Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script!

This article has been spreading like wildfire throughout the filmmaking universe for obvious reasons (once you read it). I am adding it to my blog so that others can make use of it...and still others will get an acerbic, funny but very honest explanation of why I, myself, won't read their scripts. :)

Here's a link if you want to read it from its Village Voice original source:

I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script

We know you've been working very hard on your screenplay, but before you go looking for some professional feedback, you might keep in mind the following piece by A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson.

​I will not read your fucking script.

That's simple enough, isn't it? "I will not read your fucking script." What's not clear about that? There's nothing personal about it, nothing loaded, nothing complicated. I simply have no interest in reading your fucking screenplay. None whatsoever.

If that seems unfair, I'll make you a deal. In return for you not asking me to read your fucking script, I will not ask you to wash my fucking car, or take my fucking picture, or represent me in fucking court, or take out my fucking gall bladder, or whatever the fuck it is that you do for a living.

You're a lovely person. Whatever time we've spent together has, I'm sure, been pleasurable for both of us. I quite enjoyed that conversation we once had about structure and theme, and why Sergio Leone is the greatest director who ever lived. Yes, we bonded, and yes, I wish you luck in all your endeavors, and it would thrill me no end to hear that you had sold your screenplay, and that it had been made into the best movie since Godfather Part II.

But I will not read your fucking script.

At this point, you should walk away, firm in your conviction that I'm a dick. But if you're interested in growing as a human being and recognizing that it is, in fact, you who are the dick in this situation, please read on.

Yes. That's right. I called you a dick. Because you created this situation. You put me in this spot where my only option is to acquiesce to your demands or be the bad guy. That, my friend, is the very definition of a dick move.

I was recently cornered by a young man of my barest acquaintance.

I doubt we've exchanged a hundred words. But he's dating someone I know, and he cornered me in the right place at the right time, and asked me to read a two-page synopsis for a script he'd been working on for the last year. He was submitting the synopsis to some contest or program, and wanted to get a professional opinion.

Now, I normally have a standard response to people who ask me to read their scripts, and it's the simple truth: I have two piles next to my bed. One is scripts from good friends, and the other is manuscripts and books and scripts my agents have sent to me that I have to read for work. Every time I pick up a friend's script, I feel guilty that I'm ignoring work. Every time I pick something up from the other pile, I feel guilty that I'm ignoring my friends. If I read yours before any of that, I'd be an awful person.

Most people get that. But sometimes you find yourself in a situation where the guilt factor is really high, or someone plays on a relationship or a perceived obligation, and it's hard to escape without seeming rude. Then, I tell them I'll read it, but if I can put it down after ten pages, I will. They always go for that, because nobody ever believes you can put their script down once you start.

But hell, this was a two page synopsis, and there was no time to go into either song or dance, and it was just easier to take it. How long can two pages take?

Weeks, is the answer.

And this is why I will not read your fucking script.

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.)

You may want to allow for the fact that this fellow had never written a synopsis before, but that doesn't excuse the inability to form a decent sentence, or an utter lack of facility with language and structure. The story described was clearly of great importance to him, but he had done nothing to convey its specifics to an impartial reader. What I was handed was, essentially, a barely coherent list of events, some connected, some not so much. 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. One sentence describes a scene he's in, the next describes people showing up at his funeral. I could go on, but I won't. This is the sort of thing that would earn you a D minus in any Freshman Comp class.

Which brings us to an ugly truth about many aspiring screenwriters: They think that screenwriting doesn't actually require the ability to write, just the ability to come up with a cool story that would make a cool movie. Screenwriting is widely regarded as the easiest way to break into the movie business, because it doesn't require any kind of training, skill or equipment. Everybody can write, right? And because they believe that, they don't regard working screenwriters with any kind of real respect. They will hand you a piece of inept writing without a second thought, because you do not have to be a writer to be a screenwriter.

