2009


I will not listen to your poker bad beat story, especially not if it involves Aces.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:23 AM on September 11, 2009


Lem Dobbs? He's disabled his account, unfortunately. It's not often that I would use memail to tell someone how awesome I think they are; this would have been one of those times.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:24 AM on September 11, 2009


Yeah, I'll listen to your legal problem. I probably can't help you, but I'm nosy.
posted by norm at 11:25 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey, if this guy doesn't want to read my thinly-veiled autobiographical screenplay about my Very Meaningful Summer at Jewish sleepaway camp, that's just his loss.
posted by The Gooch at 11:26 AM on September 11, 2009


drjimmy11: "What's really obnoxious is that Mr. Olson probably got his first success in a manner not unlike this. So now that he's on top, he just wants to pull the ladder up after him."

man, you are taking this shit way too personally. it's way more simple than that. people who work in the industry don't want to be bothered by everybody who meets them trying to get something out of them. yes, it's really hard to get even a good script read by somebody who can do something about it. this is not because people are pulling the ladder up after themselves. it's because there are too many writers out there trying to get sold, and most of them honestly think that bothering someone in the industry is how you do it. it's ridiculous. so many people believe, like you do, that the writers who are making it today (read: earning a living) once slid a screenplay under DeNiro's bathroom stall at Spago's or something and he had nothing better to do while he was dropping a deuce.

never mind that you can see how Olson got his "big break" by looking at his imdb entry:

22 years ago he was working in the art department on Masters of The Universe as what basically amounts to a paid pencil sharpener, while doing slightly more creative work on something called Ray's Male Heterosexual Dance Hall and The Underachievers. 11 years later, he got a small writing gig on a tv show, doubtless because someone he had worked with in his various other shitty industry jobs needed a thing or liked a thing he did one time or just knew him and got him the shitty job because shitty jobs aren't hard to give away to untested people.

for 4 years after that he wrote shitty movies. not epics. not opuses that he got lucky enough to write. assignments. from people who almost certainly thought of him as "some guy I worked with, and he does the job and isn't a pain in the ass." he didn't sell his dream screenplay, he took work because he wanted to work. he paid his dues and one day someone handed him a really good graphic novel for a treatment because he does the job and isn't a pain in the ass, and that treatment turned out to be for cronenberg who maybe just wanted someone to do the job who wasn't a pain in the ass.

the secret is to want to work. not to sell your screenplay. to work. to write the shit someone else asks you to. you want to make your special screenplay into a movie? make the movie yourself. that's what everybody else does. they work till they can finagle a way to make the movie, and then they make the movie. but until then they work.

is it any surprise that someone who spent 22 years working for a chance at a decent living isn't interested in having other people try to pester him into giving them for free what he spent those decades striving for? it's obnoxious. it's overly entitled, obnoxious nonsense, and it's a colossal waste of time.
posted by shmegegge at 11:28 AM on September 11, 2009 [52 favorites]


not to diminish your scathing blog entry or anything, of course.
posted by shmegegge at 11:28 AM on September 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Gooch is a Jewish name?
posted by Mister_A at 11:31 AM on September 11, 2009


This has given me a great idea for a film.
posted by Phanx at 11:32 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Apparently, another word for gooch is spaba, which is dangerously close to my actual last name, which is Jewish.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:33 AM on September 11, 2009


I didn't mean to sound to dismissive of this guys point though. I totally get where this guy, and others, are coming from. Having known people who are quite good at a X skill, will inevitably get that "hey, could you do this for me?"
People are generally dismissive of free stuff, even when it comes from highly competent people and they are the ones asking for it.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:34 AM on September 11, 2009


I don't think dobbs is actually Lem Dobbs, unless he likes talking about himself in the third person.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 11:38 AM on September 11, 2009


A slightly different take from a (better) script-writer and ex-Mefite who would've gladly read your script.

WHOA! This needs to be nipped in the bud pronto. VS. Dobbs and Lem Dobbs (nee Lem Kitaj) are not the same person. They both just stole their surnames from the same fictional person. (Our) Dobbs loves the other Dobbs' work, but I assure you the other Dobbs has never heard of or met (our) Dobbs.

(Our) Dobbs does plan on hitting LA later in the year, however. One of his scripts ended up in the hand of a director and though the director does not want to buy that script, he liked the writing and has invited him down on the director's dime. Dobbs killed his account here because he wastes too much time on MeFi and has 3 scripts he's trying to finish by year-end.

I was Dobbs' dog-walker and still am his occasional plant waterer, which is why I'm in the know.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 11:39 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


The blank page was the colour of a dead 19th century author, expired in the snowdrift of writers block, syphilis and social disgrace, laudanum bottle clasped in his withered hand.
posted by Artw at 11:42 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


FADE IN:

1 INT. DINING ROOM - DAY

Massive windows frame a sweeping panorama of Puget Sound on a clear, sunny day. The Olympic mountains tower above a long, verdant island on the opposite side of the water. Seagulls and sailboats add definition to the pleasant summer breeze.

A MAN IN BLACK T-SHIRT sits at the head of a simple, tasteful, wooden dining room table, looking out at the view, sipping fresh, hot coffee, occasionally typing a word or two on the laptop in front of him.

2 EXT. DECK - DAY

MAN IN BLACK T-SHIRT casually strolls out to the deck outside the dining room. He is carrying a pair of binoculars, which he uses to glass the tree-lined hill below.

3 EXT. TREE BRANCH - DAY

A red tailed hawk preens itself in the sun, feathers ruffling in the breeze. Neighborhood crows dive-bomb the large raptor, but it continues its ablutions, undeterred.

4 INT. DINING ROOM - DAY

MAN IN BLACK T-SHIRT sits back down, sips his coffee, reads MetaFilter.

MAN IN BLACK T-SHIRT
(typing)
"FADE IN: 1 INT. DINING ROOM - DAY

Massive windows frame a sweeping panorama of Puget Sound on a clear, sunny day. The Olympic mountains tower above a long, verdant island on the opposite side of the water. Seagulls and sailboats add definition to the pleasant summer breeze."
His reads the words. Sips his coffee. Considers.

MAN IN BLACK T-SHIRT
This is the best fucking script EVAR!
FADE TO BLACK
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:44 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Whoops *Facepalm*. I initially saw that here.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:44 AM on September 11, 2009


Inh. Odds actually aren't bad I'll critique your story or help you with problems you're having with your Linux machine.
posted by Zed at 11:45 AM on September 11, 2009


Is this the place where I apologize for making kittens for breakfast read the appalling first draft of my novel?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:45 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Not me. It's genius before I start writing, but then the wheels come off. When I write it's to a mental chorus of fraud and hack."

It always makes me feel better to know that better writers than I have that same internal contempt for their own work. Next up: Everyone who praises it is either lying or an idiot!

Or the inability to let go of the decent kernel of an idea, thus leading to the endless process of, "If I can just rewrite this one more time, it'll be good enough to shop around!"

Frankly, the advice that something is dumb and won't ever come to anything is often a relief because it means I can get to work on other ideas that might lead somewhere.
posted by klangklangston at 11:46 AM on September 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


yes, you read that right. 9/11 plays, featuring hand puppets. To this day I wonder if someone somewhere had released a memo or a scriptwriting challenge or something and I somehow hadn't heard of it.

This is way late to the party, but... Avenue Q was that memo, I'm guessing.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:46 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one should be a cock to a stranger, ever.
posted by dmit at 11:47 AM on September 11, 2009



I was Dobbs' dog-walker and still am his occasional plant waterer, which is why I'm in the know.


Anyone wanna write a mystery story in the style of a message board that slowly turns into a kind of detective agency?

(Oh wait, that was called The Sluts, nevermind)
posted by The Whelk at 11:50 AM on September 11, 2009


Actually, Solon, there was a 9/11 play with hand puppets that truthfully got produced. (I even think it was a sock puppet, to boot.) Either everything else was at the same time or just after.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:51 AM on September 11, 2009


Lawyer friend of mine refuses to give out free advise on the grounds that it is a waste of both parties time. He claims, with reason, that they do not value advice given out for free.

That may be true, but the more important reason is that you can't tap his malpractice insurance if it turns out he can't find his ass with both hands. That's the value in paying a lawyer to look over some boilerplate contract with one or two provisions inked in.

Similarly -- someone mentioned teeth way up above -- through a connection I got into a dentist's office to unfuck the work of another dentist. It involved the work of several people who get paid for their work, but I didn't pay a dime. In fact, I didn't even have a file. The guy was brilliant (and I knew this) but I didn't want to think about what might happen if something (new) went wrong under those circumstances.

Anyway, I will not play-test your videogame. Ok, I will.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2009


Play-testing video games is a lot less fun than you might think.
posted by Artw at 11:55 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The night was sultry.

The night was moist.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:56 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nobody actually ever asks me to do library things outside of the library. Which is too bad, since I keep a complete flannel-board version of "If you give a mouse a cookie" on me at all times.

..... I cannot possibly favorite this comment hard enough.
posted by webmutant at 12:01 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one should be a stranger to a cock, ever.

what? On first glance, that's what I saw.

shmegegge has it right on. If you want to do a thing, you might never get a chance to do it. Just do the thing. I think Kevin Smith's advice to people who ask him to read screenplays is "go make the movie". Like him or not, there's no denying that if you're asking Kevin Smith how to break into the biz, you're missing the answer right there in front of you.

However, If your plan is to make another Clerks...Aim higher, or at the very least wait until after lighting 101 to drop out of film school.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:09 PM on September 11, 2009


However, If your plan is to make another Clerks...

Then you and Kevin Smith have a lot in common.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:11 PM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


*waits for Jay and Silent Bob to show up at front door to try to kick his ass. Presents Jay and Silent Bob with kickass screenplay they just have to read...*
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:13 PM on September 11, 2009


EmpressCallipygos - Sheesh, people are even bolder about ripping off other work than I thought.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:16 PM on September 11, 2009


The night was moist.

You filthy bastard!
posted by Mister_A at 12:18 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyway, this is way cheaper than therapy.
posted by Mister_A at 12:19 PM on September 11, 2009


Nearly 250 comments in, and I'm still wondering if everyone's RTFA, which is pretty well-written regardless of your opinion of the advice, or if they just got stuck on the title. My experiences with both giving and receiving criticism on creative writing are mostly limited to the two creative writing courses that I took in college. The first course was almost gut-level; the nice old man who taught it was far too generous with the grades, at least with me. I based one of my assignments on a Springsteen song, and the only thing that I wrote in that class that I can still stand to read is a parody of "Annabel Lee" ("It was one or two Van Halen concerts ago/In that hick-town by the sea", and so forth).

Then I took the advanced creative writing course, which is where things got really grim. This was the class for people who were dead serious about becoming the next John Updike, or the next Stephen King or Harlan Ellison, and quite a few of them were pretty immune to the most basic, constructive criticism. We each had to present two lengthy assignments to the class, and one guy, who'd been working on his science fiction opus for at least a few years, gave us Chapter One, which was set on a space station in Earth orbit in the near future. In it, the birds fly, and the space station crew is puzzled as to why they've lost communications with the ground and there are all these radioactive clouds of dust covering the globe and so forth, when it was immediately obvious to everyone in the class as to what had happened; in other words, it's Space Station Idiot Ball. A couple months go by, the second assignment is due, the guy gives us Chapter Two... and the crew still hasn't figured it out, even after a number of us had patiently explained to this would-be wordsmith why it would be reasonable to expect that literal rocket scientists should have gotten a clue. That wasn't the only example; I think that some of the class members would have benefited greatly from spending the time that they used up in class and on the assignments availing themselves of the free counseling for students instead.

But if the quality of the writing varied wildly, the quality of the criticism was all over the place, and I most definitely include myself in the low end of the bell curve there. Quite frankly, I was a snarky little smartass more than once, which is to say more than once too often. I told one guy that a section of dialogue in which two characters are talking and seem to break into an exchange of non sequiturs sounded like Zippy the Pinhead talking to himself, which I still think is a pretty good line but, in the context of a classroom discussion, is a genuine dick move. (If I could go back in time, I would first apologize to the class for myself, then tell myself to stop being a dick, and also to quit my resident assistant position and get a real job before I graduated.) Eh, we were just kids, but still. I was a better writer, as casual as I was about it, than a lot of the kids who were serious about it, but I was generally a shittier critic.

So, to sum up: yeah, maybe Olson is insufficiently nurturing of your Special Snowflakeness, but that's not really his job, and besides, he's right about most of the people that think they have a crack at a screenwriting gig. Also, if I could go back in time to the fall semester of my senior year, I could tell myself to not be such a geek around Ann Baum... what do you mean I'm rambling? Get off my damn lawn!
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:20 PM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm kind of surprised at the people upset with this guy. Especially the people who somehow entitled to be considered "real" writers even though they haven't had any success. While it's technically true that anyone who writes is a "writer" the way everyone is a "motorist" when they get behind the wheel, that's not what's meant. You can divide writers into two groups: Those who have made money selling their ideas, and those who haven't. The second group contains a lot of people who are bad and will never make any money. The idea that people in the first group owe them something is a little silly. In fact, if there were less bad writers out there, it would actually be a lot easier for good writers to get noticed.
posted by delmoi at 12:23 PM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


This thread is solid gold purely for the amount of typos, malapropisms and tortured grammatical constructions perpetrated by self-identified writers.

JScalzi specifically excepted. Love your work, man. Keep it up.
posted by Aquaman at 12:24 PM on September 11, 2009


Hey, Aquaman - could I get you to talk to one of my fish for me? He seems a little lethargic. Come on, now, don't be koi...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:29 PM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


We each had to present two lengthy assignments to the class, and one guy, who'd been working on his science fiction opus for at least a few years, gave us Chapter One, which was set on a space station in Earth orbit in the near future. In it, the birds fly, and the space station crew is puzzled as to why they've lost communications with the ground and there are all these radioactive clouds of dust covering the globe and so forth, when it was immediately obvious to everyone in the class as to what had happened; in other words, it's Space Station Idiot Ball. A couple months go by, the second assignment is due, the guy gives us Chapter Two... and the crew still hasn't figured it out, even after a number of us had patiently explained to this would-be wordsmith why it would be reasonable to expect that literal rocket scientists should have gotten a clue.

It is this fear that keeps me from developing the Epic I wrote in High School. I don't care how much I re-work it or re-tool it over the years, the fear that I've created something like Halloween Jack describes keeps me from ever even considering putting it in a pitch

This thread is solid gold purely for the amount of typos, malapropisms and tortured grammatical constructions perpetrated by self-identified writers.

If you saw my first drafts you'd wonder if I could actually read English.
posted by The Whelk at 12:30 PM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, to sum up: yeah, maybe Olson is insufficiently nurturing of your Special Snowflakeness, but that's not really his job . . .

In fact it is exactly the opposite of his job. I'm happy and fulfilled in my career. I get to do a certain kind of writing for a living (legal), and I think I'm fairly good at that particular, narrow specialty.

What I am not -- what I will never be -- is a poet. This fact that would have been lost on me for years as I toiled away in an obscure MFA program somewhere had Archie Ammons not bluntly told me so after a semester-long creative writing seminar. He used exactly those words, and he was exactly right. He suggested I consider a career as a critic. I fled academia at once.
posted by The Bellman at 12:36 PM on September 11, 2009


Jeez, The Whelk, don't let that stop you. Professional writers make that sort of mistake all the time; Stephen King is fond of citing the example in Robinson Crusoe where Crusoe takes his clothes off, swims out to the sinking wreck of his ship, and fills his pockets with stuff. (King himself had to make at least two revisions to subsequent editions of The Stand regarding a small but important plot point involving Pay Day candy bars.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:39 PM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


How did we end up creating a culture of the amateur screenplay writer who tries to get his script sold?

By paying Shane Black a quarter-million dollars for Lethal Weapon.
posted by Lazlo at 12:39 PM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


This thread is solid gold purely for the amount of typos, malapropisms and tortured grammatical constructions perpetrated by self-identified writers.

Having been a professional editor for quite a long time, I can tell you that most writers who are worth a damn have huge blind spots in their writing. If it weren't for this, editors would be altogether unnecessary. And I am typotacular on Metafilter, but I turn in super clean copy when I get paid for it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:39 PM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Noted. I wasn't actually all that serious, but it is still amusing. No stranger to typos meself.
posted by Aquaman at 12:43 PM on September 11, 2009


So, I do improv comedy. I've been doing it for almost 20 years. I'm never going to be nationally known or anything, but I keep getting invited to do more, so I'm at least mediocre.

"Hey, you do improv comedy! Say something funny!" sounds to me like "dance, little monkey, dance."

It isn't easy being funny, especially in the wrong context, and being stopped on the street or in a hall and being asked to be funny significantly reduces the odds that funny will actually occur. Indeed, improv is a game of odds. You hope to hit about 70% of the time - on a good night, 80% - but can leave with your head held high if you hit 60%.

