Have you ever wondered how to make it as a Hollywood screenwriter? Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon’s book Writing Movies For Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too! is probably not the book you’ve been looking for, but it is the one you will want to read. Garant and Lennon are the writers behind such films as Taxi, The Pacifier, and Herbie: Fully Loaded. You’re probably already thinking “Why would I want to read a screenwriting book by these guys? Those movies sucked!” The answer is because your heart-wrenching screenplay about the human condition has about a one-in-a-million chance of being bought by a major studio. After reading this book you may not want it to be. Writing Movies For Fun and Profit is a humorous dose of reality about what it’s really like for a screenwriter in the Hollywood trenches.
There is no shortage of books on the subject of crafting a screenplay. This book is not about that. The second half of the book does cover screenwriting how-to and creating a saleable script. However, if you’re looking for a book that will help you develop artistically, you might find this book to be a slap in the face. You should probably read it anyway. The authors take the reader on a journey through “development hell,” where a writer’s work is chewed up and spit out in an effort to make as much money for the studio as possible. Money is what movies are all about, and Garant and Lennon make no bones about this. In addition to providing a reality check for aspiring screenwriters, the authors also explain how to make it through all the madness.
The first half of the book, “Part One: Selling Your Movie,” covers the business process of selling a screenplay. Garant and Lennon discuss meeting with studio execs, pitching ideas, re-writes, and being fired. The chapter “Why Does Almost Every Studio Movie SUCK Donkey Balls?” explains how too many cooks in the kitchen can ruin what was once a decent screenplay. Producers throw in their own ideas, the studio president wants something else, and writers are unceremoniously fired so new writers can be brought in to change everything. Perhaps most enlightening is the chapter on Herbie: Fully Loaded. The authors give a detailed look at how that movie suffered in the wrong hands. It seems Garant and Lennon wrote a very different story than the one that ended up on the big screen. It’s a heartbreaking account from a writer’s perspective, but Garant and Lennon keep their humor throughout the tale.
Throughout the book the authors offer anecdotes and accounts of their personal experiences as screenwriters. It’s peppered with tips; most are humorous, but also true. They also give several “Free Movie Ideas,” which are not half bad (though apparently not good enough for them to pitch). Even if you wouldn’t actually use the ideas, their concise write-ups are a good guideline for summarizing a story. All of the chapters are useful, save for their critique of critics (who they uniformly write off as envious, talentless jerks), and the chapter about living in Los Angeles that actually lists the address for every single In-N-Out Burger location in the greater L.A. area. But even their insulting comments about critics won’t make me give this book a bad review. In fact, I would say this is one of the most informative and entertaining books on the movie business I have ever read.