Posted tagged ‘Jello: The Movie’


May 13, 2010

Originally, the title for this post was “Takes Talent to Recognize It.” Then I read a piece by Hollywood producer Lynda Obst that basically says the movie biz is no longer really about finding talented writers or high quality scripts. It’s now largely about building on brand awareness — super-heroes, comic books, old TV shows, popular board games, video games, and YouTube clips that go viral.

She said a colleague jokingly floated JELLO: THE MOVIE as a possible project. Sadly, it’s no worse than some of the other product-inspired movies that are currently in development. I even pitched my STUNT GUYS action spec to a creative exec at Hasbro — yes, the toy makers are now major players in Hollywood. He passed because he didn’t see the merchandising potential in my stuntmen characters. Probably because I didn’t imbue them with super-powers.

Lynda Obst’s column (link at end of post) is getting traction because she’s been associated with big Hollywood hits such as FLASHDANCE, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, THE FISHER KING, and CONTACT. More recently, she produced THE INVENTION OF LYING, a movie I liked and riffed on in a prior post about writers being professional liars. She’s also had her share of flops. But when a producer with her track record says good writing is now secondary to product awareness, it has to make any aspiring screenwriter wonder if they’ve just been wasting time trying to become glorified advertising copywriters.

That said, I still believe in learning craft and structure. I’ve been fortunate to receive feedback from produced screenwriters, who liked my stuff enough to option my scripts. I’ve also been repped or hip-pocketed by managers whose clients have written hugely successful movies, and gotten notes from them on my work. And to tell you the truth, I’m not sure my rewrites were really better than my original drafts, which were closest to my own vision.

(BTW, my former manager — Cathryn Jaymes — said when she first sent out Quentin Tarantino’s scripts to her contacts, she would get nasty phone calls asking how she could rep such awful, foul-mouthed “garbage”… then after his movies became hits with critics and audiences, those same people were begging her to send whatever else he had written.)

The one thing I took comfort in was the notion that these were professionals who recognized talent. I don’t know who first said it takes genius to recognize it, but I always felt there was something to that. Okay, so I’m not a genius… I’m more of a plodder, who works hard at the craft. Still, I thought my movie ideas were different and original. And these Hollywood veterans I was working with seemed to think so too. At the end of the day though, my scripts didn’t get produced and I’m looking for a new rep to shop my works of genius.

I’m not alone. I know there are many other writers who have had similar experiences, and feel like they’ve been both blessed and cursed to be told they have “talent” or a unique “voice”… and yet can’t get an agent or publisher to sign them. There are days when I think it would be so much easier if early on I was told my stuff was crap and I should give up. Then I realize that, well, if one person honestly did think my writing was worth their time, I should keep at it a little longer. It only takes one person — at the right place and time — to prove everyone else wrong.

However, no amount of rewriting, revisions, getting feedback from peers or notes from professional script consultants, is going to make much difference if your concept or story doesn’t have that something special — you know it when you see it. At least, that’s the way it used to be. But these days, it seems like the so-called “talent agents” and creative execs are more adept at reading financial reports than literary works.

So write for yourself if you must. Then write JELLO: THE MOVIE if you really want to be a working screenwriter for hire.

Here’s the link to The Atlantic piece by Lynda Obst.

As I mentioned, she produced THE INVENTION OF LYING. This is my take on that film as it relates to writers.