Usually, I'm performing with several other trained improvisers whom I've known for years on a stage with an audience large enough to reach the "critical mass" required for laughter. Most of the funny things we do while improvising are in response to something another improviser.

So, anyhow, I confess this is categorically different from being asked to do work for free. It is similar, though, in that it shows that many people don't really understand certain professions well enough and, based on their lack of understanding, make unreasonable requests.

So what do I do when somebody asks me to say something funny?

"Knock Knock"
"Who's there?"
"Impatient Chicken"
"Impatient Chicken wh...."
"BAWK BAWK BAWK"

It isn't improvised, but I get to act like a chicken for a few seconds during the regular day. Win/Win.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:43 PM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


So…want to see this crap I took? No, dood, look at the SIZE of the f’ing thing. It’s weird because you’d have thought I ate a three pound burrito or something the day before, but no, nothing. I just had a burger and some chips. But look at this guy. It’s like a whale. It’s coiled all the way through the whaddya call it, the bottom of the toilet there where the water goes down…just LOOK at the mass of that mother. The tip has actually broken the surface water. It’s laying on the inside of the bowl like it’s a beached whale. You’d have to kill this thing with a shovel first before you flushed it down. Even then you better have the plunger handy. And that’s without even the toilet paper. Dood, look at this thing! It’s nut brown with patches like spinach or something. But I ate no spinach. Just a burger. I had a coke too. Where’d the green stringy stuff come from then? No, dood, day before I had pizza and before that I had a cheese omlet. And I crapped before that. Dood, just look at this turd I laid down in the john, willya? C’mon man! Practically has muscles in it. It’s the size of Popeye’s forearm. Just look at this thing man, it’ll take like two minutes tops. And then I’ll flush. If I can. Probably flood the whole john. Dood, just look at this dookie. If it’s not what I’m saying, you can give me a swirly. But just look at it!
--------------
…I will not save your fucking life. No, that doesn’t work. Writing is art, but it’s not altruism.

That said, a lot of artists are pretty exclusionary about their work. I mean, you go to a mountain climbers group, ask about a particular peak, they’ll tell you all sorts of stuff, give advice, etc. Don’t go this route, go that one, maybe use ‘x’ equipment, etc.
Artists – and I’m talking about business, not what this guy is talking about – completely different. You can’t talk like you’re serious about succeeding or accomplishing anything. Because suddenly you’re not a ‘real’ artist. “Oh, you’re not actually going to try to reach the summit, are you?”
“Uh, yeah.”
“No, no. Real climbers climb to climb. Actually getting to the top, well, that’s just selling out.”

Sort of the same deal with martial artists. “Yeah, I just beat the hell out of that guy.”
“Well, yeah, but you’re not a real martial artist.”
“Huh? I won.”
“But all you did was capitalize on a mistake he made then stomp on him with your foot and not let him up.”
“Uh…yeah”
“No, see, you should have used dragon watering jade, then…”
“Dude, I won the fight. I beat him straight up. He's out cold.”
“You didn’t really win.”

But too – you get the guys asking for advice “Dood! What if a guy has a knife and he attacks me like this?” “Well, uh, there’s no set way, all engagements are fluid, but one way is – this” “But what if it’s a Spyderco knife and he’s a ninja?”
“Yeah, I can’t really… why don’t you just take my class?”
“Dood, why are you being a dick? You’re not a real martial artist. They don’t teach for money. They teach because they’re good.”
“…so how do they feed their families?”
“They don’t have families. They’re warrior monks dood!”

A lot of folks undervalue the actual work part of people’s work and I think – something that’s overlooked in the screed – that’s aiming more as a shortcut to success rather than an earnest inquiry, the way you’d ask a climber for advice, into how to be successful.
So I think he's right. It's more about validation. And to give that, knowing it's counterproductive to actually helping the person, it's bad advice that will result in failure, you would be forcing him into being a bastard and to help you validate your excuse as to why you're not a success.
But yeah, just climb the f'ing mountain.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:44 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can divide writers into two groups: Those who have made money selling their ideas, and those who haven't. The second group contains a lot of people who are bad and will never make any money.

And, to be fair, the first group contains a lot of people who are bad and have figured out how to milk a sales-driven, lowest common denominator market. (Or should I be posting in the chick-lit thread?)
posted by naju at 12:45 PM on September 11, 2009


Having been a professional editor for quite a long time, I can tell you that most writers who are worth a damn have huge blind spots in their writing.

You're just saying that because you are a failed writer and perpetrate typos, malapropisms and tortured grammatical constructions.

I keed, I keed! Seriously.
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:46 PM on September 11, 2009


King himself had to make at least two revisions to subsequent editions of The Stand regarding a small but important plot point involving Pay Day candy bars.

The chocolate, right?...

That stuck out for me, but the rest of the book was rich enough that I just rolled with it. King also apparently had to tweak a section of The Green Mile after both he and an editor failed to notice that he'd had a character who was in a straitjacket wipe sweat off his own face. The point is: this kind of shit happens. :-)

As for the bad teen epics: Whelk, have you ever heard of Bad Teen Novel?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:47 PM on September 11, 2009


This thread is solid gold purely for the amount of typos, malapropisms and tortured grammatical constructions perpetrated by self-identified writers.

Aw, come on, metafilter shouldn't be a busman's holiday.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:48 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yep, the chocolate! His first revision was to make them Milky Ways, IIRC, but since another bit has someone being able to read the wrappers in dim light because of the bright orange lettering, they became chocolate Paydays.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:51 PM on September 11, 2009


Sheesh, people are even bolder about ripping off other work than I thought.

You have no idea. (The "ripoff of Who Framed Roger Rabbit" I was talking about upthread? I wasn't making it up. I changed a couple details so as not to be obvious, but that was it.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on September 11, 2009


Also noted: I was whinging about having to do free work related to my day job earlier in the week, too!

(Note, if you write how-to books, there should totally be a limit as to how much handholding you are expected to do when someone you don't even know writes in and demands to be taught how to do the prerequisite skill your how-to patterns use. I should get bonus points for every time I've read "I've been XXX-ing for YY years and your pattern is WRONG" when they are actually the ones who don't know what the hell they're doing).

So no, I will not fix your fucking craft project either.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:56 PM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't.

(By the way, here's a simple way to find out if you're a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you're not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)


Well, that would be true if being a writer were a boolean variable, and I can understand how someone in the arts in which competency has no clear objective measure might feel more secure believing there was a clear line separating them from those others who only think they're any good, . . .

I'd like to see what his response would have been if he were forced to read some of his early efforts, not knowing they were his. I wonder if when he writes he ever allows himself to doubt his skill.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:58 PM on September 11, 2009


I'm still wondering if everyone's RTFA

The essence of it has been mentioned here and there throughout the thread: "He's not really objecting to doing it, he's objecting to people asking him for a critique who, it turns out, do not actually even want a critique, just praise for their meager efforts."

Everyone else is just having fun, or rightfully dumping on A History of Violence.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:58 PM on September 11, 2009


I'm just here for the participatory hallucination.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:03 PM on September 11, 2009


If it's any consolation, I'll read your fucking script.
posted by Camofrog at 1:03 PM on September 11, 2009


MetaFilter: Just here for the participatory hallucination.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:06 PM on September 11, 2009


"Stephen King is fond of citing the example in Robinson Crusoe where Crusoe takes his clothes off, swims out to the sinking wreck of his ship, and fills his pockets with stuff."

"Pocket" was the 16th century euphemism for "asshole."
posted by klangklangston at 1:11 PM on September 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


Joey Michaels: "So, I do improv comedy."

jesus, brave of you to admit it. do they have 12 step programs for that? they oughta.
posted by shmegegge at 1:12 PM on September 11, 2009


...fills his pockets with stuff..."Pocket" was the 16th century euphemism for "asshole."

So Robinson Crusoe had more than one asshole... meaning he must be...

MetaFilter!
posted by Mister_A at 1:15 PM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Mine is: No, I will not look at your fucking vacation photos.

Actually I will, because I like looking at photos and it's not really the same time investment as reading terrible writing, but I will not tell you how to turn your crappy vacation photos into some kind of glamorous globe trotting travel photography business because I don't fucking know and if I did I wouldn't tell you - I'd be on a beach somewhere drinking something with a colorful umbrella in it.

