Mindless pap?

My workload has decreased a bit in the last few days as I wait for producers to get back to me with script notes, so I’ve been hanging out on that screenwriter’s bulletin board again. I know, I know…but there’s a debate raging. It’s been like a train wreck and I cannot avert my eyes. The debate is over writing “mindless pap” versus “films of substance.” Boy, what a waste of time that one is. But hey, I’ve got a bit of time to kill, so I might as well chime in with my two cents worth. Here we go:

I’ll tell ya, I love those literati types who sniff at the idea of writing movies such America Pie or Porky’s. I suppose they’d be happier if every movie looked and sounded like Howards End or The Queen. Personally, I enjoy all types of movies. I can enjoy American Pie (which I did), and I can enjoy Howards End and The Queen (which I did). (Sorry, I never saw Porky’s.) C’mon, what does or does not constitute “entertainment” is a silly thing to debate. Ever hear the phrase, “Different strokes for different folks”? Should I look down on television shows such as Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch? Not on your life! I happen to enjoy these shows. I still laugh at good ol’ Gilligan, the Skipper, and the rest of those wacky castaways. Lots of people do. Fact is, both shows have given years and years of harmless entertainment to millions of people all over the world. Now, what’s so terrible about that? Absolutely nothing! If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. But don’t tell me I can’t watch it, and if I do, I’m some kind of mindless Neanderthal for doing so. (And I won’t tell you you’re a snobbish bore with a stick up your rear end because all you watch is Upstairs, Downstairs.) The same goes for what type of projects I choose to write. Sure, I’d love to write something in the vein of Antwone Fisher or The Pursuit of Happyness (both wonderful films, by the way). I’d also love to write stuff akin to Warriors or Mission Impossible. I can guarantee that there are just as many people who have been entertained by the latter as the former. I realize that the film industry is a business. Production companies and studios are not necessarily making movies (or films) for the sake of art. Like it or not, they do it to make money. That in mind, I know I probably have a better chance of getting Mission Impossible 4 sold than Howards End II. That’s just the way it is. When I’ve made a name for myself (and probably a small fortune) by being a “sell out” to Hollywood, then I can kick back a bit and write my small, personal art house script, get it sold, then hopefully produced. So, if a studio or production company says, “Jim, we need you to write Super Ninja 16 and we’re gonna pay you $200,000 to do it,” do I turn it down? Well, the first question I have to ask myself is: Am I comfortable writing in that particular genre? Yeah, sure, I could handle that. So I sit myself down and write the best Super Ninja 16 script I can. Great action, great characters, great story. (Whether or not the resultant movie comes out as good as my script, that’s another story. Most good scripts tend to get mucked up during the development process.) I then collect my paycheck, pay off my bills, put food on my table, send a few bucks to my daughter (and her new baby boy), I give some gifts to family and friends (no, really, I would), take my girlfriend out for a lovely dinner at Denny’s, and perhaps I take a trip or two. But nooooo, those stuffy types want me to turn down the assignment because the Super Ninja movies are (apparently) for complete idiots. Ridiculous! Look, if you don’t want to write “low brow,” then don’t do it. Write whatever it is you want to write. Just be sure to send me an invite to the premiere. And when my Super Ninja sequel comes out, I’ll be sure to send you an invite to the premiere. Whether or not you choose to show up…well, that’s up to you. After all, we wouldn’t want you slumming with the Neanderthals.

Come visit me at www.TheWorkingScreenwriter.com -- a site for the pre-pro screenwriter.

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