Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tripp Stryker says that screenwriting is war

The Bitter Script Reader has taken an abrupt vacation. In his place is the Phil Collins to his Peter Gabriel: Tripp Stryker.

This is a cutthroat business that I work in and it takes a certain sort of disposition to survive. Again and again I see those new to the business making the same mistakes over again, but no mistake is more fatal than aiding the competition.

The success of any other screenwriter or any other aspiring screenwriter diminishes you. Their success means your failure. This is something you cannot afford. Thus, when a fellow writer cheerfully reports that they've just been signed, or that they've gotten a prominent producer to option their film, the last thing you should do is be happy for them.

There are only so many queries that can be answered. If an agent says "yes" and agrees to look at a competitor's script, that means there's one less slot that could be filled by yours. Every other writer trying to break in from the outside is your enemy. You do not share strategies with the enemy, you do not cheer him on, and you certainly don't share intel with them like private email addresses and lists of agents and managers receptive to queries. Do the Dallas Cowboys share their playbook with the opposing team before each NFL Sunday?

This is war. You should be doing everything you can to undermine the competition. Make them doubt themselves. Every chance you get, read another newbie's script and tell them it sucks. Odds are it does. Maybe it's boring, too long, too short, or not marketable. Find the flaws in that script and pound them relentlessly. Make that writer so scared to send it around that he may never type another script again.

"But what if there's nothing wrong with it?" you ask? Lie. Make up something that's wrong. But never, EVER praise the work of a competitor. Don't offer to show it to a friend in the business.

If someone's on a high after placing in the Nicholl Fellowship, remind him that the Nicholl doesn't mean shit in the real world. If someone got a meeting with a Hollywood player, point out that 99% of those meetings never lead anywhere except the writers doing a lot of work for free. The only reason any of you should spend a great deal of time on message boards is to undermine each other and to get everyone else to second-guess their own talent.

If you're a pro like me and a friend asks you to pass a script to your agent, you say "no." If he asks you to look at it and give feedback, you can say "no," but it's better to say yes and then hit them with so many notes they'll be rewriting until President Palin finishes her fourth term in office. (Repeal the 22nd Amendment!)

No one ever got anywhere in this business by helping other people. It's not "show friends," it's "show business."

Harsh? It's kill or be killed out there. Take your pick. We are all diminished by the achievements of our competition.

The views expressed by Mr. Stryker are Mr. Stryker's opinions and may not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Bitter Script Reader, Blogger, or any of affiliated sites linked on the side of the blog.

If you have an issue with Mr. Stryker, the Bitter Script Reader suggests contacting Tripp directly at his Twitter: @TrippStryker or his email address: TrippleThreat69@hotmail.com


  1. Tripp. I do not think you have gone far enough.

    Kill or Be Killed, remember.

    Destroying thy enemies' souls with spirit crushing negative feedback is not enough - why are you settling for this girly wispy emotional stuff instead of inciting real physical pain and practical hints like how to erase your competitor's Final Draft program or maximising effort by maiming thousands of the competition by targeting McKee Story seminars?

    Frankly, I feel a bit let down by the lack of passion in your advice.

  2. nmegan has hit the right note, but herself not gone far enough.

    Remember, in a country of laws you can be held responsible for overstepping the line in sabotaging and possibly maiming if not killing the competition.

    Therefore, the most thorough and safest - if I may say so - approach to the problem is to hijack the laws of the country so as to make it virtually impossible for anyone but yourself to ever think seriously about writing a screenplay -let alone get it produced.

    A competent screenwriter/tyrant, (operating on the modes we've seen employed in the mid-twentieth century to such great effect), would have access to all the tools of popular surveillance and repression to not only ensure that no one else ever wrote another screenplay, but that anyone who'd ever tried to do so would be hunted down and systemically eliminated.

    Blogs such as this one and others will prove invaluable in toting up the personal information of all those who think in a "screenwriterly" manner, and thus allowing their merciless tracking-down and incarceration prior to huge show-trials and Hollywood Kristalnachts.

