“Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.”
James Gray is a working writer/director who back in 1994 made his first feature film at age 24, and his latest film (The Lost City of Z) is hitting theater this month. But in the recent article Jame Gray and the Struggle of the Middle-Class Filmmaker he lays out the difficulties beyond student loans and getting movies made:
“You know, people assume that because I’m a director, I make tons of money. I am struggling financially. Now, I’m very lucky I get to do what it is I want to do. I’ve made, good or bad, very uncompromising movies, the movies exactly that I wanted to make, and that’s a beautiful gift, so I’m not complaining about that. But I struggle. I have a hard time paying my bills. I’m 47 years old, I live in an apartment, I can’t buy a house. If I were coming of age in 1973, I would be in Bel Air. The whole reason for this is…the middle is gone. So now you have franchises, and you have, ‘I made a movie on my iPhone.’ This is the economic system in a nutshell, right? Five directors make Marvel, and then there’s the rest of us who are trying to scrounge around to find the money to make films.”
Director James Gray (The Immigrant)
Vulture article by Kevin Lincoln (4/14/17)
P.S. The most read post I’ve ever written on this blog over the years is the 2009 post How Much Do Screenwriters Make? It’s not a perfect post, but I think it’s a fair reality check and discussion starter. By the way, if you read that post and would like to clarify how writers (and how much) working writers are paid—from Hollywood to Nollywood—shoot me an email at info@scottwsmith as I’d like to clarify the process and reality as much as I can for others.
Screenwriting Quote #189 (James Gray)
Scott W. Smith
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“[Shane Black] isn’t Hollywood’s most prolific writer — he only has a handful of credits, including the first Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and The Last Boy Scout— but for a time, he was its most highly paid, and the $4 million he earned for the 1996 action film The Long Kiss Goodnight is still a Hollywood record for a spec script. How did Black do it? Simple: He made reading his screenplays way too much fun.”
Why Iron Man 3 Director Shane Black Was Once Hollywood’s Hottest Screenwriter
“I recommend if you haven’t read it go back and read Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , the original screenplay by William Goldman who was sort of my mentor, my rabbi, along with James L. Brooks. There’s plenty to be found in these old writers especially Goldman. Walter Hill and William Goldman are two of my favorites and if you’re going to write screenplays, or if you already are and you want a boost or a shot in the arm—look at the structure, they way they’re written, the style of those two authors—Walter Hill and William Goldman— because between the two of them they account for the bulk of the stylistic stuff I do on the page as a writer.”
Writer/Director Shane Black speaking to students in Minneapolis in the above video
Here are a few examples pointed out in Kyle Buchanan’s Vulture article of Black’s writing style:
Joshua and Riggs. Two soldiers. Their eyes lock. And you better hand on to your popcorn, boys and girls, because it’s about to get ugly.
Dark. Depressing. Sprawl of furniture. Stack after stack of sports magazines. Drop all your belongings out of a plane. They will land like this.
The Last Boy Scout
The LEADER: a haggard-looking man sporting a soup stain on his tie, whoops, that’s the design, sorry.
The Long Kiss Goodnight
P.S. If you’ve never read William Goldman’s classic book Adventures in the Screen Trade make it your next read as it not only includes insights into screenwriting and the film industry, but his entire screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It’ll give you a better jolt than a can of Red Bull—and cost about the same amount. (You can find a used copy on Amazon for under three bucks.)
Screenwriting Quote #118 (William Goldman)
William Goldman Stands Alone
Screenwriting Quote #65
Shane Black & Willie Mays (A word of warning on trying to copy Black’s style)
Meet Your First Audience (Tip #36)
Descriptive Writing (Frank Darabont)
Descriptive Writing (Stephen King)
Descriptive Writing—Part 1 (tip #22)
Scott W. Smith
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