Tales From the Script (2009) is a documentary about screenwriting in Hollywood. Aside from aspiring screenwriters, it should be quite fascinating to anyone who’s intrigued by the whole movie-making process.
The format is quite familiar, and simply shows one screenwriter after another giving his or her perspective on the craft, with no signs of an interviewer. So many modern documentaries follow this model and it has advantages as well as drawbacks. We get to hear many points of view, but it means that the feedback on every issue is scattershot more than in depth. I suppose modern attention spans are deemed too short for old fashioned interviews or dialogues that last more than a few seconds.
As might be expected, the writers tend to focus on the many absurdities of life in Hollywood and how the industry keeps writers in a relatively powerless position. Much of this material is already pretty well known, not only among industry insiders but to anyone who’s seen films such as The Player (which, oddly enough, is not mentioned here).
For example, the writer’s original script might be rewritten dozens of times. Actors and directors may change lines, and in some cases the final product bares little resemblance to the writer’s first draft. There is also a segment that laments the modern preference for franchise type movies, often based on comic books, rather than traditional character and story based scripts.
Tales From the Script, of course, is only talking about mainstream Hollywood here and doesn’t mention the growth of low budget independent movies, many of which are written, directed and produced by the same person (or small group).
Even if the insights aren’t exactly earth-shattering, it’s still great to hear from so many legendary screenwriters. After all, the public seldom gets to see them and in many cases probably wouldn’t even recognize them. Unlike actors and directors, writers generally remain behind the scenes.
Many of these writers spend a lot of their time griping about their low place in the hierarchy of filmmaking. Yet they also appreciate how fortunate they are to be in the enviable position of making money doing what they love.
Some of the screenwriters featured in Tales From the Script include William Goldman, Paul Schrader, Allison Anders and John Carpenter.