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Rated 2.9 stars
by 72 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
It's Hard Out There for a Screenwriter
by Jeffrey Chen

Tales from the Script allows the beleaguered screenwriters of Hollywood to tell their war stories. After listening to them, one can't help concluding that they haven't chosen an ideal career. Yet perhaps what's most surprising about this is how unsurprising it is to anyone paying attention to popular depictions of screenwriters. Tales from the Script consists of pieces of interviews with over 40 scribes talking about their trade in Hollywood, assembled into thematic "chapters," such as how to pitch your screenplay, how they sold their first ones, what's it like to work with producers, etc.

It's ironic how each of those chapters is preceeded by a movie clip usually featuring a screenwriter character taking some form of abuse. In other words, we've already been trained to understand about these fellows being the lowest on the Hollywood totem pole; all this documentary does is feature actual writers spelling this situation out explicitly (one of them, for instance, uses the "totem pole" metaphor, only he amends it to say the writers are the part of the pole that sticks into the ground).

The movie is presented as straightforward as possible, with no frills: each interview uses a single stationary camera focused on the subject talking. The approach seems understandable -- why dress anything up when the stories themselves are the main deal? But at the same time, it's not very exciting, and frankly nothing appears here that couldn't have been read (incidentally, the movie acts as a companion piece to the book of the same name; both film and book were written by Paul Robert Herman and Peter Hanson; Hanson also acted as director).

However, the stories themselves come across as entertaining, even if they are limited specifically to the experience of breaking into Hollywood -- there really isn't much in the way of, say, the independent filmmaking path here. Tales from the Script works best as a primer for would-be screenwriters (and the interviewed subjects are actually quite aware that this group is most likely their main audience) and primarily gets across the message that the job is tough and not at all glamourous.

In fact, I wonder if the movie serves more as practical discouragement, working off the idea that would-be writers are mostly deluded and starry-eyed, and what this movie can do is hammer in the reality, reinforcing with real-life stories what the other movies have shown about how unappreciated screenwriters are.

(Released by First Run Features; not rated by MPAA.)

Review also posted at

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