One time I was trying to cash some sort of weird postal money order from some weird South American country that was made out to MyName Photography. After enduring 45 minutes of a clueless postal clerk trying to figure out how to cash this thing she busted out the crappy vacation photos and asked for a critique (you should have seen the expressions of the people in line behind me). If I hadn't needed that money so bad I probably would have pulled a dick move too. Photography is bad enough because everyone has a camera and everyone is a photographer - I can't imagine having to turn down wannabe scriptwriters every time I left my apartment.
posted by bradbane at 1:20 PM on September 11, 2009


I'd like to see what his response would have been if he were forced to read some of his early efforts, not knowing they were his.

I'm guessing he'd dump on it, say something along the lines of, "You've got a long way to go kid if you think you have a chance of making it in this biz." And then maybe follow it up with, "But if you ARE serious about being a writer, what do you care what I think? Just keep doing it. You'll get better."

I wonder if when he writes he ever allows himself to doubt his skill.

He's a writer, so yes.
But he's also a pro, so I doubt if he'd ever admit as much to a client.
posted by philip-random at 1:24 PM on September 11, 2009


METAFILTER: more than one asshole.

FTFY
posted by philip-random at 1:25 PM on September 11, 2009


Now I'm really, really embarrassed about that email I sent to Denis Johnson. Poor man.
posted by staggering termagant at 1:29 PM on September 11, 2009



Now I'm really, really embarrassed about that email I sent to Denis Johnson.

Haha! What did you ask him, how to be an NBA point guard?

{pss pssssp psss pssst}

Quiet you I'm riffing. Anyway, so, thing is, he's dead! Haha! SOOooo I don't think you've got postage–

{PSST PSSS PSSSP PSS PSSS PSS}

And, uh, he...

{pss pss pss}

So there's one with one "s"?

{pss pss pssst}

Uh, so carry on then.
posted by Mister_A at 2:03 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, I will not pay $5,000 for your crappy printing equipment.
posted by pantsonfire at 2:04 PM on September 11, 2009


Whoops, I meant "one with one 'n'." Where's that edit feature when you need it?
posted by Mister_A at 2:07 PM on September 11, 2009


jesus, brave of you to admit it. do they have 12 step programs for that? they oughta.

I have a lot of respect for improv comedy. Those guys take a lot more abuse than most performers. Well, except mimes, but that's understandable.

You put yourself way out on a limb and do a little dance and just invite people to take shots at you. But the people who are good at it can really work a room, and there's a lot of skill involved which only comes after years of experience ... and hecklers.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:23 PM on September 11, 2009


You can divide writers into two groups: Those who have made money selling their ideas, and those who haven't. The second group contains a lot of people who are bad and will never make any money.

I don't really disagree with you, but it's worth pointing out that the piece of writing I have been paid the most for-- by a long shot-- is also just about the worst thing I've ever written and actually shown to someone. Getting paid for it really doesn't mean much more in terms of quality than you happened to show it so someone who was ready to write a check.
posted by COBRA! at 2:24 PM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Writing is the hardest thing I've ever attempted (next to stand-up comedy). Way harder than climbing in a boxing ring, even.

I've been shilling stories for my old man the last couple of years. Mostly just to motivate the crazy old bastard to write them down before he kicks the bucket. I've re-told some of his stories here and elsewhere and people seem to really like them. So somebody I know has done work for This American Life. I've never bugged him about it. I just occasionally would tell him these stories when were shooting the shit. Eventually he told me I and my dad should think about doing a segment. My trap worked.

So I research it a bit. Finally I call my dad and tell him about it. He's real excited. Then I sit down to go over what stories we want to cover so we can record them. Maybe about the war. And he stares at me like my face is on fire. All this adorable detail the man is capable of regurgitating is gone. It's like "War? What War?" For seventy years we can't get this guy to shut up and when it comes to getting it all on record the only thing he can come up with is four hours of dirty limericks and how much he hates George Bush.

So my wife wants me to surreptitiously record him. Which seems underhanded. I'm planning a writing retreat with him on the island and I figure we're just gonna have to get drunk at some bar and talk to strangers becuase that's when he shines.
posted by tkchrist at 2:25 PM on September 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


I will not find your fucking book on the sh...oh, wait. That's my job.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:26 PM on September 11, 2009


I kinda do want to read the script.
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:37 PM on September 11, 2009


I know working writers have agents, so I would certainly ask him to pass it on to his agent if he seemed open to it and I didn't feel like I was imposing too much.

Unless you have saved the person's life it is imposing too much.

Seriously, I love books and I love new books and I occasionally offer people free critiques/developmental edit suggestions if I like their ideas enough and "Can you show this to your agent" would be imposing too much.

If I want to show your manuscript to my agent, I will ask you. With screenplays, it's even harder to get an agent, so I imagine most screenwriters feel at least as intensely about it as I do.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:50 PM on September 11, 2009


I will not... uh... hmmm... you know, it's never been made clear to me quite what I do. So maybe I will.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:51 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Can you show this to your agent" would be imposing too much.

Yeah, this is far more imposing than asking me to read something.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:11 PM on September 11, 2009


Unless you have saved the person's life it is imposing too much.

Apparently, that's about what it takes to get a producer to read your script.
posted by blenderfish at 3:24 PM on September 11, 2009


You know what...I've made an executive decision: I WILL shush your children. I will also lend out your DVDs to complete strangers. There, I feel like that's a good compromise.
posted by Biblio at 3:25 PM on September 11, 2009


I will not look at your fucking maps.

Wait, yes, I will. I LOVE MAPS!
posted by desjardins at 3:26 PM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I SO WANT "And of course, Cardinal Richelieu is played by a hand puppet." TO BECOME THE NEXT BIG MEFI CATCHPHRASE.

The closest I ever came to Big Time Hollywood Writing was when I was brought 'on staff' to do song and commercial parodies for a Radio Comedy Service in the late 80s. I was replacing a guy who'd gotten a gig on a hit sitcom. But the guy was Tom Arnold. While I was there, one of the other writers sold a script to a new sitcom and took a couple weeks off from the radio hijinks to do a second draft and then hang out with the show's staff while they rewrote it. The show? "Normal Life" with Dweezil & Moon Unit Zappa (Barney Miller's Wojo and Laverne's Shirley as their parents)... and he had previous credits.

I did meet Ken Levine of M*A*S*H and Cheers fame way back when he was a disc jockey using the air name "Beaver Cleaver" (because he was one of the few Top 40 Jocks with a high immature voice) and he didn't even remember me when I mentioned it in a comment on his blog (no surprise). DON'T ask him to read your script unless you pay to get into one of his "Sitcom Room" workshops (which appears to be an excellent - and NON-ripoff - resource for anybody trying to break into TV writing, but still NO GUARANTEES).

I also remember calling a radio talk show in the 70s when two other writer/producers from M*A*S*H were being interviewed and asking how they got on one of TV's greatest shows when their previous credit was "The Waverly Wonders" starring Joe Namath. They collectively hemmed and hawed and tried to explain that any kind of experience is good for getting in the door, but the spec script they wrote for M*A*S*H was way more important.

I tried to write a sitcom spec script myself once, but changed channels before the second commercial break...
posted by wendell at 3:28 PM on September 11, 2009


" "Pocket" was the 16th century euphemism for "asshole." "

I see. Michael Jackson named his 20th century kid "Blanket."
Thoughts?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:32 PM on September 11, 2009


Huh. I really liked A History of Violence. It's a pretty damn good movie. It's no Eastern Promises, but fuckit, it's a pretty damn good movie.
posted by mediareport at 3:45 PM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Getting into this way way late but...

A while back I read an article that was basically a series of diary entries about a writer doing a big signing tour (think it might have been Terry Pratchett). Part of it was a running tally of how many people left manuscripts for him to read...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:46 PM on September 11, 2009


He adapted A History of Violence from the excellent graphic novel and wrote Infested: Invasion of the Killer Bugs.

Dude, my cousin's in that second one! It's not supposed to be very good.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:53 PM on September 11, 2009


If you've not read the original comic of A History Of Violence you should really check it out. The film is basically only half of it with a new final act tagged on the end to give it a conclusion. Though there's the caveat that the comic itself, is really really fucked up.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:57 PM on September 11, 2009


No, I will not read your Perl script.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:57 PM on September 11, 2009


so I can't tell... does mean I should stop writing my sci-fi homage to Patrick O'brien that has Space Pirates instead of 18th century sailors? because... I mean... fucking Space Pirates, dude!
posted by tkchrist at 3:57 PM on September 11, 2009


There's an old story about chess legend Paul Morphy that I only half-remember, but it goes like this: Morphy is sitting in front of a board in some pub somewhere, and he's asked for a game. Morphy accepts, and removes his own queen from the board before play begins. Offended, the other man says "You don't even know me! I could be just as good as you!"

