Friday, February 19, 2010
A Martian wouldn't say that
For those of you who have been around since I started back in August and for anyone new you've probably noticed how often I focus on incompetent executives or directors and producers. There are a lot of them, to be sure.
But I also mention the good ones, which, unfortunately are fewer than the others. More often than not, those who are not particularly welcomed are the ones who know it all. They know all about filmmaking, distributing and generally anything else.
Some years ago I submitted a screenplay to a producer. I hadn't heard from him for months until I saw him at a party. I asked if he had read the screenplay, he said yes and then mentioned it was a lot like the French film Alphaville.
That seemed odd as it was nothing like Alphaville, an offbeat futuristic movie. So I asked him if he had ever seen Alphaville. His answer was; "no but a friend told me about it."
So how would you rate that comment on your script? Or your pasta?
So I decided to share other writer experiences with studio and network executives and let you be the judge.
These come from a book called "A Martian Wouldn't Say That", mostly a collection of memos from TV execs. The title refers to a note given to a writer on My Favorite Martian, a sitcom of the 60's, and referred to dialog written for the actor playing the Martian. Of course the logical comment would be "how would you know that?"
Here's several real notes from execs:
"We cast a black actor as our lead but the way you've written the dialog, we can't tell that."
That's what we intended.
"Then how will the audience know he's black?"
"Considering today's sensibilities, when you discuss euthanasia, be sure you do so in a positive light".
"We have run the sequence of the barmaid serving drinks over and over. There is too much cleavage."
"Please consider eliminating the child abuse and homosexual references, they are no longer popular with audiences."
"In this script, Beverly is described as "on top of everything". Please define "everything."
"This is the best script of Addams Family we've read in a year. Attached are the notes for the rewrite".
"I think you're making a mistake having so many French involved in the production of Les Miserables."
"In response to your list of suggested writers for your upcoming pilot; who is Truman Capote?"
Sent to Joseph Wambaugh, ex LAPD officer & screenwriter: "Regarding scene on page 38, we don't think cops really talk that way. Please correct.
"I'm really excited by your new script, those who read it tell me it's exceptionally good."
And this is what we deal with at least half the time, sometimes more. Who was it who said movies are high school with money.