June 7, 2010 2 Comments
Peter Hanson’s documentary Tales from the Script features dozens of successful Hollywood screenwriters speaking about their triumphs and failures in the dog-eat-dog world that is the motion picture industry. It has always amazed me that the finished product of a film that we all see on the screen started with a blank page — and it is the job of the writer to fill those blank pages with an entertaining and fully structured 3-Act story complete with interesting characters, unique plot twists, and clever dialogue. Yet once the screenplay is written, sold and re-written, it seems that it is the writer — the man or woman who gave birth to this project — that has little to no say over the making of the movie. The writers showcased here speak to this oddity as well as provide some humorous anecdotes about their own careers – how they started in the business, deals that fell through, success stories, clashes with stars or directors, etc.
Hanson has collected an impressive range of writers here to speak about their work and their dealings with the industry: Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), William Goldman (All the President’s Men), Shane Black (The Lethal Weapon series), Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), Ron Shelton (Bull Durham), Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost), among others speak quite openly and with great introspection about their work and experiences.
This is a very good film for anyone who is a budding screenwriter or for any movie buff with an interest in Hollywood, screenwriting, or the industry itself. For anyone else, I think the film will be a terrible bore after a few minutes. Little is done to mix it up as we are really only given talking heads for a full 105 minutes. The documentary is broken up into segments and before each segment we are shown a very brief scene from a movie that has to do with writing, but other than that, it’s just watching and listening to the screenwriters. True, some of the stories being told are quite fascinating, but I don’t think it is enough to sustain the entire picture. You do get a great sense of the hard work put into the writing of a script and the even more difficult task of getting that script sold to Hollywood execs, but unless one has a great interest in this particular field, I am afraid that person would be more than weary with listening to these now wealthy (and yes, lucky) writers. I have a great interest in writing and the movies (of course) and even I was getting fidgety after about an hour, so I can only imagine those with little to no interest in the art of screenwriting.