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Posts Tagged ‘Men in Black’

“If I were starting now, I would not go into film at all. I would not be a screenwriter. I would go into television. I’d go into theater. I’d write fiction. I would not subject myself to the screenwriter’s existence, ‘cause you’re not really a writer. It’s a simulacrum of a writing process. You’re living like an artist—what I mean by that is you are digging into yourself, you’re trying to make something really work. You’re putting everything into it, but what you’re creating is essentially a series of suggestions for other people to do what they want with—it’s really not art, what you’re making, at the end of the day. Your art is your screenplay, but nobody sees that.”
Screenwriter Ed Solomon (Men in Black, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure)
The Moment with Brian Koppelman podcast interview (7/4/18)

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“Kindness is free.”
Writer/director Garry Marshall

Back in the ’70s Jimmy Walker was a comedian and actor at the height of his fame— famous for his role as J.J. on the hit show Good Times and his catchphrase Dy-no-mite!
But here’s a less known account that Men in Black screenwriter Ed Solomon tells about when he was a college student in 1979 and got a huge shot of encouragement from Walker:

“There was a comedian named Jimmy Aleck and I walked in the back area of The Comedy Store and I overheard Jimmy Aleck say to someone else that he didn’t take writers but Jimmy Walker was looking for writers. And Jimmy Walker performed that night. And I went up to him afterwards and I said, ‘Excuse me Mr. Walker, are you looking for writers?’ And he literally pats me on the head and says, ‘We’re always looking for writers, son.’ Pats me on the head, gives me a phone number and address of his head writer Gene Bronstein—really nice guy—and I went back to my dorm room and typed up on onion skin paper jokes I’d written in high school, some of those jokes I performed and failed [in open mic night at The Comedy Club], some new jokes—22 jokes I remember I sent. I remember the cover letter: ‘Dear Mr. Bronstein, enclosed please find 22 jokes for your and Mr. Walker’s perusal.’ Then sent them off. And two about weeks later I got an envelope with a check for a hundred bucks saying basically this is far in excess of what we pay for material (they bought two jokes) but Mr. Walker wanted to encourage you to keep writing. And that was November of 1979, and I was like holy sh—! I got paid to write. And then about a month later, I’m in the dorms. Packed in our dorm room and on a little tiny black and white TV that we had—that was my uncle Max’s that I brought down to UCLA—staying up until 3 AM to watch Don Kirshner’s rock concert where Jimmy Walker performs a joke. And he did the joke [that I wrote]. It was one of the highlights of my writing life.”
Screenwriter Ed Solomon (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Mosaic)
The Moment with Brian Koppelman podcast

Related posts:
‘Helping others rarely hurts anyone, particularly yourself’-Ted Hope
The Kindness of Strangers 

Scott W. Smith

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Last night I watched the documentary Dreams on Spec which is a look at screenwriting from the perspective of those who’ve made it and those who are trying to make it. It’s reminiscent of Comedian which features Jerry Seinfeld’s behind the scene look of those trying to build a career as stand-up comedians. Both should be required viewing as they give a glimpse of the uphill battles, pitfalls, and realties of a creative career.

Dreams on Spec was written and directed by Daniel Snyder and in between profiling three screenwriters at various stages of trying to break into the industry he shows interviews with screenwriters Ed Solomon (Men in Black), James L. Brooks (As Good as it Gets), Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally) and others. I thought I’d pull some quotes for you this week, but I encourge you to watch the doc.

First up is writer/director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit):

“I think that it’s very easy to kind of give it away—give the definition of success away—empower other people in determining whether or not you have talent. And here’s the catch-22, the more you do that the less you’ll be able to write. That’s the hard thing, because writing is all about preservation, and strength and authority in your own voice. So if you give that voice away by guessing (Ross points to others) what you think, or what you think, or what you think as you go, you’re gonna have less to say and less to be able to write about, and less of an authoritative voice and then it goes away.”

Each of the up and coming screenwriters featured in the doc represents three common  stages of writing. There is one who keeps plugging away despite year after year of rejection, one who has mild success in actually getting a low budget script produce (walking away with around $20,000 and keeping his day job), and one that appears to quit. That probably covers 99& of the writers who will write the tens of thousands of scripts this year.


Scott W. Smith

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