Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Learning To Say No, Hollywood Style: A Helpful Response To Screenwriter Josh Olson

Since my post on the Teabag Protest has practically gone viral (many thanks to my colleague Bitch Ph.D. for the link) today's post is just a follow up on advice given last week on saying no. Such as, No, I will decline to comment further on why I can't show unconditional love to the beleaguered mommy lobby. However, thanks to my Cliopatria colleague, historian Ralph Luker, I want to pass on this charming tidbit published in the September 9 Village Voice by screenwriter and director Josh Olson. In "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script," Olson announces happily that it will cause people to think he is a "dick" that he does not want to take a look at even a two-page treatment for them. He tells every Hollywood wannabe with a dream that there is

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.

OK, I am sure I have no idea how frustrating this must be for you Josh, particularly given how fucking busy and important you are. I am busy, but not important like you. People do not go around thrusting history fucking manuscripts on me right and left, nor am I fabulously well-paid and hearing the ching-ching of dollars leaking out of my pocket every time I do a favor for someone. In fact, Josh, our lives couldn't be more fucking different. My whole fucking life more or less consists of doing favors for people, for less money all year than you make in a week. And actually, most people in America make dramatically less than I do, and probably do even more favors for more people -- coaching Little League, working at homeless shelters, tutoring kids who can't read, or helping a fellow worker at Walmart make it through her life. You hear me? Life as a little person is just less stressful than life as a big Hollywood screenwriter. I get that.

But since I am not so busy and important, I will do you the favor of fucking explaining to you why people "think you don't have to be a writer to be a screenwriter." There are three fucking reasons. The first is that everyone knows that without some kind of personal connection in "the industry" (and this goes for publishing as well) even good creative work never sees the light of day. This is why people who want to do what you do come to schools like Zenith, because if you fucking succeed in the film department here, you will automatically be hooked into the network of Zenith film alumni who will promote your career in Hollywood. Yes, Zenith alums are fucking well-educated and well-trained when they leave us, but lots of well-educated, talented people who go to schools that are just as fucking good don't have successful careers in "the industry" at the rate our students do. And it is because they have the fucking connections.

Second, most of what passes for movies or television nowadays is unadulterated, culturally embarrassing crap, with implausible story lines and characters played by people who can't fucking act, produced for people who are more or less in despair about the condition of their lives under advanced capitalism. They will go to movies about vacuum cleaners that fucking talk, and rent DVDs whose best-crafted feature is the size and expense of the enhanced breasts sported by the so-called "actresses." So you can hardly blame people for thinking that anyone can write a fucking screenplay: anyone clearly does write a screenplay. It's how the losers whose screenplays are actually fucking chosen for most of what is fucking produced that is the mystery to most of us.

Finally, the most successful television series and movies rely for their basic plot lines on people having outstanding, high-paying jobs dropped in their fucking laps for no fucking reason whatsoever; becoming successful, despite their autism/paralysis/poverty/lack of education/obscurity because they have (gag) "heart;" going from rags to riches because they believe so deeply in themselves; getting a professional fucking sports contract because they are such a good person and have a nice, supportive girlfriend; defeat complex evil plots because they have inner resources not tapped until that moment (and a great fucking body); receive a vast inheritance by surprise that allows them to follow their life's dream to have their own wildly successful cosmetic line; realize suddenly that they have a calling as a fucking vampire for Christ's sake; or have the wild and crazy notion that losing 300 pounds on television/imitating indigenous people on a desert island/beating out twenty other people to become somebody's fucking fiancee can launch you into lifetime fucking superstardom.

So yes, Josh, you are a dick, but that is hardly the point: you work in a dick industry that mostly puts out a dick product. If you have any further questions, please get in touch with my fucking people.

19 comments:

Hypatia said...

I found this enormously bracing. Thank you!

Doctor Cleveland said...

On that other hand, you do have to e a real writer to turn out a post like this one.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Goodness! It's like you're channeling Comrade Physioprof this morning!

I appreciate your points. But my own first reaction to the Olson quote was a sympathetic flashback to the many students who have announced to me that they want to go to grad school and be a professor when they (literally) can't write a coherent sentence. "Not with this writing, you're not" is my oh-don't-I-wish response.

Tim Lacy said...

I don't have an intelligent comment for this post. But I will say that it has the most instances of the word f^#$ing than any in recent memory. And all of the instances worked: they moved the narrative along---especially the sign off. Well done. :) - TL

Anonymous said...

I was contemplating leaving Comrade PhysioProf a link to your recent post about the teabagger march in DC - but it seems he found his way here all on his own. And has already rubbed off on you! I'll keep my eyes peeled for future "motherfucking" and "cockdoucheweaselmonkey" quantifiers from you.

You write a most excellent blog.

Organizer Dan said...

This was beautiful. I am standing and applauding (when I'm done typing). Bravo.

Ahistoricality said...

Hell, yeah.

Digger said...

-wonders how many barely-acquaintances / friends / total strangers Josh asked for opinions when he was starting out-

I'd also like to nominate TR for the Best Use of "Fuck" in a Blog Post Award.

dance said...

Tangential re favors---I once tried to explain the currency of academia to a (fratboy) law student. "people review books? do they get paid?" "they review articles? they review manuscripts? they give papers? and no one gets paid for any of this?"

He was most bewildered. I hadn't really realized how odd it was until then, or to what extent individual universities are really subsidizing the ENTIRE system.

dave said...

Arguably, the whole system is designed so that undergraduate students [and/or their parents] can subsidise the lifestyles of publishers. Everyone else is just a middleperson...

trouble said...

Are you saying I can thrust my history thesis into your hands and look at you with hope in my eyes and trust in my heart and you'll read it?

Cuz I have this history thesis - it's a killer. It's about this small city in Eastern Canada...

grumpyabdadjunct said...

I love this post, and I'm sending it to my BFF screenwriter friend right now so that it can go viral in their world...bwaaahahahaha.

Susan said...

This is going to my brother, who is in the business, as they say.

The odd thing is that most people will take 10 seconds to read a 2 page treatment because you never know when the next brilliant idea will come from.

WV= rendre, which seems oddly appropriate here.

Paul said...

Very nicely stated! I’m with you. In addition to thinking the guy has a problem in viewing every second of his day in terms of money (I mean, really, the person asked him to read two pages), what I find interesting here, and why I think he is a d-bag, is that he really only sees two ways to give advice to budding writers. They either deserve loving praise or scorn. What’s wrong with saying, “you know, this just needs to be polished a bit more”? Or what about saying, “You know, this isn’t my cup of tea, but it may be someone else’s”? Plus, I take issue with how he presents “good” writers. To him, witting is mechanics and prose. Not to trivialize this, since I read this blog all the time for not only its keen insights but also its engaging prose, but when you’re composing a screenplay, if you don’t have a good story – if you don’t know how to think about putting together a beginning, middle, and end – I don’t care if you can ace every writing test in the land, you’re not going to produce anything worth watching (or reading!). I guess Josh and I have had very different experiences, because I’ve met some people whose prose is god-awful, but are master storytellers. (I think of my father, who couldn’t compose a “my kid was sick” note without the teacher winching, but can greatly entertain a room full of people telling his most-recent off-the-cuff tall tale.)

Sybil Vane said...

Exceedingly well done. Awesome in every way. Thanks

http://yinkawills.livejournal.com/ said...

Brilliant.

Yinka Wills said...

Brilliant.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

That dude is such a fucking pathetic douchebag. I hope he never sells another one of his shitty fucking "screenplays".

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