Morphy replies, "Sir, if you were as good as I, then I would already know who you are."
"Hi, I'm Darryl Strawberry."

"Hi, I'm Homer Simpson. What position do you play?"

"Right field."

"But I play right field! Are you better than me?"

"Well, I don't know you. But yes."
posted by Flunkie at 4:04 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


A more courteous, funnier version of the same sentiment is expressed in Teresa Neilsen Hayden's Slushkiller post.

Reading bad writing, or even mediocre writing, is sad, depressing work. And editors don't even have to critique the thing -- they just stuff an rejection form in an envelope and that's the end of it. No one shows up at their office and cries.

When I give someone a D, I have to produce a a page of clear, helpful and encouraging explanations as to why their work merits a 53/100, and how, precisely, they can improve their work the next time. And -- this is the hard part -- I have to do so without stating obvious things like "learn to construct a grammatical sentence", "never submit the first draft" and "proofread", because saying such things will hurt their feelings, and what do I know, anyway.

Far too many people assume that writing takes no effort whatsoever. Or worse yet, that their grade depends on the amount of 'really hard work' they put into it.

Mind you, I'm in that warm fuzzy happy place: I have two papers under submission I've not heard back on yet, and I'm waiting for the proofs of my book to come back from the copy editor. In about two months I will be in hell, correcting proofs and cursing over rejection letters of my own.
posted by jrochest at 4:13 PM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


lemmie see if I can get this right;

tl;dr

(asshole)
posted by Drasher at 4:16 PM on September 11, 2009


It's funny - I'm a computer expert but very few of my friends ask me to fix their computers and sometime they suffer because they don't ask me something that'd take me two seconds to direct them to the right spot.

Part of it is that I don't do Windows and they know it. I really think a lot of it is that they don't want to waste my time, in the same way that I wouldn't ask a dentist friend to look at my teeth. (New Yorkers are pretty cool about work/life separation...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:18 PM on September 11, 2009


I'm tempted to send him a porn script. Then he truly wouldn't be reading my fucking script.
posted by never used baby shoes at 4:23 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have to do so without stating obvious things like "learn to construct a grammatical sentence", "never submit the first draft" and "proofread", because saying such things will hurt their feelings, and what do I know, anyway.

I don't quite get this. They're paying you, why should you spare their feeling? You should build up how horrid and cruel you'll be in advance, before they get anything back, and then be businesslike, terse and somewhat friendly, that's what I did when I taught math (which was admittedly quite different...)

"Make sure that each sentence is grammatical before anyone sees it, in the same way that you'd make sure your parachute was packed before you jumped out of a plane."

"If you don't proofread, it means you aren't willing to read your own material - why should anyone else?"

And honestly, putting smiley faces and such on comments really works. It's stupid, it diminishes you slightly, but it really does de-emphasize the negative and gets people to believe that these are constructive comments.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:23 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I will not read your dissertation.

Professors are not actually allowed to say this. It's a moment where I'm glad that i didn't find the tenure-track research university position I tried for. (Struggling humanities discipline, too many Ph.Ds, end of story.)

Undergraduate papers don't count; they are usually farmed out to grad student TAs.
posted by bad grammar at 4:33 PM on September 11, 2009


I have to do so without stating obvious things like "learn to construct a grammatical sentence", "never submit the first draft" and "proofread", because saying such things will hurt their feelings, and what do I know, anyway.

I don't quite get this. They're paying you, why should you spare their feeling? You should build up how horrid and cruel you'll be in advance, before they get anything back, and then be businesslike, terse and somewhat friendly, that's what I did when I taught math (which was admittedly quite different...)
Because it may well be the case that the student did (or thinks he did) learn to construct a grammatical sentence, did submit a final draft, well worked over from previous versions, and did proofread, and still came up with a poor result. Sometimes you have a student who is going to do all of those things and still not be able to produce a good paper.

"If you're not willing to read your own paper, why should I?" is one of the great lines I've read on a syllabus. I know you didn't come up with it yourself, Ned Gallagher, but it made an impression on me.
posted by deanc at 4:40 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe the correct response is "Well I guess I could cancel my volunteer time reading to terminally ill children at the pediatric hospice to make time to read your script." Then if they don't say "oh... never mind" you try a different tactic, like punching them in the face.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:40 PM on September 11, 2009


I already have a button on my jacket that says "your screenplay sucks." Saves time. I've read my friends' scripts, and liked them, but the whole quixotic endeavor of writing for industry is so depressingly impacted and so scanty in its generosity, I'm just happy to be in the ivory tower part. So, from a (aspiring?) media scholar, I will not justify your personal fucking faith in Hollywood.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:42 PM on September 11, 2009


They're not farmed out to grad students in my neck of the woods: our grad students teach their own sections of First year English.

I do all my own marking, alas. Which is as it should be.

I got the tenure-track research university position, bad grammar, and it's usually a pretty sweet gig. But not when grading is involved.
posted by jrochest at 4:42 PM on September 11, 2009


lupus_yonderboy, it's not so much that I have to spare their feelings as that I have to get them to listen to what I have to say. Resentment clogs the brain. And many students haven't ever experience criticism, or at least it seems that way.
posted by jrochest at 4:46 PM on September 11, 2009


> And editors don't even have to critique the thing -- they just stuff an rejection form in an envelope and that's the end of it.

Yeah I agree. When I get a paper back from a scientific journal, it's usually filled with comments on how to make it better, or it points out flaws that I can then correct. Even a rejection (after the sting has faded away) is an opportunity to learn to write/do science better. But when I got back a short story from a magazine, all I got was a statement that it didn't work for them. While I understand that the rules of the game are different, it's still frustrating that I don't even know where I went wrong.
posted by dhruva at 4:56 PM on September 11, 2009


"so I can't tell... does mean I should stop writing my sci-fi homage to Patrick O'brien that has Space Pirates instead of 18th century sailors? because... I mean... fucking Space Pirates, dude!"

I realize that you're joking... but the answer is no. Keep writing about space pirates, or whatever it is that floats your boat. Even if the story sucks, it's good practice that will help you do better next time.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:03 PM on September 11, 2009


shmegegge: BAWK BAWK BAWK

I think we've both learned something.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:23 PM on September 11, 2009


I realize that you're joking...

I am so totally not joking. Space Pirates, Evil Space Pope, A 9ft Tall Jewish Robot Boyfriend. The whole schmear.
posted by tkchrist at 5:24 PM on September 11, 2009


But when I got back a short story from a magazine, all I got was a statement that it didn't work for them. While I understand that the rules of the game are different, it's still frustrating that I don't even know where I went wrong.

You probably didn't go "wrong" anywhere. Every literary magazine receives at least five times as much good stuff as it can use (and twenty times that much stuff it can't use).

Often "This didn't work for us" means nothing more than "this didn't work for us because we got fifty other stories just as good, and we didn't happen to pick yours because you had blackberries in the title and the editor hates blackberries, so she went with the story about kiwi fruit instead."

The place to get feedback on fiction is in writers' groups, not from rejection letters.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:36 PM on September 11, 2009


DUDE, SPACE PIRATES. It can run as a double feature with my awesome screenplay for a Star Trek film wherein Kirk and Spock are sent back in time to the 18th century as gay unicorns battling piracy upon the Spanish Main.

I only wish I was making this up. WTF SELF.
posted by elizardbits at 5:50 PM on September 11, 2009


I'm a writer and there's no magic bullet to getting your plays or screenplays produced. Getting Josh Olson to read them probably isn't going to help you one bit anyway. Unless you are already a friend of his - because he will read those scripts and he will remember your name. If you're a nobody who gets a somebody to read your script, even if they like it, they aren't necessarily going to do anything about it anyway.

Which is why writing is all about relationships. You can't just send scripts to places and expect that to work. Sometimes - very rarely - it might. But it helps if you've got relationships. There's no magic way to form those relationships either - I've met professionals by attending conferences, opening nights, meeting them after shows and being randomly friended on Facebook.

And don't think because you're a writer that your best bet is just to get to know other writers. Meet actors. Meet directors. Meet producers. And while your ultimate goal (right now) is to get them to read some of your work, be open to reading other people's work, too. Don't expect people are happy to do something for you, if you aren't willing to do the same for them. Or friends of theirs.