So. I read the thing. And it hurt, man. It really hurt. I was dying to find something positive to say, and there was nothing. And the truth is, saying something positive about this thing would be the nastiest, meanest and most dishonest thing I could do. Because here's the thing: not only is it cruel to encourage the hopeless, but you cannot discourage a writer. If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you're not a writer. If I can talk you out of being a writer, I've done you a favor, because now you'll be free to pursue your real talent, whatever that may be. And, for the record, everybody has one. The lucky ones figure out what that is. The unlucky ones keep on writing shitty screenplays and asking me to read them.

To make matters worse, this guy (and his girlfriend) had begged me to be honest with him. He was frustrated by the responses he'd gotten from friends, because he felt they were going easy on him, and he wanted real criticism. They never do, of course. What they want is a few tough notes to give the illusion of honesty, and then some pats on the head. What they want--always--is encouragement, even when they shouldn't get any.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to tell someone that they've spent a year wasting their time? Do you know how much blood and sweat goes into that criticism? Because you want to tell the truth, but you want to make absolutely certain that it comes across honestly and without cruelty. I did more rewrites on that fucking e-mail than I did on my last three studio projects.

My first draft was ridiculous. I started with specific notes, and after a while, found I'd written three pages on the first two paragraphs. That wasn't the right approach. So I tossed it, and by the time I was done, I'd come up with something that was relatively brief, to the point, and considerate as hell. The main point I made was that he'd fallen prey to a fallacy that nails a lot of first timers. He was way more interested in telling his one story than in being a writer. It was like buying all the parts to a car and starting to build it before learning the basics of auto mechanics. You'll learn a lot along the way, I said, but you'll never have a car that runs.

(I should mention that while I was composing my response, he pulled the ultimate amateur move, and sent me an e-mail saying, "If you haven't read it yet, don't! I have a new draft. Read this!" In other words, "The draft I told you was ready for professional input, wasn't actually.")

I advised him that if all he was interested in was this story, he should find a writer and work with him; or, if he really wanted to be a writer, start at the beginning and take some classes, and start studying seriously.

And you know what? I shouldn't have bothered. Because for all the hair I pulled out, for all the weight and seriousness I gave his request for a real, professional critique, his response was a terse "Thanks for your opinion." And, the inevitable fallout--a week later a mutual friend asked me, "What's this dick move I hear you pulled on Whatsisname?"
So now this guy and his girlfriend think I'm an asshole, and the truth of the matter is, the story really ended the moment he handed me the goddamn synopsis. Because if I'd just said "No" then and there, they'd still think I'm an asshole. Only difference is, I wouldn't have had to spend all that time trying to communicate thoughtfully and honestly with someone who just wanted a pat on the head, and, more importantly, I wouldn't have had to read that godawful piece of shit.

You are not owed a read from a professional, even if you think you have an in, and even if you think it's not a huge imposition. It's not your choice to make. This needs to be clear--when you ask a professional for their take on your material, you're not just asking them to take an hour or two out of their life, you're asking them to give you--gratis--the acquired knowledge, insight, and skill of years of work. It is no different than asking your friend the house painter to paint your living room during his off hours.

There's a great story about Pablo Picasso. Some guy told Picasso he'd pay him to draw a picture on a napkin. Picasso whipped out a pen and banged out a sketch, handed it to the guy, and said, "One million dollars, please."

"A million dollars?" the guy exclaimed. "That only took you thirty seconds!"

"Yes," said Picasso. "But it took me fifty years to learn how to draw that in thirty seconds."

Like the cad who asks the professional for a free read, the guy simply didn't have enough respect for the artist to think about what he was asking for. If you think it's only about the time, then ask one of your non-writer friends to read it. Hell, they might even enjoy your script. They might look upon you with a newfound respect. It could even come to pass that they call up a friend in the movie business and help you sell it, and soon, all your dreams will come true. But me?

I will not read your fucking script.

