Subject Matter: Don’t Write About Writers or Hollywood, Please

Today I’ve read a couple of stories about Hollywood aspirings – aspiring writers, directors, actors, etc. In this reading season I’ve probably read a number of these kinds of scripts. Please, people, no. Don’t do it. Ninety nine times out of one hundred, your life as an aspiring writer isn’t interesting enough to warrant a feature movie script.

Beyond that, get creative. The average movie-goer (myself included, and I am a writer) doesn’t want to go to a movie to see a movie about an aspiring writer. We go to the movies to see heroes – the characters we writers imagine. We want to learn about something we don’t see everyday, experience something new. So, imagine.

There is an adage that Hollywood doesn’t make movies about Hollywood. I know it actually does, but personally I don’t like reading scripts that are about Hollywood – being actors, directors, writers, agents, etc.

To my mind, if your protagonist is an aspiring writer, the dramatic stakes aren’t high enough in most cases to justify a screenplay. A writer sits at a computer all day! How is this in any way dramatic? And the reality is that most aspirings don’t have the intimate working knowledge of the details and underbelly of that kind of reality to make it compelling. Especially if it’s not a comedy or satire.

Most stories that are written about aspiring writers and talent just don’t have either the fundamental dramatic stakes or the character to drive a great story. I also have another theory about this – we see a lot of train wreck stories about celebrities every day. We all know they’re off their rockers. Remember that TMZ video just recently about Britney Spears screaming her head off into her fake mic while the fan climbed up on the stage to dance with her? He wasn’t trying to chop her head off or hack her into pieces, although in those few seconds she gave an Oscar-worthy horror performance. Because why? Her real life is a horror movie. She is so obviously mentally disturbed that she almost wet herself on stage when confronted with one of her very “scary” fans (who, to me, just looked like a very cute gay guy, and in the real world she should be grateful she has any fans at all because she’s a complete wackadoo). To dramatize something that is already probably more dramatic than we can imagine from the comfort of our office chair would be very hard. The stakes would have to be upped considerably for this kind of subject matter to offer anything fresh, new or interesting.

So, write something dramatic. Write about real-feeling but heroic people who undergo life transformation. Don’t write drama about drama. Don’t force artifice onto something that is already artificial. There is a huge disconnect there. If I feel like seeing celebrity horror, I’ll just click onto TMZ in the evening. You don’t need to take me there.

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2 Responses to Subject Matter: Don’t Write About Writers or Hollywood, Please

  1. Jeffrey Blake Palmer July 23, 2009 at 6:47 am #

    Wha?? No writers OR Hollywood? OK then, what about… a script READER who goes ballistic when she’s forced to read a stack of screenplays from the local Community College Novice Screenplay Challenge. She’s secretly given a gun with three bullets and told to wipe out the authors of the top three worst screenplays. Only she chooses to turn the gun on herself, sparing their “mumblcore” lives, and subsequently becomes known as the Mumblecore Martyr and helps usher in a new wave of small character dramas with no inciting incidents?

    Put that in your pipe and puff it. ; )
    ~ Jeff

  2. Monica July 23, 2009 at 11:53 am #

    Hilarious. That made my day.