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Sunday, August 7, 2011


Not Rated

"A writer friend of mine once described screenwriters as 'egomaniacs with low self-esteem."
-- Dennis Palumbo

Tales from the Script is a 2009 documentary directed by Peter Hanson that bounces through a series of interviews with some well-known and renowned Hollywood screenwriters. We get an inside look at the trials and triumphs of the writers of some of the biggest films in Hollywood history, and each story is a little bit different from the next. The audience gets a massive amount of information thrown their way, but it's all pertinent and relevant to the story they're trying to craft. In addition, the film is broken into a number of sections, each prefaced with a scene from a classic film that references the movie-making process.

I'd like to start by saying that this film is by no means for everyone. I think it's safe to say that your average movie-goer isn't going to get excited about a movie talking to screenwriters. No, Tales from the Script is going to reach one of two types of people: 1) people who have legitimate interest in how films start getting made, and 2) writers themselves. As you can probably imagine, I'm rather interested in the writing portion - if you haven't noticed, I tend to write a bit for these reviews - so when I saw this movie sitting on NetFlix's Instant Watch queue, I figured I'd give it a shot. And boy, did I find it fascinating. It's essentially a how-to for screenwriters, getting into the dirt and grit of the screenwriting process. We see the highs and the lows that every screenwriter has had to face, and that's part of the appeal. Sure, there's plenty of moments where the interviewees talk about the troubles they had in their careers, but all you have to do is look at the films they've written to see that they've found a way to make it. Despite all of the pain and strife they may have met early in their careers, they found a way to find success even if it felt like they would never make it that far. So in a sense, it's a story of triumph from which any aspiring writer can gain hope.

Now if you are a casual movie fan, there are a couple things that you might find appealing. First and foremost, the film is jam-packed with reference to a number of films from cinema's past. We have screenwriters talking about dozens of movies, from Taxi Driver to The Bucket List and Alien to Ray. In addition, we get a number of film scenes from movies like Barton Fink, Adaptation. and For Your Consideration. All of this ties in very well to the overall point of the documentary, and it helps move everything along. In addition, we do have a couple of recognizable names in the interviewee list. Most film fans will instant recognize Frank Darabont, John Carpenter and Shane Black; however, also be on the lookout for some fantastic words of wisdom from the likes of Mick Garris, Antwone Fisher and Guinevere Turner, just to name a few.

If you're an aspiring screenwriter, as I have been in the past, then Tales from the Script is an absolute must-see film. I can't speak for the rest of the movie-watching community. I think the film offers an interesting insight into the psyche of the successful screenwriter, but there's definitely a target demographic for this one. If you've ever attempted to make writing your living, do yourself a favor and watch this film. Even if you haven't wanted to write screenplays, there's quite a bit of advice in this documentary that's worth hearing. So again, do yourself a favor. Watch Tales from the Script.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: B+
1.5 Thumbs Up

Best Documentary - #16

Addition to Awards
2009: Nominee - Best Documentary

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