But listening to two scriptwriters whine for an hour and a half – that’s entertainment.

At the end of December a friend of the blog sent me a big box of books and old DVDs, and I’ve spent the balance of the winter working my way through it. We have similar low taste in movies, my contributor and me, so except for some I already had and some I’d have to be tied down to ever watch all the way through – I’m looking at you, Bad Boys II – no matter how laughable an action flick was I would eventually get to it.

Last night’s contribution was something called Aeon Flux, which I gather was based on a series of MTV short cartoons. I just don’t know where people get the notion that movie producers have run out of original ideas.

One of the things I like to do with DVDs is see who recorded the commentary track, if any. In my never-ending quest to squeeze the most out of a DVD I’ll probably watch six times in spite of myself, I’ve become something of a commentary track connoisseur. If it’s the director it’s bound to be nothing but lens talk and variations on “now this bit of animation coming up was really hard.” If it’s some of the actors it’ll be “I don’t want to be here” mumbling or blathering about some joke he/she heard or what all the commissary was serving that day. I just don’t know where people get the notion that movie actors are brainless eye candy.

But if it’s the writers, I give the track a try and probably listen to it all the way through while doing something else. I’ve spent my whole life, outside the past ten years, as a frustrated fiction writer and never miss an opportunity to eavesdrop while writers gas on about writing. It’s usually pretty standard stuff but this particular track was a special treat. There are two credited writers, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, neither of whom – you’ll be shocked to know – I’ve ever heard of. And at the time they recorded their track they still hadn’t gotten over their disappointment and bitterness over what the producers, director and editor(s) did to their beautiful baby. This is unusual – whoever does the commentary track is supposed to say nice things about the film.

It plopped me square into a slough of despond, sinking under the weight of my own sins as I recalled the one job I had where I was going to stop writing manuals and tech videos and start my climb up the ladder with the giant leap to sales copy and promotional videos – and how vitally important people skills and the ability to kiss yuuuge amounts of ass turned out to be to any hope of success in that endeavor. Oh, it got ugly. There were disasters. I contributed my full share to those disasters.

See, in the visual arts a writer is rarely even considered part of the creative team unless he represents the guy with the checkbook*. The script – which the writer’s massive ego may have fooled him into believing was a epoch-marking masterpiece – is just considered by everyone else a place to start making the actual film. Not a syllable of it is considered sacred by anyone but the writer’s massive ego. The writer’s massive ego is certain to consider the resulting commercial product to be an astonishing disaster. This rarely keeps the writer from cashing the check, but you get the idea. Whining will ensue.

The funny bit was that whoever put the DVD together went ahead and added that commentary track – apparently without even reviewing it – because who was going to ever watch it anyway? Clearly none of the producers did. :)

*ETA: As a contract writer I have written the scripts for videos and developed the conceptual art for animations which won major industry awards – at banquets to which I was not invited.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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11 Responses to But listening to two scriptwriters whine for an hour and a half – that’s entertainment.

  1. MJR says:

    When it raps up for the season I’m going to send you another micro SD card with copy of the 2nd season of The Expanse plus a slew of other movies. Joel if you liked season 1 you are gonna love season 2. I really can’t say any more because i don’t want to give you any any spoilers. :^)

  2. Joel says:

    I’m looking forward to that. Season 1 was great.

  3. Robert says:

    Disappointment alert: despite Adam Savage (of the late MythBusters) proclaiming how scientifically accurate the show is, the 2nd season screwed the pooch big time. If you’re into the accurate portrayal of how stuff works, grit your teeth and refrain from throwing things at the screen. If you’re not into physics, enjoy the show. There, I feel better now.

  4. Robert says:

    Oh, thanks a lot, Joel. Now I wanna hear the writers’ comments about a show I had no intention of watching. :-) You are persuasive.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Robert, I always laugh when I see a scene with a spaceship doing a spectacular banking turn. “Delta-V? What the hell is Delta-V?”

  6. Robert says:

    I’m pretty sure Delta-V was a pole dancer at a bar in St. Paul, MN…

  7. MJR says:

    Robert I understand where you are coming from. I tend to feel the same way whenever I see war movies or movies where there is a lot of gun play. Like a lot of people here I’ve been in the military and I know more than my fair share about firearms. For example a guy putting together a rifle that he has never shot, let alone sighted in, then making a head shot at a 1000 plus yards is rubbish. But I take it as fiction so it doesn’t diminish the entertainment value.

    The Expanse is science fiction. It’s no more accurate than any other show that is fiction.of any genre. Not being scientifically accurate doesn’t take away from the entertainment value.

  8. Joel says:

    No, no, Delta-V opened for The Grass Roots at an underground rock joint in Ann Arbor one evening in 1974. I heard they disbanded and killed themselves in shame shortly after.

  9. Robert says:

    Yah, if it’s gun stuff in a flick, it’s probably wrong. (you know I’m a Navy vet ‘cuz I said “flick”, not “movie”.)
    Unfortunately, the scientifically-stoopid stuff detracts from the entertainment value for me. And prompts people to tell me to “shut up and watch the show”.

    Ha! I’d probably kill myself if I had to work in Ann Arbor, too, Oh, wait, did I say that out loud? :-)

  10. larryarnold says:

    Hollywood continues to search for brand new concepts with proven track records written by committees.

  11. Kentucky says:

    If the first version made money, there WILL be a sequel.

To the stake with the heretic!