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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Up In The Air

So first things first, in non-spoilerific fashion:

This is a very very good movie. Go see it. Great characters, great acting, all in the hands of a director who knows what he is doing every step of the way. They nailed it.

Now my story.

In March 2001, I read the novel "Up In The Air" for George Clooney's production company.

Now understand that I have read way too much stuff over the last 20 years to remember most of it. I have been in the middle of watching a movie, when I realized that I read the screenplay somewhere along the line, which was usually at least 2-3 years earlier.

But I remembered reading this book. When I heard about the movie being made from the book, the synapse clicked in my brain that said, yes, you read it, it was memorable. Didn't really remember much about the plot, other than it was about a guy who lived most of his life flying around from city to city.

So I went to see the movie, liked the movie, and on some level felt proud that maybe, just maybe, I played a teeny part in putting the movie on George Clooney's radar.

So when I came home, I found the disk with my old coverage, and pulled it.

And found out that I gave the book a thumb's down.


Except maybe not oops. because when I read the coverage, I realized that the movie "Up In The Air" and the novel "Up In The Air" are really pretty different.

Essentially, the creators took what was interesting in the book -- the guy living his life in the air, the fact that he fires people (though that was only one of a number of jobs he had in the book) and pretty much jettisoned the rest. Including a weird plotline about how he is forgetting a lot of things, thinks the airline is messing with him, and turns out to be having seizures. Which was a good cut, because it really didn't work at all.

What was added was pretty much everything. The movie's love interest is barely in the book. The main character's family plays only a tiny role in the book. The character that Anna Kendrick was just Golden Globe nominated for playing is not in the book at all; neither is that whole dynamic between her character and his which works so well in the movie.

The whole thing is actually a fascinating case study of how a movie can come together through development. The basic, primal idea in the novel that was interesting about the character was pulled out, and then a solid storyline was constructed about it.

At the time, George Clooney's production company wasn't doing a lot of that kind of development; as I remember, they were looking for stuff that was a lot closer to being ready. And this wasn't very close to being ready. So my "Pass" was valid.

But Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner sure got it there.


At 11:06 AM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

Great insight, Scott. Wow, you read for George Clooney's prod. co! Cool. Ever had the chance to meet the guy? On the surface George Clooney LOOKS like the kind of guy who would be life of an at the bar party.

With yours and Billy Mernit's hearty endorcement I think I'll go see this movie now. It's buzz is definately building.

LOVED the insider knowledge of how the story changed book-to-movie. I'm ALL for development as long as it improves the final product. Seems like so many times you hear the opposite being true: devlopement corrupted and ruined a solid story from a screenwriter.

And while your at it any other names you'd like to drop of people and prod co.'s you've worked with? Dude, I'm all ears; let's keep this good thing going!

==:-) E.C. Henry from B. Lake, WA

P.S. This NEW sci-fi script I'm writing is starting to feel very Quintin Tarantino. NOT written like Q. would write, but the feel of the action reminds me of him. You'll see...


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