The Good and The Bad
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.