Josh Olson's screenplay for the film A History of Violence was nominated for the Academy Award, the BAFTA, the WGA award and the Edgar. He is also the writer and director of the horror/comedy cult movie Infested, which Empire Magazine named one of the 20 Best Straight to Video Movies ever made. Recently, he has written with the legendary Harlan Ellison, and worked on Halo with Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp. He adapted Dennis Lehane's story "Until Gwen," which he will also be directing. He is currently adapting One Shot, one of the best-selling Jack Reacher books for Paramount.

© 2009 Josh Olson. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Distribution Links

Hey All,

Here's some great links/info on the current and future state of indie film distribution to compliment Ted Hope's article posted previously:

Peter Broderick's Declaration of Independence: 10 Principles of Hybrid Distribution:

Orly Ravid and Jeffery Winter's New American Vision company: http://www.newamericanvision.com  and in particular: http://www.newamericanvision.com/collaborative.html

Adam Chapnick's Distribber: http://www.distribber.com/

And, of course, our partners at Magic Rock/NeoFlix: http://www.magicrock.com/

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ted Hope's Latest....

This is from Ted Hope's latest post....

Read it here or here: http://trulyfreefilm.blogspot.com/2009/09/18-actions-towards-sustainable-truly.html

...where you can comment on it, as well.

18 Actions Towards A Sustainable Truly Free Film Community

I promised the Twitterverse this list a few weeks back. Life gets in the way of completing things though. I eventually hope to have more than a draft for you, but I also hope it won't be necessary. I initially thought this was just a top ten list, and maybe it should have been. I already know I have left important things off this list though, and here I am at eighteen.

Having already left home before I hit such a mark, it seems fit this list does likewise. The comfort of the nest is part of the problem and its time to get the conversation started. And like so many things, with this list it is not about the size, but about the intensity with which we engage with each element. I wish I could give marching orders instead of discussion points. I wrote this to encourage but you can use it as a litmus test for whether you really want an independent and diverse culture or not. What are these are you doing? What of these are you willing to do?

The time is now. If we don't fully own the absolute necessity to change how we've all been working, we won't be working -- and we won't have the illuminating, inspiring, transforming films that we now enjoy. It's your choice, but action is required.

There is the capacity for many more of us to create and prosper from creative media work. This capacity can also close up and vanish along with our audiences. The canaries are now the size of Big Birds and we somehow are able to ignore them (but that is a subject for a different posts).


Mentor - if you have been working in the film industry for at least five years, you certainly have the knowledge to help lift somebody else up. Ideally this would be someone from a much different background than yourself (more on that later) so things don't have to stay the same. That said, those that you lift up will also carry on some of your knowledge, so the bonds that need to be strengthened hopefully will be.

Curate- You got into this business because you loved film, maybe you even always loved talking about films, but what do you do now to help spread the love? Friends and family are the best influencers in terms of getting others to see films, and there won't be any business unless we keep people going to the movies. Whether its as simple as getting friends over on the weekend to watch something they wouldn't normally have, using a social network tool to get a large group out and into the theaters, blogging about the things you think are essential, or forming a film club and actually booking films you love, there's something you could be doing to get work you love seen and appreciated. There are over 6000 films made a year; it's overwhelming. You have to become the filter for your friends, family, and followers. Tell them what you love, share it. And there are many alternatives that sending around that link where you found that others labors are now being bootlegged.

Provide- info, advice, access - Industries all go through cycles and it may have once benefited some folks who got established early to limit what others could know or get to do, but those days ended. It is changing to fast and yesterday's discovery is old news pretty damn fast. Our future depends on innovation and unity; sharing what you know and have are the most likely ways for each to occur. If you learn something, pass it on. Post it. Tweet it. Discuss it.