    It might seem contradictory that this writer himself has composed many screenplays, and posted on these blogs. But that assumes that your humble correspondent will not emerge topmost in the screenwriters' civil war soon to break out.

    I have no such qualms about my ability to cut out the competition and ultimately cure the world of the screenwriting affliction by getting rid of all the screewriters except myself.

    Like Jaoquin Phoenix, Andy Kaufman, and many other documentarians of the modern situation, I know my destiny is written not in the stars but in the cards - of which I've stacked the deck.

  3. What the hell do you know? Your scripts suck anyway. Go back to Montana, loser!

  4. nmegan - You don't expect me to give away ALL my secrets do you? It's just good strategy to hold a few guns in the arsenal. Like, I'm sure the army commanders in Iraq didn't tells reporters from The Baghdad Gazette where the troops were or allowed them to go there and count them.

    But I like the way you think. You're gonna go places in this business with that kind of initiative. I think you just became my favorite female screenwriter, which brings me to...

    Em - After all I've done for you! I'm not even FROM Montana. Eh, you're probably not that hot anyway. Does my accent sound remotely Bozemanian to you?

    James - You scare me. I appreciate the thought, though I'm concerned about your brazenness. You seem like the kind of guy who'd have Batman tied up and rather than unmask him and shoot him in the head, you'll babble about your plot, only giving him a chance to break free and thwart it. But yeah, the only poker worth playing is the kind with a stacked deck.

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  6. If this post is satire... AWESOME! Was laughing my butt off, because it certainly feels this way all the time.

    However, if you're being truly honest, then...

    I fundamentally disagree. It must suck not to have friends. And it must really suck to not have brilliant friends who actually believe in your work, and you theirs. You're gonna need people to help you get to the top. If you try to destroy everyone, there won't be a top to get to. If you're cutting off their limbs, how are they gonna push you to the top?

    If you're analogy is war, then how on earth did France and England defeat The Nazis? Oh, yeah, that's right, they created an ally with the two LARGEST ARMIES IN THE WORLD... the United States and the Soviet Union. So by your analogy, you would be the Nazis. Gee... what happened during that war? You need allies to be successful when you're going against the forces of Mordor. It couldn't be anymore true in Hollywood.

    You want people to respect your work than you better get good and respecting others' work as well. As a writer you NEED that kind of support. This is a fundamental problem in Hollywood and why the large majority of movies from the past couple of years have sucked. Talentless hacks trying to ruin others so their shitty movies can get made.

    There are plenty of successful screenwriters who did the exact opposite of the advise you just gave.

  7. I know my dad didn't teach me all that wing chun for nothing.

  8. The next time someone asks me to read their script, I'm going to tell them their writing is too Bozemanian.

    "Oh, you don't know what that means?" *pity chuckle* "You've got a lot to learn about the business, my friend."

  9. Mr. Stryker,

    I think you're missing the bigger picture here. Other writers shouldn't be treated as the enemy, they should be treated as comrades and held close. So close that you have the ability to snatch what few opportunities might come their way.

    I'm reminded of a type of parasite that dwells in the ocean and sustains itself by being swallowed by larger fish. Once inside the fish's mouth, it attaches to the tongue and lives on everything that fish eats. The fish, totally unaware the parasite's presence, starves to death while the parasite grows larger. Once the fish dies, the parasite detaches, and looks for bigger fish to be swallowed by.

    I'm also reminded of Veronica, this blonde woman with huge knockers that I slept with after a buddy of mine did all the hard work of going out in public, meeting new people, meeting this woman, vetting her, and inviting her to a party I was throwing.

    Had I treated Nick like an enemy I never would've bagged her. And there were no hard feelings, either. So I was able to keep doing it with other women Nick met.

