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Movie Review: Tales from the Script

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For many people, it's enough to see a magician perform a trick and they can walk away satisfied. For a small number, they want to know how the rabbit got into the hat and how the lady was cut in half. These people are infatuated with the process as much as they are the illusion. There are like-minded folks when it comes to films and this documentary will be a special treat for them while serving as a tribute to a group under appreciated by the general public and their peers.

Made as a companion piece to the book of the same name, Tales from the Script is an insightful documentary featuring 46 screenwriters discussing their work and profession. Some of the notables sitting for the video camera are Academy Award-winners Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost), David S. Ward (The Sting), and William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men); screenwriters known for directing their own work, such as Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), John Carpenter (Halloween), and Ron Shelton (Bull Durham); and the new blood on the scene, like John August (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), David Hayter (Watchmen), and Josh Friedman (The Black Dahlia). Diversity in the screenwriting ranks is demonstrated with the inclusion of Allison Anders (Gas, Food Lodging), Guinevere Turner (Go Fish), James L White (Ray), and Kris Young (TV Series Teen Angel).

With clips from films about making films used to help set up sections, the writers discuss making pitches; the problems success can bring; the changes in the business; and the challenges of working with agents, executives, directors, and actors. Through the humorous anecdotes, they reveal the hard work it takes to be a successful and consistent screenwriter.

A very important point they convey is how they don't expect their work to make it to the screen. Other writers may be brought in to better capture the vision of the producer or the director or punch up the actor's lines. Everyone seems accepting and understanding of what his or her role is. Guinevere Turner talked about Uwe Boll using maybe 20 percent of her script for BloodRayne, resulting in her inappropriate laughter at the premiere and an apology to viewers.

As much as I enjoyed hearing from the familiar names, Michael January intrigued me. He's a journeyman screenwriter of the past two decades who revealed none of his films had ever played in a big theater in America but you may have seen his work on HBO, TNT, and video stores. He talks of being frustrated by not working on higher profile material but tempered his disappointment when he met a writer whose script had been tied up in a studio for years unmade.

The film is dedicated to participant Melville Shavelson, whose credits go all the way back to being a gag writer for Bob Hope's radio show in the 1930s. He is the oldest interviewee and didn't get enough screen time because he must have had plenty of stories to tell. He passed away in 2007, revealing this project has been in the works for a while.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS