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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Good and The Bad

...it can all be ugly at times, so I'll leave that one out!

Anyway, this past Saturday, after synagogue, I went to lunch at the house of a family with whom I'm friendly. The husband is a screenwriter with some credits to his name (2 films produced by major studios, and many others optioned). I didn't ask him for permission to post on this, so I'm keeping things somewhat vague and generic in my descriptions. Sorry. Also at the table were myself, a documentary filmmaker, and assorted other people, among whom were a couple of lawyers.

One of the lawyers commented that he usually is at tables where there are more lawyers, and less film people, so he welcomed the opportunity to be in the minority. (I find that odd, within Los Angeles, but maybe it's just the people he hangs out with!) Inevitably, the conversation at one point turned towards film (thankfully late in the meal, since we are more as people than just our jobs).

The not-usually-in-the-minority lawyer asked a question that I get all the time. If there are so many screenplays out there, how come the movies that come out are so bad? I was somewhat glib in my (typical) response, but I still stand by it. There are two things worth mentioning. Firstly, if the movies that come out are bad, you should see the ones that don't come out. They're typically much worse.

But I also mentioned that there are many ways to make a bad movie out of a good script, while it is very hard (though not impossible) to make a good movie out of a bad script. On this note, my host spoke of his two produced films. The first was a pretty successful film, while the second did not do very well, despite some major attachments in actors and director. My host (predictably) felt that the script for the second was also a good one, but mentioned problems with the studio. He also mentioned a tendency of the actors to improvise a lot on set, and the director not quite reigning them in. The film was a comedy, and my host pointed out something interesting. He said they had a tendency to go with things that were funny on set, though they might not have worked for the film overall.

I had asked him earlier if he is typically on set during filming, and he said he had been for those films. But that his presence on the second set (the less successful one with the improvising) was less active. He was there, but he didn't do much. They didn't ask for his input or opinions much. So I take this all as a great example (albeit a vague and nameless one) of how a good script can be ruined. (I just realized, I should ask him to get me copy of the script so I can judge for myself.) The idea is, we as screenwriters are just the first step, and we all know how little respect the writer typically gets as the film moves forward.

What can we do about it? I don't know. But spread the word when a bad film comes out, it may not be the writer's fault. And if we think a film misfired, try to get your hands on an early script draft to see if the problems occurred via studio noted, poor directing, or acting gone awry.


On another note, I've finally gotten around to updating things around here. You may have already noticed the new picture up on top. While the old one was fun, this one is more recognizable as me. I thought it was funny when I mentioned my blog to someone who knew me, and he responded, "You're Fun Joel?!" Obviously, I was unrecognizable. So the new one is still fun and in my personality, but it also looks like me.

I've also updated the sidebar. Please note the new "Scribosphere Community" category. I've also removed inactive on unworking links, and added a number of links to blogs I read, though there are still plenty not on there.

Please don't get angry if I didn't link to you. I try to keep my links list more focused, as I think that more information ends up diluting the power of any individual pieces. But I do encourage everyone to check out the 150+ links in the Scribosphere Community link on my sidebar. David did a great (and presumably time consuming) job of setting that up for us. (Thanks, Dave!) And if you'd like me to consider adding your link for the future, email me the blog (if you think I don't already know it), and maybe I'll add it in the future. I'm not trying to be exclusive or anything. I'm just trying to make the blog as useful as possible.

There will be a few more changes popping up over the next few days, so keep poking around to see if anything interests you.



Anonymous Eddie said...

Somewhat off topic, but reading scripts of successful movies can be very frustrating.

- Abusing the basic rules like not using "we" or flashbacks (I know you've covered this before, but still...)

- Poor writing. I guess this comes down to who you know.

I wish I could see more honest to goodness spec scripts so as to have something to shoot for.

I always mean to read a script before seeing a movie, but never get around to it. Reading a script when you've already seen the movie taints it.

12:17 AM  
Anonymous David Anaxagoras said...

Your previous picture made me think you looked like Michael Jeter.

Not only are you welcome for the 150 Scribosphere blog feeds, but you deserve credit for unearthing quite a few of those links yourself. Lee Thompson also contributed a good chunk. Team effort!

6:53 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Yeah, Dave, but you did the work of actually putting it together. I'll take a bit of credit, but you get mad props (as the kids say).

And if I looked like Jeter to you, I'm really glad I changed it. That guy has always freaked me out a bit, since his image is indelibly linked to his character in The Fisher King. Great actor, but, whoah. Can you say freaky? ;-)

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an audience member with interest, I have mostly just assumed that any big movie event (high $ production and marketing campaign) that turns out a movie is most likely going to be bad due to an overextended effort to appeal to the masses. As one of the masses, I appreciate movies that don't insult my intelligence and obviously show me everything I need to put it together, but from all the reading I've done, even from a screenwriter's standpoint, if a scene isn't there to put the movie together, it shouldn't be in the script. I might agree with that but would appreciate some subtlty and nuance; maybe that's in the script, maybe that's in the editing I don't know. I just imagine that execs are too scared that the dummies that make up the masses won't get the movie if it's not spelled out for us so they become too predictable and stupid. I don't question why there are so many bad movies out there, I question why companies insist on making bad movies. It seems like in an attempt to appeal to the masses, they over-commercialize and go too far in the dummy-down process of scripts. Producers and execs are supposed to be paid for knowing what makes a good movie and turn prospective scripts into something that sells but in applying that equation, whatever it is, is the very thing that often ruins a good movie.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think every movie made today is bad. I simply have found myself going to movies these days with low expectations and I get a little upset about that given how much money it takes to go to a movie these days. I guess when I begin a family and have to pay for 3 and 4 people to go to a film that I bet will be bad, I just won't go.

I never thought your picture was actually you. I thought it was a stand in like the skinny white cartoonist Neal Obermeyer formerly of the daily nebraskan drawing himself in his cartoons as a big muscle clad afro wearing black guy.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Joel, er, Fun Joel -

Love your site. Lots of information and entertaining bits. Good times had by all.

Question for the El Duderino -
I am writing a spec for the tv show "How I Met Your Mother" and have been asking around if pro's such as yourself have a copy, any copy of a script from the show. It is mounting up to be an insurmountable task. Anything from the show would be useful - writer's draft, shooting draft, etc.

If you don't have a copy, don't want to/can't help, if you could lead me in a good direction, that would also be appreciated.


12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Sacha -- if you didn't get my email, let me know.

Prior Anon -- I hear what you're saying, though I think you overstate the point. There are big budget movies that are solid and entertaining. Batman Begins. The Fugitive. Any of the Lord of the Rings films. etc. And I don't think they are exceptions to the rule. Yes, there are plenty of crappy movies, but I think there are plenty of crappy lower budget films too. We just find them easier to forget.

And yeah, that old pic was indeed me, not an avatar. Just a very distorted pic taken with a very wide angle lens.

2:29 AM  

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