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Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Katzenberg’

“Even in my own life, after 35 years, I feel that I have never done that one thing, that noble thing that defines a life.”
Jerry Maguire’s Mission Statement

“I came here to fire you Jerry.”
Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr) in Jerry Maguire
Written by Cameron Crowe

The now ledgendary 1991 Disney memo written by Jeffrey Katzenberg is said to have inspired Cameron Crowe to write the Jerry Maguire mission statement.  Couldn’t find confirmation of that but both memos stress passion for improving their businesses. Here’s the  entire Jerry Maguire Mission Statement, and below is the abridged version from the film.

“The event you’re writing about should be the most important moment of your hero’s life. If your movie isn’t about the most important moment in your hero’s life don’t write it. Write about whatever WAS the most important moment in his life, because that’s  likely to be more interesting. When we meet Jerry Maguire, his entire life has been derailed. He’s lost his job, his confidence, his financee, and his future. It’s never been worse for him than at this moment, which is excatly why this moment is worthy of a movie.”
Carson Reeves
Scriptshadow Secrets Tip 282

I just realized I haven’t written about the new book Scriptshadow’s Secrets yet so I’ll do that tomorrow. In the meantime here’s another Jerry Maguire nugget from that book:

“Every scene you write, the characters in that scene should have a goal. When Jerry Maguire gets fired by his rival, Bob Sugar, he has a clear goal: keep all his clients. So he starts calling every athlete on his client list to make sure they stay with him. Bob Sugar also has a goal: to STEAL all of Jerry Maguire’s clients. Sometimes goals will be big and sometimes they’ll be small. But in most good screenplays, goals are what keep the energy up and the story alive. ”
Carson Reeves
Scriptshadow Secrets

P.S. “Original idea [for Jerry Magauire] was inspired by a magazine photo (of late agent Gary) Wichard and The Boz (Brian Bosworth).”
Cameron Crowe
CNBC article by Darren Rovell

Related Articles:
Where Do Ideas Come From?
Hope & Redemption
Starting Your Screenplay (Tip #6)
Orphan Characters (Tip #31)
The Idea Is King
DAVID MAMET’S BOLD MEMO: “DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, ACUTE GOAL.”—David Mamet

 

Scott W. Smith

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The-Lion-King-the-lion-king-541187_1024_768

“In the dizzying world of moviemaking, we must not be distracted from one fundamental concept: the idea is king. Stars, directors, writers, hardware, special effects, new sound systems… all of these can have a role to play in the success of a film, but they all serve as humble subjects to the supremacy of the idea. If a movie begins with a great, original idea, chances are good it will be successful, even if it is executed only marginally well. However, if a film begins with a flawed idea, it will most certainly fail, even if it is made with ‘A’ talent and marketed to the hilt.”
Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Disney Chairman (’84-’94) & current CEO of Dream Works Animation
1991 Disney Memo The World Is Changing

Again, file this 22-year-old memo under— We need to be reminded more than we need to be taught. The thing that sticks out to me re-reading this memo after more than a decade is where Kazenberg says, “even if it is executed only marginally well.” When I did a concept consultation with Adam Levenberg last week he said I had a good idea now I needed to write “a decent script.” You won’t find too many people telling you to write a decent script.

But perhaps words like decent and good need to be reclaimed. Strip away all the hyperole. Here are a couple of  definitions found in Merriam-Webster:

Decent: Appropriate, satisfactory, well-formed

Good: Bountiful, attractive, suitable, well-founded, commendable, skillful, commercially sound

But perfection is really unattainable and can be paralyzing. I think Anne Lamott’s phrase is “perfection is the enemy of the good.” There are many examples in Hollywood where a writer’s script is sold mainly on its idea and shaped into a successful film.

Even Sylvester Stallone says only 10% of his original Rocky script made it into the finished Oscar-winning film. He did the rest in the re-writing stage working with producers after the script had sold. What got Stallone on the producer’s radar is he wrote a “decent script”/a good first draft…in six days. Script readers and producers mention time and time again that there just aren’t that many good scripts out there.

“Why do imperfect (for lack of a better term; no screenplay I’ve ever read is perfect) screenplays finish high on the Black List? You have to understand that most of the scripts out there range from terrible to mediocre.  It’s not just that a lot of scripts are bad, it’s that they’re blandly bad.  In that sea, a script that makes bold choices will stand out more.”
The Bitter Script Reader
If this script is flawed, how did it end up on the Black List

So avoid writing a blandly bad script and go write a good and decent script with a great idea.

P.S. Check out the post by WME Story Editor Christopher Lockhart called The Right Script:
“‘Great’ is a buzz word…I suggest writers write the ‘right’ script. The notion of the “right script” selling is just a more realistic approach to the way the business operates.”

Related post:
Concept, Concept, Concept (Tip #80)
Writing “Rocky”
Writing & Rewriting “Pretty Woman” (Part 1)
Writing & Rewriting “Pretty Woman” (Part 2) “Movies are all about rewriting.”—Garry Marshall
Coppola & Corman Aiming to make a living on the way to the Oscars
Christopher Lockhart Q&A (Part 1)What make a script a “right” script?:
1) CONCEPT
2) EXECUTION
3) MARKETING

Scott W. Smith

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“All stories are about transformation.”
Blake Snyder

“Movies are all about rewriting.”
Garry Marshall

“When Disney first sent me the script for Pretty Woman, it was a dark tale about a cold and heartless corporate raider and a drug-addicted prostitute who had been hooking for six years. The relationship ended with the raider’s giving the prostitute three thousand dollars and knocking her to the ground. Vivian then screamed, ‘You go to hell! I hate you! I hate your money! I hate it! as he drove away leaving her in the gutter where he found her….What bothered me about the script was that it didn’t make me care about either of the characters. Neither of them generated much sympathy and I rooted for no one.”
Garry Marshall

In the book Wake Me When It’s Funny, Garry Marshall wrote that Jeffrey Katzenberg (then with Disney) brought him in to “supervise the rewrite and lighten it up” the script that would become the movie Pretty Woman.