Learn/Evolve- Everyone likes to quote William Goldman's line about the movie industry, but it has never been truer that no one knows anything now. The ways films were financed & sold for the last fifteen years are no longer do-able. Audiences don't consume the way they used to. There is no acquisition market and no business model has emerged for earning significant revenue on the internet. People have been convinced that hardware should be expensive whereas content should be free (i.e. creators have become the advertisers for the manufacturers). We have the tools to build a new model but our ability to use them is rather limited. It's time to try new things and if you aren't learning new things on a regular basis you might as well admit defeat now. Build experimentation into your daily regime, into your business plan.

Migrate - Although this is close to "Learn/Evolve", migration is a specific form thereof. As much as we need to strengthen the net, we have to extend our web's reach. We have to both give and take. Cinema requires a global awareness and participation. Specificity is universal. You aren't just making your work for friends and family, unless it is the Family Of Man (to borrow an inaccurate phrase). Travel and source. Bring it back home. Give it away. Extend your reach and modify your inputs, but cross borders. It is a global community and the more we embrace that, the stronger we will be.

Aim Higher With Content Quality -For years the movie business flourished because not enough material was available. Now everything is there for the viewing when you want it, where you want it, and how you want it. As a filmmaker today you are competing against everything that came before you. Yet also as a filmmaker you have the benefit of having access to all of film history that has preceded you. You get to see what others have done, but you have to take it one step further. Since you can no longer win by getting there first, you have no choice but to try to do it better.

Aim Higher With Narrative Structure & Ambitions - It's not enough to have a good story well told anymore. Cinema is over one hundred years old and stories can't just have a beginning, a middle, or an end. Our films won't survive if they are dependent on a single author to deliver them or don't inspire others to deliver them. Take back what has always been yours and embrace the other aspects of filmmaking beyond content and production. There are many points of access to a story and many reasons to return to the world, but we have not been utilizing them.

Introduce- We have to knit this net a whole lot stronger. If your friends are stronger, you are stronger. One persons success does not limit yours, but quite the opposite -- it enhances your position. You have to work to get your team further down the field. It takes more than an army to create, promote, market, distribute, and appreciate good work. If you are not providing introductions to those that you know who will benefit by knowing the other ones you know, you asking to play a game solo when everyone else will be be fielding battalions.

Make Different, Make Strange & Change- Does it ever feel to you that half the films that get made are remakes but they don't know it? Or that everyone is preaching to the converted but they forgot what the sermon was about? Or maybe that they long ago stopped looking for the real sky and were content to keep going as long as the treadmill was moving? Once I had a friend come to me with so much urgency asking "Don't they get it? Our job is to make them want to be over there, farther away from here, aspiring for something better, feeling the hope that they can get there." He was right, but we aren't going to do it by repeating what has been done before.

Ignore - There are many in the film business who are never going to help you. Many of these will never help you even after you have helped them. The sooner you identify these folks and stop wasting your time with them, the better off you are going to be. We have to much to do to bother with them, no matter how powerful they may be, how smart or creative they may be, or how much they appear to have to offer you. Get on with it and move on.

Reduce- Unfortunately the industry has been rewarding quantity more than quality. Even more unfortunately, bad work has a greater impact than good, and its impact is not of the positive sort. Very little can prosper in an environment of poor attention, limited commitment, or fractured focus. I don't know anyone who doesn't have too much to do already (and less money or time to do it in than previously). We could all gain by slowing down and doing less but doing that thing we do better. We have to. The independent sector doesn't have the money to fool people to think that their mediocre work should be seen. More work needs to go into both making our films better and into how to reach and engage with our audiences in more rewarding way. Unless a filmmaker can demonstrate both of those qualities, they shouldn't be shooting their film. Failure in either department brings all of us down with it. We are all connected and only the best work lifts us (don't get me wrong, we can't have gate keepers determining what or who "is ready" to make a film -- we just have to be more demanding on ourselves).

Participate - You have something to say, so say it. Others are saying the things you believe, so let it be known. Your skill set and experience is unique to you, but others would benefit from the gift of your engagement, so why not get something done now, even if it is not what you ultimately are striving for. We don't have time to be silent. Speak up not just about what you know or feel, but what you want to know or feel. If you care about something, write in, or send a proxy. Encourage others to do the same too. The world will change for the worse unless you engage.