Now I'm mostly talking about my own experiences in the theatre world where I live, which is a small community and probably two degrees separates everyone. (Except for the Facebook thing, that is a crazy Hollywood connection but even that's not a magic bullet.) But writers should really look to form relationships locally before trying to shoot for Hollywood. I know, in my case, that actually puts me only three degrees from Hollywood anyway, but that's irrelevant right now as most of my success is in shorter pieces (plays, films) produced locally anyway.

I know sometimes us writers feel like we're unappreciated geniuses. But there's a lot of bitching about Josh Olson in this thread when I think he has a point - don't try putting the hard word on somebody you don't know. Because even if you are a genius, people might miss that because you are trying to take advantage of someone you don't really know.

Build relationships and stop expecting there to be a magic bullet. Becoming a writer takes time.
posted by crossoverman at 5:56 PM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Becoming a working writer takes time. Hopefully you're already a writer. Unless all this talk about relationships has talked you out of it.
posted by crossoverman at 5:58 PM on September 11, 2009


I have an idea for a movie...

Write it out in prose. Then try to get it published in print. Good Luck!
posted by ovvl at 6:01 PM on September 11, 2009


I am not a big fan of Stephen King, but on my summer vacation I read a copy of the 2nd edition of The Stand, and I thought it was pretty good story-telling.

My favorite insight from his book on writing: Vincent Price + Roger Corman = excellent movie.
posted by ovvl at 6:13 PM on September 11, 2009


346 comments. This is the most 9/11 of the 9/11 threads.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:17 PM on September 11, 2009


Empress Callipygos that is pretty funny. I guess one of the plays that I worked on way back when had the holy trifecta - 911, Joyce Carol Oates played by a sock puppet, and an actress walking around in a t-shirt without underwear at one point for no discernible reason. Oh, yeah, and Heather Graham.
posted by stagewhisper at 6:18 PM on September 11, 2009


sent back in time to the 18th century as gay unicorns

I think "gay" is implied by just the unicorns. Let alone with Kirk and Spock.

See, you need to leave a little for the subtext. Gives egg-head reviewers something to chew on and pat them selves on the back for noticing.

S'ok. Rookie mistake.
posted by tkchrist at 6:25 PM on September 11, 2009


I will read your script. Send 'em to me.

[I am not in the entertainment industry, so your mileage may vary]
posted by Neale at 6:26 PM on September 11, 2009


Metafilter: We will not _________ your fucking ________.
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:57 PM on September 11, 2009


You know what? I screwed up my own joke, which I threw up here before I went to my other job. I meant to say:

I will not read it in a plane
I will not read it on a train
I will not read it in a crypt
I will not read your fucking script

posted by yhbc at 7:10 PM on September 11, 2009


Hey, remember The Fiction Bitch?

Yeah. Neither do I.
posted by SteelyDuran at 7:18 PM on September 11, 2009


Actually, I meant to say: Price + Corman x Poe = good.
posted by ovvl at 7:31 PM on September 11, 2009


This is the reason most people think Hollywood is full of effete elitists. Most any blue collar worker, particularly if they're in a small town, will gladly help you out in a fix, even if it's what they do for a living.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:10 PM on September 11, 2009


Do you think you could help me with a web page
Do you think you could help me set up a database
Do you think you could write me a little program
Do you think you could teach me a little about graphics
Do you think you could look at my computer
Do you think you could go with me to dinner on saturday
Do you think you could love me
Do you think you could advise me about what video card to buy
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:20 PM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm totally putting a Josh Olson character in my next script.
posted by Balisong at 8:21 PM on September 11, 2009


Most any blue collar worker, particularly if they're in a small town, will gladly help you out in a fix, even if it's what they do for a living.

These aspiring writers aren't "in a fix," though.

This isn't a matter of once in a blue moon "hey, can you take a look at my toilet? It's clogged." This is more like, "Hey, I should come work for you -- I just fixed all the pipes in my house using duct tape and bubble gum, come take a look and tell me what you think!" And it's everyone asking you that, not just some random nut.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:42 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I am not -- what I will never be -- is a poet. This fact that would have been lost on me for years as I toiled away in an obscure MFA program somewhere had Archie Ammons not bluntly told me so after a semester-long creative writing seminar.

sigh - what the hell does HE* know about whether YOU are a poet? it's not the kind of thing you can let someone else decide for you - if you agree, then fine

but 20 years from now, who knows?

*i say this with full respect for mr ammons and his poetic gift, which is considerable
posted by pyramid termite at 8:48 PM on September 11, 2009


The night was sultry.

The night was moist.


SCENE - An overlit, snowladen college campus

NARRATOR - It was a stark and dormy night ...
posted by pyramid termite at 8:51 PM on September 11, 2009


I am so totally not joking. Space Pirates, Evil Space Pope, A 9ft Tall Jewish Robot Boyfriend. The whole schmear.

I fully support you in this endeavor, just because it sounds awesome. If you need me to make up a fake hollywood story about you, complete with links, I'm your guy
posted by P.o.B. at 9:22 PM on September 11, 2009


so I can't tell... does mean I should stop writing my sci-fi homage to Patrick O'brien that has Space Pirates instead of 18th century sailors? because... I mean... fucking Space Pirates, dude!

Dude, I'm already writing Space Pirates for Warners.

Now do you understand why I am not going to read your fucking script?
posted by unSane at 9:26 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: This isn't a matter of once in a blue moon "hey, can you take a look at my toilet? It's clogged."

If talking shop or honing the craft isn't at least marginally more fulfilling for you than cleaning toilets, or you think you're too good to do it anymore, than you shouldn't be an artist.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:28 PM on September 11, 2009


Reading an unsolicited script is a triumph of hope over experience. Listen, 95% of the scripts I read from professional screenwriters (including names you know) are COMPLETE SHIT. The proportion from unproduced screenwriters is more like 99.5%. People think that if they know how to format a script and have read Syd Field, they are qualified. They perceive the bar to entry as low when actually it is extremely high.

It's not like there aren't a million books you can read, a hundred forums you can join, or dozens of script contests you can enter. This is how screenwriters ACTUALLY enter the business. Hoping your pal in the biz will give you a leg up is just fucking lazy.

The only good friend-script I ever read was a guy I used to hang with on misc.writing.screenplays. I knew from many conversations that he had done the work and understood the game at the same level I did. I was lucky and got a break; I subsequently read a script he sent me (because I knew he was not just some wannabe) and it was pretty good. Several years later a job came up which I couldn't do, and I recommended him. He was working for DHL at the time as a manager. He got the job and became a full-time writer as a result.

But the point is I already knew him and already respected the way he thought about writing. I think I had sent him scripts of mine to read as a peer.

That's really the key. It is why Hollywood is socially stratified into A, B and C lists. Because otherwise your every fucking waking fucking moment is some guy or chick pushing a script into your hand. That is all.
posted by unSane at 9:51 PM on September 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Now I'm actually curious how many mefites have actually written screenplays.
posted by empath at 10:06 PM on September 11, 2009


A bunch of working writer friends were talking about this article today, and one asked, "Did you ever ask a pro to read your stuff?" And this might seem unbelievable, but not one of us had. We had all asked friends, and family members, and teachers, and entered contests and sent stuff to agents and producers and people whose job it is to read scripts. Of course, those of us who had managed to meet someone who wrote for a living had at least tried to mention that we were writing or had written or wanted to be writing. And every one of us eventually got someone to read our stuff -- because someone offered. But not one of us had ever walked up to someone we barely knew or had just met and asked "Hey, will you read my screenplay?"

And, for all the people slamming Josh Olson and talking about what a dick he is, Josh was actually one of the first people to read my work. Because he offered.
posted by OolooKitty at 10:11 PM on September 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


"I am so totally not joking. Space Pirates, Evil Space Pope, A 9ft Tall Jewish Robot Boyfriend. The whole schmear."

Seen it. (Oh, like Overdog's not Jewish? You can see he's circumcised)
posted by Smedleyman at 10:45 PM on September 11, 2009


I will say that there are fewer ways faster to lose friends than to review their music or edit their articles.
posted by klangklangston at 11:08 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I will not edit your fucking ncf files.

Who the hell am I kidding. No one is going to beg for my Netware skills.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:45 PM on September 11, 2009


I will not wash your dishes.
posted by vbfg at 12:35 AM on September 12, 2009


I will not comment in your fucking post.
posted by grouse at 12:46 AM on September 12, 2009


I'm a comic book artist. At conventions and in classrooms I've critiqued hundreds of portfolios for students and aspiring professionals, and I've noticed that there's a consistent, direct correlation between the talent of the aspirant and the value they place on my time. Good artists quickly open their portfolios, show me a few pages, and pay close attention to my advice. The most amateurish, clueless artists are the ones most likely to have a giant, unorganized bundle of half-finished pages, and to dismiss my concerns about their unclear storytelling with excuses that "I'd fix that before showing it to anyone big." (Actual quote from this year's San Diego Comicon!) Some have had the nerve to show me the same portfolio pieces two years in a row with nothing changed.

Giving a thoughtful critique is hard. Having it dismissed is a pain in the ass, and comics art is way, way easier to critique than a movie script. If I was Olson, I wouldn't be so gentle.
posted by Steve Lieber at 2:37 AM on September 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


I will not take the fucking script from your hand.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:33 AM on September 12, 2009


I will not even momentarily glance at the fucking script. Or at fucking you.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:40 AM on September 12, 2009


Aspiring screenwriters should present their movie ideas at Hollywood Pitch Fest.

This site has recordings of comedian Asterios Kokkinos pitching such great movie ideas as "President Baby", "Christ Heist" & "Good Cop/Gay Cop".
posted by cwhitfcd at 3:53 AM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


If talking shop or honing the craft isn't at least marginally more fulfilling for you than cleaning toilets, or you think you're too good to do it anymore, than you shouldn't be an artist.

You're not getting my point. The people Josh is talking about in his article aren't "talking shop" or trying to "hone their craft." They aren't interested in that. The only reason they want him to read their work is because they're convinced that's how they'll get to meet Steven Spielberg.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:22 AM on September 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's no escaping it... I may as well go into the tech support business.
posted by autodidact at 5:43 AM on September 12, 2009


Kinda-sorta related post from Writer Beware. Not about writing for film, but interesting nonetheless.
posted by Neofelis at 7:20 AM on September 12, 2009


Kinda-sorta related post from Writer Beware. Not about writing for film, but interesting nonetheless.

Uh, no, that is not what that link is at all.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:26 AM on September 12, 2009


I know. I just realized that. I mis-copied. Here's the link I intended:

http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2009/09/victoria-strauss-writers-myth-you-have.html

Sorry about that.

Now I'm slinking off to die of embarrassment.
posted by Neofelis at 7:28 AM on September 12, 2009


wow - i didn't know "whelming" could stand alone!
posted by electricsandwich138 at 9:20 AM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, I will not load your fucking CivIV savegame, and no, I will not smoke your fucking dope.

Oh, wait, I will totally do that. Email in profile.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:42 AM on September 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I will not wipe your child's butt.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:35 PM on September 12, 2009


I don't think it's about reading a script so much as presuming too much on a very casual acquaintance. I have no doubt that I could get Josh Olson to read my script, but I wouldn't go about it like the guy in the story did. Firstly, I would be damn sure that the version of my script he read was worth his time. This means I'd have shown it to several dozen highly literate (especially film-literate) people most of whom will have loved it, and any suggestions these people have made, I will have rationally considered and where it makes sense (and it probably will), I will have implemented those suggestions.

Secondly, I'd have made the reading of my script as easy as possible for him; I'd have a one-paragraph summary of the plot, a list of major characters with tag-lines describing them, a one-page summary of the plot, and storyboards for major scenes. It will take him less time to read the intro paragraph than it would to argue with me; if the paragraph grabs him, it will take him two minutes to read the page; if he actually likes it enough to read the script, he can skim it and gain a good sense of what is going on in it--seeing the final movie in his head--in about ten minutes.

Thirdly, I'd start with the assumption that he's here at a party or whatever to socialize or whatever and thinks of reading scripts as work, annoying work at that, and my asking him to read a script as an imposition on his time. On the other hand, as an intelligent and literate man, he's interested in stories. He doesn't want to read a fucking script. He probably does, under the right circumstances, want to hear a story. My story, oddly enough, will bear a remarkable similarity to the one-paragraph summary of my script.

Fourthly, I'd leverage my network, which according to my backstory is how I'm even here. Apparently he knows and likes my date. Assuming she knows and likes me--and has read, and really likes my script--it will be her, not me, who asks him to read my script, or preferably, listen to my story. Preferably, in the company of other people who have heard the story and liked it.

I might even try to pique his curiosity. I'd tell my story--and remember, I've tested my story out, on a lot of people, so I know as an objective fact that most people like it--to others at the party, and if I can do so without overtly being rude to Josh, I'll tell the story where he can't hear it but can see it being told. Ideally, he'll ask to hear my story, or more likely, someone from the group will say to him "you ought to hear this guy's story, Josh". And I will say "Josh? You're Josh Olson, the screenwriter who adapted History of Violence, right?" And I will say "I liked that movie." (Because I did like that movie. I wouldn't be showing my script to screenwriters whose work I didn't fucking like and/or wasn't familiar with. It also really, really helps, when dealing with human beings, to be able to tell them the truth.) And I will say "I'm Aeschenkarnos, nice to meet you. Josh, do you want to hear my story?"

(I will mention nothing about the idea of him plagiarizing me because it's a ridiculously offensive idea, along the lines of telling, say, a real estate agent that you're considering selling your house and what do you think it's worth and then suggesting to the agent that he better not put the story about that it's got termites so he can snap it up at a low price. As an aside it is actually okay to ask an agent you vaguely know to value your house because real estate agents (a) genuinely gain from a thorough tour of and considering the worth of random houses in a given area regardless of whether they sell them or not; (b) probably want to sell it for me; but let the agent set up an appointment to do the valuation, and mention it no further at the party.

On the other hand, if Josh brings up the sued for plagiarizing thing--which is silly, it's a story, he hears people tell stories all the time--I will say "All these other people have heard it, so you might as well hear it in case one of 'em tries to get you to read it as a script" and I'm pretty sure he'll find that amusing.)

So he will probably agree to hear the story and if he really likes it--because he is a screenwriter--he might even make the suggestion to me that I write it up as a screenplay, and then I will say "I've done some work along those lines, but I don't want to impose, can you recommend someone to professionally read it?" He might offer, or he might recommend someone. Either's good. The someone he recommends can be told that Josh Olson recommended they read my script, which is great for me. If they like it they'll feed that fact back to him, and they or I can then ask him to read it; if they hate it, they'll feed that back to him too, but he knows that and he wouldn't have recommended them if he thought they'd hate it. If he says "yeah, let me have a look" I can say "do you have two minutes to look at the one-page summary?" and at that point I can collect on the bet.

Just treat people with respect for their skills, do not impose, offer something for them to gain by doing what you want them to do (money's a pretty good offer, for the professional services of, say, a computer tech or a dentist), and make damn sure that you genuinely believe, and have reasonable objective evidence to support, that whatever you're asking them to do is worth their time and effort to do.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:27 PM on September 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


>> I'm the literary manager for a theater company; we get a lot of unsolicited submissions. Usually -- if they're paying attention -- they only send a few pages and a cover letter, like we ask them to. And I was once able to decide to reject something after reading only three sentences of the cover letter. Mind you, that third sentence read, "And of course, Cardinal Richelieu is played by a hand puppet."

This is why 299,999,994 Americans prefer Internet to theater.

I hope neither you nor your five friends get a job as literary manager for the Internet.
posted by Brosef K at 7:35 PM on September 12, 2009


This is why 299,999,994 Americans prefer Internet to theater.

*HURF* *DURF* INTERNET THEATER EATER.
posted by mrmojoflying at 8:13 PM on September 12, 2009


Shit. I've been working on a screenplay for Asteroids: The Movie for three months now, and I can't find anyone to fucking read it...
posted by kaibutsu at 9:16 PM on September 12, 2009


I will not help you find that book you're looking for...hmmm, doesn't work so well for librarians.

Psst, Biblio, you've been doing it again...
posted by saucysault at 9:40 PM on September 12, 2009


Bugger it. I'll never get to play Cardinal Richelieu now.
posted by flabdablet's sock puppet at 9:38 AM on September 13, 2009


WS Anderson should definitely do his Three Musketeers remake as a puppet show...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:57 AM on September 13, 2009


I will happily dispense your fucking meds. Come to DC, get hit by a car or stabbed or something, I'll hook you up with the good stuff!
posted by little e at 12:16 PM on September 13, 2009


So...
anyone got this guy's number or e-mail address? Memail me. TIA
posted by From Bklyn at 12:49 PM on September 13, 2009



This guy is right. I won't read your fucking script either. Nor will I hold your beer for one sec while you step outside to make a phone call to that woman you are trying to blow off and you know now is the time to call because she will be out. Nor will I come over to help you move a few pieces of heavy furniture just because I am 6'3 and weight 250lbs. Nor will I watch your dog for the weekend while you go on a blind date to Bonnaroo for the weekend and proceed to get blown out of your mind and either regret the weekend or fail to remember it. I won't be your "fake date" for that cousin's wedding either. Why would I want to take that abuse? Especially after that time when I was asked by your mom's cousin why we weren't married yet and I drunkenly blurted out, Married? She won't even fuck me yet."
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:27 PM on September 13, 2009


Now I'm actually curious how many mefites have actually written screenplays.

Ooooh... is that a new subsite I see on the horizon??
posted by hermitosis at 7:00 AM on September 14, 2009


wewillreadyourfuckingscripts.metafilter.com?
posted by Happy Dave at 7:16 AM on September 14, 2009


Now I'm actually curious how many mefites have actually written screenplays.

Two for me, neither of which were of a quality that I even offered for people to read. I saw them as an exercise in creativity because while I love screenplays, I don't really like movies, or the movie business and that is a bad, bad fit for a career as a screenwriter (or development for that matter). I've read a few thousand, though, sometimes a dozen drafts of the same project.
posted by mrmojoflying at 8:32 AM on September 14, 2009


I've edited a few scripts that died in the water. I actually like doing that, you can spot other people's blind spots much better than your own, and I much prefer working with people to create something and bouncing ideas off them rather than being all alone in the Creativity Cave. Never wrote a full screenplay myself but I did write an entire series outline and synopsis, and an entire graphic novel (although, in true half-ass first-bookness, I only wrote the first half thinking I'd have time to finish it while the artist worked, I did not and had to write the last half while it was being drawn. It's a somewhat ..dramatic shift in the storytelling which becomes painfully obvious around page 30. )
posted by The Whelk at 8:50 AM on September 14, 2009


Oh, right, I did write one once -- but I was only 17 and it was a collaboration with a friend for her TV production class, and while the resulting film is actually kind of interesting from a couple of perspectives, I wouldn't in the slightest consider it to be evidence I am the next Diablo Cody or anything.

(In a nutshell: eight teens having an encounter session and existential angst in a bomb shelter. A friend once described it as "a post-Apocalyptic Breakfast Club." Hey, it was the Cold War, and we were Concerned.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 AM on September 14, 2009



(In a nutshell: eight teens having an encounter session and existential angst in a bomb shelter. A friend once described it as "a post-Apocalyptic Breakfast Club." Hey, it was the Cold War, and we were Concerned.)


Huh, interesting.


See I was in Berlin once and visited The Museum Of The City Of Berlin's amazing, creepy, totally real-life-honest-to-god-built-by-the-government bomb shelter. It was like walking around inside pure, unrefined Cold War Terror. It struck me an *amazing* set for a locked room mystery/drama. You wouldn't have to change a thing! My Roger Corman "Never Loose Money On A Picture" gears were burning a mile a minute.

Then the tour guide mentioned that they have their annual Christmas party down there. That sold it. Think about it, young museum workers, office party in a bomb shelter, balloons and music and then BAM. Locked door. Sirens and nothing to do but wait and go crazy. And eat cake.

P.S I AM STILL AVAILABLE HOLLYWOOD
posted by The Whelk at 9:13 AM on September 14, 2009


That bomb shelters basically an underground car park. In the event of a full-on exchange it would do precisely fuck all good. Presumably it's just there to placate the masses and the real shelter for big-wigs is hidden somewhere deeper down.
posted by Artw at 9:19 AM on September 14, 2009


In our case, aliens were involved.

My friend came up with the concept: 8 kids suddenly all wake up and find that they're in a bare room without windows or doors, none of them knowing how they got there, most of them not knowing each other. As they're all going through the "omigod what's going on," a disembodied voice explains that he is of an alien race, one which has a symbiotic relationship with humans. And -- a nuclear war is breaking out on Earth right now, and so they've grabbed a random sample of humans to ensure the survival of their own species. But - they don't want anyone to stay against their will, so they've each got 24 hours to decide -- if they want to stay in the room, they'll live, but if they don't, they'll be beamed out of the shelter into certain death. The bulk of the film is the 24 hours, during which each of them decides whether they want to stay or go. At the end the survivors then get put into suspended animation for a gabillion years -- unbeknownst to them -- and then wake up to suddenly find a door in the room. They go out onto a re-seeded, rejuvinated Earth -- the voice comes back to tell them about the suspended-animation-and-we-healed-Earth-by-the-way, and -- oh, yeah, you weren't the only bunch we saved, and those people over there who are coming over to say hi are from the former Soviet Union. The two parties approach each other and tentatively shake hands.

...Yeah. I was kind of a Serious Child.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:23 AM on September 14, 2009


Add some puppets and a sex scene and somebody's got a fringe festival entry.
posted by The Whelk at 9:31 AM on September 14, 2009


We did have one kid who was pregnant, does that count? (She even had a whole monologue about how she was "living for her baby".

(Wow, I'm starting to think my script kinda sucked.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 AM on September 14, 2009


eight teens having an encounter session and existential angst in a bomb shelter.

I think we read that play in school... I remember a class discussion of the true horror of the situation in that there would be NO MORE NEW MUSIC!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:18 AM on September 14, 2009


I get the sense there was one particular person who touched this off and inspired (if that's the right word) Josh to write this piece.
posted by SteelyDuran at 3:21 PM on September 14, 2009


On the Asking of Favors From Established Writers from MeFi's own jscalzi.
posted by never used baby shoes at 12:10 PM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


man, scalzi just put that one to fucking bed. go you, jscalzi.
posted by shmegegge at 12:25 PM on September 15, 2009


In many ways, what jscalzi wrote there is not just applicable to writers. In particular, #2–4 ring true for me.
posted by grouse at 2:21 PM on September 15, 2009


Not only will jscalzi not read your novel, he won't favorite your comment either.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:30 PM on September 15, 2009


Harlan Ellison's Dramatic Reading of the Seussified "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script"
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:07 AM on September 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


Oh thank god I wasn't the only one to think Dr. Seuss. I was worried I was crazier than usual.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:21 AM on September 16, 2009


The poem, for your edification:

I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script
By Steve Jarrett
Inspired by an essay by Josh Olson
With apologies to Theodore Geisel...


I will not read your fucking script
I will not read it in a car
I will not read it in a bar
I will not have it in my house
I will not click it with my mouse
I will not read it here or there
I will not read it anywhere
I'd rather be tied up and whipped
Than have to read your fucking script

I will not read your fucking script
I will not read its exposition
I will not read its scene transitions
I will not read its dialogue
I will not read its epilogue
I'll leave its pages quite unflipped
I will not read your fucking script

I will not read your fucking script
I won't discuss its plot reversals
I won't attend its cast rehearsals
I won't discuss its complication
I won't discuss its adumbrations
I won't discuss its camera angles
Its syntax I won't disentangle
I won't critique its denouement
Nor its hero's tragic flaw
My lips remain securely zipped
I will not read your fucking script

I will not read your fucking script
I will not read it as a lark
I will not read it in the dark
I will not read it on a drunk
I will not read it in a funk
I will not read it on a dare
I will not read it for a scare
Until they lay me in my crypt
I will not read your fucking script
posted by Happy Dave at 5:22 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Fucking brilliant, fearfulsymmetry.
posted by grouse at 5:49 AM on September 16, 2009


"...based, with apologies appreciation, on the poem by Dr. Seuss, pronounced Dr. Soiss, not Dr. Soos."

oh Harlan, where do you get your wonderful ideas? for real, this is like a thing with him and I always want to know why he's the only person in the world who knows these things. I mean, I've seen documentaries starring the good Dr, interviews with him talking about his process, 60 minutes pieces about him, and in my 29 (nearly 30, actually) years this is the FIRST time anyone has ever ever EVER pronounced it that way, outside of how Mr. Geisel's middle name was originally pronounced:
wiki: Geisel's pen name is pronounced /ˈsuːs/ or /ˈsjuːs/, an anglicized pronunciation inconsistent with his German surname; Geisel switched to the Americanized pronunciation from German [ˈzɔʏs] because it "evoked a figure advantageous for an author of children’s books to be associated with—Mother Goose." [citation]
Let's call Harlan's pronunciation... speculative.
posted by shmegegge at 8:15 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


although that was still, fucking awesome.
posted by shmegegge at 8:17 AM on September 16, 2009


Metafilter: I'm starting to think my script kinda sucked.
posted by vibrotronica at 10:33 AM on September 16, 2009


« Older For hundreds of years, mariners have dreamed of an...  |  Today marks the end of John Al... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments