Monday, May 10, 2010

Is there anything you CAN'T write a good film about?

There was once a lady called Terry Martin Hekker who wrote a book all about how to be a happy housewife. It enraged feminists and was a bestseller. Some fifteen years later, Ms. Hekker’s husband of 40 years ran off with someone else, leaving her penniless. She fought back, penning another book called Disregard Last Book, refuting everything she had said before about the virtues of being a domestic doormat. Once again, it became a bestseller.

My longwinded point: sometimes our worst halves get the better of us and we write a piece of horseshit. My last blog post, for example. I had found myself driven to distraction by a script which I saw no future for. Yes, it was a clear case of self-pity. I had myself in a funk over giving literacy birth to a Frankenstein baby with severe defects. Well the pity party’s over, so Disregard Last Blog Entry…

What made me come to my senses? I tried to think of a script concept so flawed that the writer would have no choice but to abandon it. And I couldn’t! Consider this list:

· A comedy about Hitler – The Producers
· The story of a depressed Vietnam vet who shoots pimps – Taxi Driver
· A comedy about the Holocaust – Life is Beautiful
· A comedy about racism – Blazing Saddles
· A drama about two men who go on a wine-tasting weekend. Not a lot happens – Sideways
· Depressed unemployed men become strippers – The Full Monty
· A woman goes to meet her new in-laws and apart from someone losing a baby, nothing
much happens - Junebug
· Paedophilia on film – many, many Todd Solandz films
· Terrorists are hilarious! – Four Lions, but also one that got under the radar, American
Dreamz.

There are many, many more examples – that was off the top of my head. The point is that there is virtually no idea you can come up with that someone couldn’t write a successful film about. Gerard Butler is about to star in Machine Gun Preacher, the true story of a drug-dealing biker gang leader who found God and decided to take on the cause of Liberia’s child soldiers. Yes, really.

My point is – it’s not about what you write, it’s how you write it.

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