Posts Tagged ‘Roger Avary’

“Originality is just undetected plagiarism.”
(Some version of this quote is attributed to William Ralph Inge, Mark Twain, Herbert Paul, Paul Chatfield, Katharine Fullerton Gerould, and others.)

“I steal from every single movie ever made. I love it—if my work has anything it’s that I’m taking this from this and that from that and mixing them together….I steal from everything. Great artists steal, they don’t do homages.”
Two-time Oscar wining screenwriter Quentin Tarantino
Empire, November 1994

Screen Shot 2020-06-25 at 10.47.13 AM

The Adrenaline shot scene from Pulp Fiction is one of the most iconic scenes in the history of cinema.

Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary won an Oscar for the screenplay of the 1994 film, and it catapulted Tarantino to international fame as a writer/director. Film critic Roger Ebert remembers that when Tarantino went to the Cannes for Reservoir Dogs he was just glad to be there, but said of Tarantino when he went back with Pulp Fiction that ” the whole top floor of the Carlton has been roped off for him.”

And in his 1994 review of Pulp Fiction Ebert wrote that it “situations are inventive and original” and pointed out the scene where John Travolta and John Stolz argue over who is going to plunge the adrenaline-filled syringe into Uma Thurman’s heart: “YOU brought her here, YOU stick in the needle! When I bring an O.D. to YOUR house, I’LL stick in the needle!”

I don’t know who first detected the origin of that scene, but I just discovered it last week when I stumbled on the 1978 documentary American Boy: A Profile of – Steven Prince directed by Martin Scorsese. The Criterion Channel profile of Steven Prince calls him a “former drug addict, road manager for Neil Diamond, and actor who played the gun salesman in Taxi Driver.” Here’s one of the many unusual situations he recounted:

“I managed to get a lot of medical supplies, medical equipment that you didn’t normally have. Like we had oxygen. We had an electronic stethoscope that gave you a tape readout so you could tell how many heartbeats. We had Adrenaline shots . . . the kind of shots to bring you through when you OD. And this girl once OD’d on us. And she was out, man. And it was myself and her boyfriend. And her heartbeat was dropping down. And we got everything out, oxygen, and nothing was working. And he looks at me and says, well, you’re gonna have to give he an Adrenalin shot. And I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ I said, ‘You give it to her’ and he said, ‘I can‘t. It’s like a doctor working on someone in his own family.’ I said, ‘That’s bullshit, you’ve known her fucking two days.’ . . .  And he said, ‘No, I can’t do it.’ So we had the medical dictionary—you know how you give an Adrenaline shot? Okay, the Adrenalin needle’s about that big, and you’ve got to give it into the heart. And you have to put it in in a stabbing motion, and then plunge down on the thing. I got a Magic Marker, make a Magic Marker where her heart was, measured down, like, two to three ribs and measured in between there and I just went [motions stabbing the syringe down and injecting the Adrenaline] and she came back like that [snaps fingers].”
—Steven Prince

Might that look something like this?:

I wondered if someone had done a mashup of Steven Prince’s story and the Pulp Fiction scene—and the answer is, of course. (Found the video below on an 2017 IndieWire article by Jude Dry. Can’t believe it took me 26 years to hear that story.)

P.S. “We found adrenaline does not increase your chances of surviving without severe brain damage. In fact, of the survivors, twice as many have severe brain damage.”
— Dr. Gavin Perkins, professor of critical care medicine at the University of Warwick Medical School in England. Source 2018 WebMD article. 

Related post:
Stealing for Screenwriters (According to Paul Schrader) 
Stealing from Shakespeare 

Scott W. Smith 

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“Sins can be such fun. Of the seven supposedly deadly ones, only envy does not give the sinner at least momentary pleasure. And an eighth, schadenfreude — enjoyment of other persons’ misfortunes — is almost the national pastime.”
George Will

“Part of the attraction of the first seasons was Schadenfreude — the joy in watching filmmakers suffer and struggle when they got their big chance. As the New York Sun newspaper put it in a headline ‘Bad Film = Good TV’.”
Peter Henderson; Reality TV ‘Project Greenlight’ Has New Goal: Money; Reuters; Aug 6, 2004.

Thanks to a comment (from Scriptwrecked; Making sure your screenplay doesn’t leave you stranded) about my Dorito’s commercial, I just learned of the German word Schadenfreude this week. Now I see it everywhere. Schadenfreude is “pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.” There’s some schadenfreude going on in Iowa this week with the first criminal charges filed surrounding the Iowa film incentives.

Lee Rood of the Des Moines Register wrote, “The Iowa Attorney General’s office on Monday charged the former manager of the Iowa Film Office with misconduct in office and filed first-degree theft charges against principles involved in the making of a 2008 film in Council Bluffs.” The article goes in detail about the tax-credit scandal and how some filmmakers abused the system.

Filmmakers in Iowa have either known of (or at least heard rumors of) the way that some producers where inflating billings to basically have the taxpayers of Iowa fund films that otherwise would not get made. The most common word I heard from people was the simple word fraud. The government was a little slow to catch on, but they’ve been making up for lost time and the word now being used is felony. Changes have been made of producers from Nebraska and Minnesota and undoubtedly I’m sure there are other producers who are very afraid of the next phone call, letter, or knock on the door.

This drama is becoming more interesting that most of the films made under the Iowa tax incentives.

And since Iowa was a part of the recent runaway production in Los Angeles, I’m sure there are a few production people in L.A. experiencing some schadenfrude.

And according to Rood’s article these charges aren’t just a slap on the wrist, if convicted the filmmakers are facing 2 to 10 years in prison. I guess the flip side is spending time in prison would give you time do to first hand research on a new prison film. I’m surprised  some prison hasn’t harnessed the talent inside those walls to make a feature film. (Any prison wardens out there? I’m open do doing a screenwriting workshop in a prison.) Oscar-winning Pulp Fiction co-screenwriter Roger Avary even got creative and started Twitting from prison (until his privileges were revoked) where he is serving a one-year sentence for vehicular manslaughter.

But some things are better left to the imagination rather than experience. Really, did Stephen King or Frank Darabont need to spend time in a prison during the 1930’s to write The Shawkshank Redemption? Of all the prison films over the years, and there have been some good ones, I bet almost all of them were written by people who didn’t serve time.

Looking at the list of abuses and lack of proper government insight of the Iowa film incentives it’s not a surprise that the state of Iowa has suspended their film incentives. They were once some of the best in the country and some are saying now that they aren’t coming back. We’ll see. It’s too bad this wasn’t a successful program, because it could have been the start of something good.

But, as I’ve said before, the main job of the writer is to write and not get caught-up in all the “if, “ands,” and “buts” of the Alice-in-Wonderland world of filmmaking.

And for all those people out there looking for easy money–remember the old saying, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Scott W. Smith

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