“We had five different writers on Pretty Women and the first to attempt the rewrite was the original screenwriter, J.F. Lawton. Even  after Lawton took a stab, the studio still felt that the script needed some more work. Our approach to the film was to make it the story of two people from totally different backgrounds united in a fairy tale. In all the rewrites, the part of Vivian, the prostitute, came quite easily. It was the character of the businessman, Edward Lewis, that presented the most problems. Only Barbara Benedek, the sole woman writer in the group, got the voice of Edward down by creating a Donald Trump-style executive with a vulnerable side.”
Garry Marshall

One of the writers was Stephen Metcalfe;

“Whenever people ask me what I’ve ‘done’ as a writer, the easiest answer is Pretty Woman. Instant credibility. But what I don’t go into is the fact I never got screen credit on it. I feel I should have, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really bother me. It wasn’t my story. The original script – 3000 – was written by a fine writer, J.F. Lawton. The Julia Roberts character was a coke addicted street walker. The Richard Gere character was a manipulating socio-path. It was gripping, dark and moody and was very real. What it wasn’t was a romantic comedy. And yet someone at Disney – perhaps it was Jeffrey Katzenberg – thought it could be. They believed it so much they’d already hired the director, Gary Marshall, who was sort of the Sidney Lumet of comedy and they’d hired Julia Roberts, who was not yet Julia Roberts but was undoubtably going to be.”
Stephen Metcalfe
From 2008 article Pretty Woman on his website

So if you’re keeping track, so far the writers attached to Pretty Woman were J.F. Lawton, Barbara Benedek and Stephen Metcalfe. Robert Garland did a version of the script and I don’t know if Marshall counted himself as the fifth writer or if it was someone else. I don’t know who to credit with writing this excellent opening description of the Richard Gere character:

EDWARD HARRIS stands at the window, impassively looking down at the party. Edward is a handsome, well groomed man around forty. He looks tired: the kind of fatigue that can’t be cured by a night’s sleep.

What I do know is that Lawton is single credited on the screenplay and received an WGA nomination for the script.

And while there is no shortage of essays about Pretty Women’s role in feminism, capitalism, and morality, or debates about the cliche of the “hooker with a heart of gold” and the businessman with daddy issues—the simple fact is Pretty Women captured the magic.

The film has sold more tickets in the United States than any other romantic comedy (yes, including My Big Fat Greek Wedding). And I think it captured the magic many ways using several tried and true methods including sex, shopping, and Cinderella. Along with a touch of Pygmalion,  rags to riches, fish out of water, low class/high class, the American dream of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps (even if they are knee-high hooker boots), finding the love of your life, and the classic transformation theme.

Of all of those, I think the transformation theme is what resonates the strongest. It’s one we put the put our personal hopes in. Nowhere is that more evident than in a class I once had with evangelist Billy Graham’s grandson (Tullian Tchividjian) who once surprised and amused the class in a talk by saying his grandfather really liked the movie Pretty Woman.

I’m guessing that it was the transformation aspect that emotionally connected with Billy Graham rather than the sex or the shopping spree. After all, Graham has spent his life in the transformation business.

“It is true that I look for the Cinderella aspect when I am making a film. Most good stories are Cinderella. Audiences like to watch characters whose lives change for the better.”
Garry Marshall
Interview with Leslie Elizabeth Kreiner

Yes, one side of Pretty Woman is silly, superficial, and demoralizing to women, etc., etc.—but another aspect of it touches a universal longing. And that is that no matter how low we are in life that there is hope that the winds of change will blow in our direction.

Have you ever seen a scarecrow filled with nothing but dust and weeds?
If you’ve ever seen that scarecrow then you’ve seen me
Have you ever seen a one-armed man punching at nothing but the breeze?
If you ever seen a one-armed man then you’ve seen me
Bruce Springsteen
The Wrestler

While I’m no expert on world religions, I imagine that most deal with the concept the broken made whole,  the weak becoming strong, and the lost being redeemed. And for the broken, weak, and lost—what else is there but hope?

Hope is why some people buy lottery tickets, some go to church, and why others go to movies. Check out my post Hope & Redemption to see a list of films that I think follow those themes and have found large audiences, critical acclaim, and awards. Kind of the triple crown of filmmaking.

Interesting Pretty Women triva—considered for the role that Julie Roberts shined in were Molly Ringwald, Jennifer Connelly, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Daryl Hannah, Mary Steenburgen, Karen Allen, and Meg Ryan. Film historian David Thomson compared Roberts beauty in Pretty Woman with Elizabeth Taylor’s role in George Stevens’ A Place in the Sun. (A once every fifty years kind of thing.)

Screenwriter Ben-Hur Sepehr wrote a screenplay called Temporary Arrangement in 1984 and sent the screenplay to an employee at Disney. He sued for copyright infringement but lost in court in 1992. The Entertainment Law Reporter wrote, “Sepehr argued that in both stories ‘a Hollywood  Boulevard prostitute is transformed emotionally, socially and morally through her employment by a super-rich business tycoon. A further result of the encounter is the transformation of the businessman also.’ The theme of ‘transformation’ was an unprotectible plot idea, stated the court. Judge Byrne, citing the ‘well established’ principle that broad character types are not protected by copyright law, concluded that the characters in the two works were not substantially similar – other than the fact that the two heroines were both prostitutes, they were entirely different characters, as were the two ‘successful, hardworking business executives.”

Scott W. Smith

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