Review: Tales From the Script DVD

STUDIO: First Run Features | DIRECTOR: Peter Hanson
RELEASE DATE: 4/20/2010 | PRICE: DVD $24.95
BONUSES: additional interview footage, tips and inspiration for beginners, “wit and wisdom” from William Goldman
SPECS: NR | 105 min. | Documentary | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby 5.1 Surround

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Forty-six top-notch Hollywood screenwriters — including Shane Black (Lethal Weapon), John Carpenter (Halloween), Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), Ron Shelton (Bull Durham), William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid), Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), Melville Shavelson (Houseboat), Steven de Souza (pictured, Die Hard) — discuss their craft in this lively talkfest from filmmakers Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman. Topics discussed include pitching ideas, relations with directors, rewrites, dealing with zealous studio execs and the pitfalls of instant success.

The film offers much in the way of advice for aspiring screenwriters, but only if he or she wants to work in the Hollywood mainstream; only a scant few of the interviewees have worked in the indie world (although one does tout his record as the writer of many straight-to-video productions).

Thus, while one refreshingly frank scripter does lament working in “post-content” Hollywood, viewers will end up wondering what drives the bulk of these folk to produce the formulaic pap they participate in, but seem to be denouncing here (the names Joel Silver and Jerry Bruckheimer are spoken of in terms movie buffs might reserve for Hitchcock, Ford and Welles).

The best moments come from the scripting vets — Shavelson, Schrader, true indie Larry Cohen — who are decidedly grim about the prospects of making the kinds of pictures they made in the 1960s through the 1980s. The dean of Hollywood screenwriters, William Goldman, hits at the heart of matter when he says that in today’s Hollywood, “everything is so fucking expensive, and it’s only going to get more-so.”

Tales From the Script got good reviews in its theatrical run, and a tie-in book was co-written by Hanson and Herman.


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About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”