Here are this week's Friday questions and questionable answers.
Paul has a fashion question (boy, did he come to the wrong place):
A style question for you...
Hip, Hollywood types (guys) -screenwriters,producers,agents-prefer a standard dress style: dark sport jacket,dress shirt, and jeans.
I'm curious about the sports jacket. Do you know where screenwriters and agents shop for their sport jackets?
Agents generally shop in expensive Beverly Hills haberdasheries. They tend to be seen and must make an impression. Unless we’re pitching somewhere, or having drinks at Bandara’s and hope to get lucky, we lean more to the casual. So where do we shop? I can’t speak for all writers but my circle tends to frequent Nordstrom Rack, Ross For Less, Costco (do they sell suits?), and stuff we can get on line.
One writer I know showed up at a network pitch wearing sweat pants. Your idea has to be really ultra-spectacular/groundbreaking to sell wearing sweat pants. In his case, it didn't, and was never invited back to pitch anything else.
Please let me know when the style changes again. For now I just monitor Jason Reitman and wear what he wears.
Last season, Susan Sarandon and Ernest Borgine guest starred in the same episode of ER. Ernest was listed as "Special Guest Star", while Susan was listed under "Special Appearance by". Why do shows make this distinction, and what in fact is the distinction?
If you’re 90 you get a “Special Guest Star” credit. Ernest Borgnine and Cher both qualify for that. But seriously, these “Special whatever” credits just are a way of giving the actor a little more distinction. It does become problematic though when several “special” worthy actors are on the same episode. Just once I’d love to see as the final credit… “And not too shabby in her own right…”
I have a great idea for a movie script (doesn't everybody?). The only problem is that it's based upon an article I read on an internet website. Do I have to get the author's permission to use the idea in a spec script? If I need to ask their, or their employer's, permission to use the idea, can they just say no and then create their own script? This biz is confusing.
If you hope to sell the script you do need permission. Yes, you do run the risk that they may say “Hey, I hadn’t thought about it before but yeah, that’s a great idea. I’ll just write the screenplay myself.”
But here’s the thing. It is his article, his property. He’s entitled to adapt it.
One of my rules is never use a story from a writer unless he gives you his blessing. Especially if the story comes from an incident in the writer’s own life.
THE ODD COUPLE is based on Neil Simon’s brother Danny moving in with another divorcee. But until Danny said it was okay, Neil did not write that play. Writers should get first dibs on their own lives, don’t you think?
However, if you’re writing this spec and intend only to use it as a writing sample I guess that’s okay. But it seems silly to put in the time and effort if you’re not at least going to try to sell it.
And finally, from Raji Barbir :
At what point in your career as a writer do you know not to listen to someone whose advice or critique about your screenplay you disagree with? How do you differentiate that from being too cocky?
Especially in the beginning when every writer you're surrounded by hasn't been produced and doesn't have much more experience than you do, other than perhaps developing a greater sense of snobbery.
So when do you choose to say "Thanks for your input, but it's a pile of crap"?
I suppose it depends on whether you value the person’s opinion and whether you’re strongly attached to the material. When I write something on spec I still give it to three or four people I trust.
The notes themselves are a clue. If the reader is confused by something or has a real visceral reaction you need to pay attention to that. I never mind the note “I don’t understand this” because clearly I haven’t done my job in explaining or justifying it.
When friends are passing judgment on jokes or giving you notes in Robert McKee-speak, you’re generally wise to tune them out. If your friend's idea of a romantic comedy is HOSTEL, avoid him too.
A bigger problem than deciding what criticism to take is what accolades to believe. Friends generally are very complimentary, either because they don’t want to hurt your feelings or they have no fucking idea how to read a script.
But in general, I’d say give the script to people you trust and then take their suggestions very seriously. You’re never too big, too brilliant, too rich to receive constructive criticism. Be receptive. The result may be a great script that sells for millions instead of an okay one that is doomed to your coffee table forever.
What’s your question???