Advice from Hollywood, part 2
Here’s another little tidbit from my former Hollywood life. I used to be a part-time “reader” meaning I read screenplays and wrote “coverage” for the production company to help them make decisions about which scripts to pursue. You have to audition to become a reader for a production company, and I was looking for more gigs so as part of an audition for a major well-known producer, I was given a screenplay for a Western and I had to do “sample coverage.” I thought the script was awful, and I detailed all its problems in the sample coverage I wrote.
For some reason I didn’t get that job! A couple years later, I saw the movie “Wyatt Earp” with Kevin Costner and realized this was the script I’d so roundly condemned. Hmm, no wonder I didn’t pass their test—apparently I had completely different criteria for a “good script” than they did. Incidentally, I felt sort of vindicated when “Wyatt Earp” was nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards, one for Worst Picture.
Now on to today’s post…
This one’s kind of a no-brainer, but I think it deserves to be said. Many of us appreciate great literature and beautifully written films. We seek entertainment experiences that are also enriching, expanding, and deep. We try not to brag, but yes, we do read Ayn Rand and Dostoevsky, and by the way, Ingmar Bergman is our favorite movie director—didn’t you love how he dissected the female psyche in Cries and Whispers?
Now, I’m all for great books and movies, and I have an appreciation for the finer things.
But dang, Dumb and Dumber is a funny movie.
And you know what? The Twilight novels are not my cup of tea and critics decry the poor quality of the prose, but did those books get the job done or what? The target audience ate it up and Hollywood is complaining about that lousy writing all the way to the bank (along with Stephenie Meyer.)
There are hundreds of channels on TV and nothing to watch—well, except somebody’s watching all that dreck or it wouldn’t be on.
There’s something for everyone, whether we like it or not. Not everyone can be Cormac McCarthy or Marilynne Robinson—and not everyone would want to be.
When it’s about making money, sometimes the smarter way to go is to appeal to people’s more primal instincts—to laugh at silly stuff, to be scared out of their wits, to lose themselves in an other-worldly romance.
So there are plenty of books and movies that do very well financially, but don’t exactly aspire to be great art. Love it or hate it—it’s the way it is.
Over the next couple of days, I’ll share some “Advice from Hollywood” about creating strong stories. When I do, don’t come back at me with complaints that Little Fockers doesn’t adhere to the principles. It doesn’t change the fact that there are principles underlying a great story, and it doesn’t mean we should all stop trying to create a masterpiece.
It just means people are people, and most of us are multi-layered enough that we can enjoy both The King’s Speech and Hot Tub Time Machine.
Um, well, maybe not, but you get what I’m trying to say.
Q4U: Truth time! What are some books and/or movies that wouldn’t necessarily be called “great art” but you love them anyway? I already started the ball rolling with Dumb and Dumber, and Tooth Fairy was pretty funny too. Fess up!
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent