Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The script that made me want to recommend psychiatric help for the writer

Lence asks:

What's the best script you've ever read? 

I'm truly at a loss for this one.  It's one of those cases where I read so much that a lot of it tends to bleed together.  I don't know if you can really put a "best script ever" label on anything because there are a lot of different ways to write a GREAT script. Indeed, I've read a lot of scripts that I really liked, many that I was passionate about for different reasons - and yet, asked to single out one... I just can't.

And have you ever read a script so bad it almost made you angry to read? 

Frequently.  I recall one instance where the development VP I was reading for at the time kicked a script down to me and it was one of the most generic pieces of violent drek I'd seen in a while.  The writing style was trying WAY too hard to be cool.  (I'm pretty sure there was a lot of Shane Black-type "talking to the reader.")  It was very low-brow and B-movie like.  In fact, you could have almost convinced me it came in from a non-pro query.  I struggled to find anything original or inspiring about the script.  On top of that, most of the characters didn't even have proper names.

I hated it, and told the VP so.  Turns out, she'd read ten pages and hated it so much she kicked it down to me so she wouldn't have to read it.  After I explained my reaction to the script, she apparently called up the exec who sent it to her and in so many words said, "Dude! What the fuck?!"

The exec said that this script was about to go into production and that the writers were going to be "huge!"  VP and I roared with disbelief over that one.  But in the end, the writers had the last laugh as they've gone on to work steadily, working on at least one franchise.

In our defense, I know of some A-listers who weren't especially impressed with their writing either and had some of the same issues we did.

And then there was one of the most vile, misogynistic pieces of violent writing I had ever read.  It was perverted, disgusting and disturbing to such a level that the only reason I ended up with the script was that the (female) reader who had to cover the first submission of this script refused to read it again due to being the product of a sick mind.

She was right. I googled the writer.  He was a studio exec.

As much as that deserved a rimshot THAT WAS NOT A JOKE!

The coverage that script provoked was some of the most unvarnished coverage I ever had submitted to these bosses.  Some of my employers enjoy it when I take a more Simon Cowell-like approach to shredding the truly terrible scripts, others have preferred a more measured, even take on it.  The bosses for this submission were among the more buttoned-up, but in my write-up, I only barely restrained myself from suggesting psychiatric help for the submitter.

A few months later, the script was resubmitted.  I had to read it again.  The fucker barely had changed anything - and he certainly hadn't toned down the misogyny or the violence.  Or the misogynistic violence.  I made sure when I wrote the synopsis that I included every last instance of such.

I'll put it this way.  He made I Spit on Your Grave look like Mary Poppins.  So I tore him a new one, then emailed my boss's assistant and said, "Look, this concept is NEVER ever going to get a Consider from anyone.  If we take it again, we're wasting our time and the company's money."  As I understand it, the message was conveyed.  In spades.

A few weeks later, the writer attempted to submit again.  He was unsuccessful.

I've probably written other scripts that were just as bad or worse, but few made me as violently angry at the writer as that.  Rarely have I ever felt I was looking into the mind of such a sick individual.


  1. They say that you reveal one's inner self through your art, so I have no doubt the guy probably does need help.

    BTW, I totally want to know the names of the writing duo who went on to write franchises...

  2. I'm curious who the writing duo is too... my guess is Dunstan & Melton.

  3. Did it have the line

    It's me bitch?

  4. Thank you for answering my questions, I really enjoyed this post. I hope this guy isn't as dangerous in real life as he is on paper.

  5. My hunch is that the writing duo in question is the Finch/Litvak team, and the script BSR is talking about is Medieval.

    And frankly, if this was BSR's reaction to that script, then that worries me about readers in Hollywood in general, and what a crap shoot it is to get a script past the gatekeepers, because it seems like BSR rejected this script on the basis of personal taste, not objective criteria.

    I've read Medieval, and while I could never even come close to approximating that slick writing style, I wish I could.

    But more importantly, the script has a degree of inventiveness that is frankly awe-inspiring. The plot becomes more and more ingenious as the film progresses, and has a genius final twist. I guarantee, if Medieval ever makes it to screen, it will have a Raiders-like impact. Like it or not, teen males make up a significant portion of the movie-viewing public. Medieval is perfect for them.

    If a script reader is using the adjective "violent" as a negative, that's a problem. And I'm no fan of violence for its own sake (e.g., I dislike Reservoir Dogs for its cruelty). But violence can be entertaining, and in Medieval, it was.