Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Screenwriting Conversation #2

Hey Everybody,

Sorry I am really slow on this post, I have been doing a lot of driving since we last talked. I am in Baltimore at Creative Alliance, the tour has definitely begun. I will try to be better about posting weekly while I am out on the road.

So here is part two of my conversation with William Akers. I keep screwing up the name of his book, it is, Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make It Great!

I am having problems with the formatting so forgive me when it comes to Teddy's quotes from Body Heat. William sent them to me correctly, they just don't want to post properly on this blog.

What hit movie do you think really has a lousy screenplay?

Can’t be done.

Well, the public (and some producers!) thinks movies don’t need great scripts. Dim bulbs that they are, they don’t realize that the actors don’t make up the words as they go along. Ha. You want to see how important the script is to an actor? Watch the Oscars. See what happens when an actor decides to deviate from the TelePrompTer! They fall smack on their ass. It’s pretty funny. Yet, actors almost never thank the writers. Ingrates.

You have to have a great script. I was on the board of the Nashville Film Festival and it was staggering how many terrible movies were submitted. Independent filmmakers work so hard to raise the money, and when they get their financing, they think, “Hey, we can make the movie now!” when what they should do, is ten more drafts. I feel so bad for the actors and crew, standing in the cold, making a movie that no one will see because the writer / producer / director didn’t take the time to make the script bulletproof. I have an all day seminar I do for filmmakers, about how to get their script in shape to shoot. Just because you have the money, doesn’t mean you’re ready.

What advice do you have for people who want to write a screenplay?

1.) Don’t.

Teddy, the rock ‘n roll arsonist in BODY HEAT, said it nicely...

I got a serious question for you. What the fuck are you
doing? This is not shit for you to be messing with. Are
you ready to hear something? See if this sounds familiar.
Anytime you try a decent crime, there’s 50 ways to fuck up.
If you think of 25 of them you’re a genius. And you’re no genius.

Later on, he says...

I hope you know what you’re doin’. You better be pretty damn
sure about it. If you ain’t sure, don’t do it. Of course, that’s my
recommendation anyway -- don’t do it.

2.) Spend all that time wasted on writing, in bed, screwing your spouse. Imagine how much happier everyone will be. The world won’t have to read another screenplay and your honey will be smiling constantly.

3.) Buy my book. Seriously, it’s worth the money. One guy told me that the table of contents was worth the price of the book. The book is a checklist, and it will keep you out of trouble and improve your writing.

What advice do you have for people who want to sell a screenplay?

Write something that someone will want to pay to SEE. Just because you think your stupid, asinine, dumbass idea is a swell idea for a movie, doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to sell the puppy. It’s the entertainment business, after all. It’s not creative unless it sells. Try to find something that satisfies your inner need to create, but that is also something that you can get money for. It’s much more difficult than you suppose. A poor idea is like dry rot, as you can spend all kinds of time putting trim on the house, but if the framing is no good, the thing is going to collapse and you will have wasted your time.

And you have so little time. So incredibly little time, you can’t waste much of it going down the garden of forking paths.

After I write my screenplay, how much should I sell it for? (I have really been asked this question a number of times.)

Whatever they will pay. Seriously. Take the money. Write another script. Be happy someone wanted to buy what you wrote. You’re lucky as can be, so don’t be a snobby jerk and refuse because the money is not good enough.

Guild minimum to get the health insurance is around $32,000. Try to get paid enough to get the insurance. But, if they want to give you $1,500, take it. Just let them make your movie. Buy my book. All this is in there.

If so many people are writing screenplays how come we don't see better movies in the theaters?

The wonder is not that we have so many bad movies, the wonder is that we have any good ones at all.

It’s really, really, really hard to make a good movie. I had a teacher in film school, Art Murphy, who said that if you have a perfect script, give it a “1.” A perfect director, also gets a “1.” Same for cinematographer, editor, actors, marketing plan, etc. So, the formula for a movie is: 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 = 1... you end up with a really good movie. But, if, somewhere down the line, someone falls down on the job, say, the editor, and he turns in a .5 piece of work... well, the formula changes a bit. 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x .5 = .5 And you have a crummy movie. Basically, it’s not easy.

It’s easier to marry money. You can make more money in seven minutes than you can earn in your entire lifetime.

Have you gotten any fan letters yet from your book?

It’s been incredibly satisfying to hear that people are finding Your Screenplay Sucks! to be helpful. I’m a teacher by nature, and I wrote the book to help people. One guy in Toronto wrote that he’d read every screenwriting book there was, and mine was one the best. That was lovely.

Any mail telling you you're full of shit?

So far, no.

Why should we buy your book?

It will help you get laid.

On that note…

Other Stuff.
It’s great to be back on the road again. I am promoting my new book, The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide: Making the Extreme No-Budget Film, now if only the publisher would get me a few copies…

It looks like I’ll be appearing at 35-50 venues which will translate to 4,000 – 5,000 people on this tour. Over the last 5 years I would estimate that I have been in front of well over 25,000 film students, filmmakers, and film enthusiasts. I think that’s pretty good.

I still have a few dates available, so if you are interested in having me come to your college, university, media art center, independent book store, or even to your house for dinner, drop me a line ( and let me know.

I am thrilled that Film Baby ( is a sponsor on this tour. If you haven’t checked out their site and their services, you need to do it. They are a great group of people dedicated to helping you get your films out.

Also check out my new sponsor, Cheezy Flicks, they have some wonderful stuff on their site If you are a fan of some of the cheesiest movies ever made, you have to check this site out. I mean where else are you going to find titles like The Day of the Triffids and G-Men VS The Black Dragon.

My first two Workshop DVDs are available on my site,, (and Film Baby’s) so what are you waiting for, buy them!

Talk later.



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