ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Seems Like a Good Idea To Me

The LA Times today reports what could be an example of things to come in Hollywood, and it's hard to find much fault with it.

It seems that last May, screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci (who wrote The Legend of Zorro and Mission Impossible III) were putting the final touches on the shooting script for "The Transformers" when they came up with the idea of punching up the humor by borrowing a page from TV and bringing in a bunch of fellow screenwriters to go through the script in a round table setting, to make the script more fun.

So they rounded up a bunch of pros who were also fans of "The Transformers" (though how they ascertained this is unclear): David Ayer (Training Day), Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball), stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt, Jon Hurwitz (Harold and Kumar), Lona Williams (Drop Dead Gorgeous), Jeff Nathanson ("Catch Me If You Can") and Don D. Scott (Barbershop).

While the screenplay's major elements (structure, plot, characters) were locked down, these writers were asked to double-check its logic and help squeeze what additional humor they could from potentially comedic moments. All invited writers signed a waiver that established they would get a standard $2500 consulting fee (for a session that ran only four hours) as well as a catered lunch; they also gave up any claim to ownership of any ideas that make it into the film.

This isn't hugely different from what some writers' groups go through, much less circles of readers during the writing process. What makes this interesting is that it is a big-budget studio film in which the original writers are circumventing the usual process of having the studio farm the script out to other writers for polishing/punching up, in favor of overseeing the process themselves, so that they can keep a lot more control over it.

In instances where the intent is to add more comedy to something, it also seems like a great idea for screenplays; there's no question that the more brains that there are adding laughs, the better, particularly in the situation in which the original writing team is the ultimate arbitor of what sticks. Especially if they have the ego-free attitude to accept ideas that will improve the script.

In the case of "The Transformers", I guess time will tell if the round table helped. But it feels like win-win on both sides; the script has to have been improved to a certain extent, while $2500 and lunch for four hours work for what was probably a fun session is hard to sneeze at either. I'd do it for $100 and a burrito.

13 Comments:

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Cathy Krasnianski said...

Who knows, if this works and the film is a hit, it could start a whole new trend - and not a bad one at that.

 
At 1:19 PM, Blogger Chesher Cat said...

Damn...I've been doing it for free.

 
At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Shawn said...

I think it's a great idea. Hopefully they didn't end up with a bunch of slapstick stuff that tries too hard and ends up failing.

 
At 6:42 PM, Blogger Webs said...

Sign me up.

 
At 8:38 AM, Blogger S. A. Petrich said...

I'm all for it.

I've actually been thinking to do something lile that with my scripts, considering I can't write jokes to save my life...

 
At 10:52 AM, Anonymous George said...

this roundtable method in comedy is a great way to punch up a script. The Farrelly brothers have been doing this for years. They get the funniest people they know together in a room and go at it. Most of them are not even screenwriters.

 
At 12:08 PM, Anonymous chris soth said...

It works. It good.

 
At 1:53 PM, Blogger Systemaddict said...

I have a buddy, who is really funny in his writing. I am not. I've asked him to go over my current script to help punch up the comedy aspect, and in return he's asked me to go over his most recent idea which is more my style than his. It's a great way to get a different take that you wouldn't otherwise have on your own.

 
At 3:23 AM, Blogger Piers said...

You're selling yourself too cheap. It's not like they don't have the budget.

 
At 7:21 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

I think it's an excellent idea, and they should try it with other types of movies as well.

Porn anyone?

 
At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Craig Mazin said...

This is pretty much SOP for every studio comedy made. I certainly do them for my movies.

 
At 3:02 AM, Blogger Formerly, The Dude Spoke said...

I'd do it for $20 and a pack of Camel Lights.

 
At 1:44 AM, Blogger James said...

Can't hurt. Michael Bay needs all the storytelling help he can afford.

 

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