  10. There should be more people like Tripp in this world. I'd be happier.

  11. Tripp. Very happy to be your favourite female screenwriter! I can't wait for the rest of your secrets.

    Oh James - the passion, the vision, the mercilessness, the systematic elimination. Will you marry me?

  12. Awesome! Been at this just under two days and I've already arranged a love connection between two readers. Take that, Bitter! You haven't pulled that off in almost two YEARS!

    Glad to see everyone here gets it. I salute each and every one of you Machiavellian bastards.

  13. Unless..(and in the event James rejects my advances, bastard). Perhaps my game is still on. You see, I was clearly not thinking big enough. I have have stumbled across a man who thinks in epic proportions. So he do the hard work to exterminate all screenwriters, except himself, and he will make an excpetion for me, as his beloved. Damn it, I think he can do it.

    But then, after he has done all the hard work, as we are lying in the marital bed, out comes the icepick. Ohhhhh, I am the only screenwriter left standing.

    Oh yeah, my game is ON. Why do all the hard work when someone can do it for you. MMMWWWOOOARRRHHH.

    But that is plan B. James? I do admire you. Yes?

    [ps kgmadman - in hysterics...]

  14. Er. Hmph. Of course, arrangements can be made at least up until the last wave of arrests for those who early on supported the party line of the Supreme Screenwriter - particularly fellow Revolutionaries of the female persuasion.

    Then, if like Stalin's wife the bump you hear in the night is your Beloved El Supremo entering your boudoir with a pistol, you can at least expire knowing that you've given your All for Cause - so He may indeed be the Last Screenwriter Standing. (Unless you can learn how to throw that icepick, a la Prizzi's Honor).

  15. My, my, my. So much work to do all that! Why not simply find a brilliant screenwriter, marry him or her, encourage the said writer to smoke much medical marijuana, and simply put your own John Hancock on the script? Also, I believe it might be necessary to have a few minor despots in the brew. With only one screenwriter, what happens under a strike?

  16. You guys are so creative that I wish you'd taken part in the Collaborative Screenwriting Project. This thread is really making me laugh. I couldn't possibly pick my favorite.

  17. Oh James. Sigh.... We appear to have agreed on the marital bed at least.

    Tripp, victory IS yours. Bless your cotton socks.

    As for the death battle for last screenwriter standing, don't assume I have foolishly disclosed the murder weapon. All good tales have twists. In fairness - given your apparent acceptance of my hand - you should assume I have more killin' ideas than represented all the Saw movies combined. With the orginiality of Untraceable. The brutality of Tarantino. You may be the master of mass extermination. I howeverspecialise in creative focussed killing. Hope this creates a juicy Hitchcockian suspense with which to commence our relationship.

    Might keep you around for a while to bounce ideas on a few of my projects, but I guess I can do that whilst you are busy killing our opposition.

    Oh, look at that: the royal 'Our' already. How cute. Its like 'The Notebook' via blog.

  18. Ahem. In honor of the occasion, I've even written -- a song!


    - to the bluegrass tune "Come Fill My Cup" -

    "Screenwriting's a bitch they won't read your stuff
    There's a known way out of it you can't use enough
    Don't drink yourself to death, no need to huff and puff
    El Supremo can use you though he thinks you're a dunce.


    "We had a totalitarian wedding
    And went round and round
    We had that tee-rannical wedding
    But one of us'd have to be put down.

    "Now there's only two of us left and we come to the end.
    Husband and wife, as many times before, the stalking begins
    Hiding enough weapons to make World War Three start again
    The last two Screenwriters standing both take it on the chin -


    "They had a totalitarian wedding
    Then they went round and round
    They had a big tee-ranical wedding
    Then we put 'em both in the ground."

    (Play to finish)

  19. OH JAMES!

    That's the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me. Our own song. And such a beautiful one.

    It will be such a shame to witness your last gasping breath.

    But kill or be killed.,,unnless that song implies we both live happily ever after? in heaven (after the ground bit?)

    I can't wait to see how this screenplay, I mean relationship, ends. ;-)