Collaborate - We learn more when we break our normal routine and do something different, be it a different task, or a different situation, or a different sort of creation. There are times to lead and times to follow. We learn from those that see differently than us. We understand and process things better when it involves others we care about. There is also no denying that there is so much change both needed and occurring that we can't possibly gain by working alone. If you haven't realized that you can't possibly get it done alone anymore, you haven't engaged. Filmmaking and it's secondary necessities of marketing and distribution can't be the work of a singular auteur anymore -- cinema requires that you (to borrow IndieGoGo's mantra) Do It With Others.

Go To The Crowd - We need our work to have greater reach. At some point in the process, we need to engage and encourage everyone out there to determine something about the work. This makes them stakeholders in the process and cements a deeper relationship with you. Both CrowdSourcing and CrowdFunding are marvelous endeavors, not just for what the immediate product they bring, but for the engagement they deliver. Don't get me wrong, there are inefficiencies in many approaches and in reaching out we need to offer meaningful ways for people to engage, and reasons for them to remain. Today's collaboration is not just about working with those you know, but also those that you don't and won't ever know.

Question- I find the obvious is often ignored by the status quo. Whether it was making movies for six figures, creating a producer-driven company, starting an international sales company & licensing our own films, cutting digitally, shooting video and transferring to film, or the actions I currently contemplate, I have found resistance from the mainstream to adopt new behavior that might be game-changing. Culturally, we've all been seduced by security and knowledge, but it is risk and exploration of the unknown that usually moves us forward.

Keep It Human & Personable- It is sooo hard to get a movie made. It is soooo hard to write a decent script. It is soooo hard to find a way to make a living and to be engaged in the creative arts. Anyone that does any of these things is a hero to me. Good fortune is rare, but it is needed for most to obtain the life they want. It may take something that resembles an army to make a movie, promote it, and get it seen, but those engaged in the process are usually operating out of some aspect of love, and need acknowledgement. What's with all the ego that swims through this business?

Reward- If you are trying to make movies, or already working in the film business, you have too much on your plate; if you are able to do good work, help those around you, or just make stuff happen, you are probably super human. If someone around you is doing this kind of stuff, show your appreciation. When I get a note from someone that they liked my film, it makes my day. When someone has tried to help me without any personal gain on their part, I think the world may actually be an alright place. When someone indicates that they know what I do and they treat it with all due respect, I think we might just get out of this situation somewhat intact. Vote for the world you want with your actions and appreciation.

Make It All One Ongoing Conversation - We squander our efforts when we think only about the single project at hand. It is not about just getting that one movie done. We have to keep moving the conversation forward. We have to engage with our community in such a meaningful way that they will be motivated to move with us to the next project too. Don't reinvent the wheel each time, but if you have invested the time to seed an audience, feed them and breed them; bring them with you to all that you are doing. Help them understand why X eventually follows A. Keep them engaged. Keep them loyal.

And you thought you didn't have enough to do today!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cinereach Grants & Awards

Recently tumbled across this amazing organization called - Cinereach. Don't know the people behind it, but would love to. They seem to be doing something almost no one else is doing - helping fund films that matter.

This is from their site:

Each year Cinereach gives up to $500,000 in grants and awards to documentary & narrative films.

Cinereach funds artful narrative and documentary films that depict underrepresented perspectives, cross international boundaries and start meaningful conversations. Film projects that are consistent with Cinereach’s ethos favor good storytelling over didacticism and complexity over traditional duality. Cinereach-supported films also demonstrate creativity, visual artistry and take a character-based approach.

Grants are awarded to films at any stage: development, production, post-production, audience building and/or distribution. The Cinereach grant committee meets twice a year to review grant applications. Please check the “Submit a Letter of Inquiry” page for more information.

Check them out at http://www.cinereach.org/