Yet another fab review for my book!

Via e-mail several times each month, I receive a fairly steady stream of flattering reviews of my book, Q & A: The Working Screenwriter – An In-the-Trenches Perspective of Writing Movies in Today’s Film Industry. Most of these messages are fairly succinct: “I really enjoyed your book!” So glad I picked up a copy of your book!” “I learned a lot!” “You suck! Your book sucks, too!”

But yesterday I received an extra special review from a budding young screenwriter—the type of review that reminds me why I wrote the book in the first place—and here it is:

Hey, Jim...

I picked up your book this weekend and just finished it.... I loved it! I found it rich with insight and very entertaining. At times I would laugh when the writers would hit the nail on the head and discuss some of the very problems I've had either presently or in the past. I was also surprised to find great opinions and views that improve the areas of my writing that I'd already felt comfortable or content with. It's a very enlightening read, and a fun one, too. I haven't been so immersed in book since Agatha Christie's
Ten Little Indians. It does in fact feel like you're in the same room with these writers—a fly on the wall, if you will—and free to soak up any and all that you consider to be helpful. Your book goes well with what you've taught me: find what works best for you. This addition to the books I have on the subject is invaluable, and is without question a new favorite. – Cody Buckingham

Big thanks to Cody for that wonderful review!

Now then, to those of you who have yet to pick up a copy of my book, I ask you: What are you waiting for? No, really, what? I wrote Q & A: The Working Screenwriter to be be an educational tool for screenwriters everywhere...and not disregarded and left moldering in some book warehouse. So go ahead, pick up your copy today. You’ll be glad you did! You can order from:
Barnes &

And those of who have already purchased a copy of my book, thank you. To those who are about to order my book, thank you. To those who will never order my book...well, I’ll remember that when your book comes out. (Just kiddin’.)


Q: Does the type of scene you’re writing affect your mood? What I mean is, if you’re writing a scene about a murder or someone dying, do you ever get depressed?

A: I’m a pretty happy, even-keeled guy, so what I write usually doesn’t affect my mood much. I’ve been known to write scenes of graphic horror and violence and then go into the next room and joyfully eat a tuna fish sandwich.

I do know I can write comedy and get a good case of the giggles. Then again, I’m not sure if it’s because what I wrote was funny or if it’s because I’d been working too hard.

I do recall once writing a rather touching scene between a young girl and her father and it kinda tugged at my heartstrings. I guess that one brought up some warm memories about my own daughter.

But sure, I once killed off a character I especially liked and felt a modicum of remorse: “Ah, that’s rather sad. I sure liked that guy.” Then I realized how ridiculous I was being. After all, it’s only make-believe, right? So I laughed at myself...then went and had myself another tuna sandwich.

Now, I’m not saying you should be as heartless and detached as yours truly. I honestly think it’s a good thing if you’re having an emotional reaction to what you’re writing. It means you care—or it means you’re reasonably unstable and need immediate psychiatric help. Either way, you’ve found the right career path!

Q: What do you think of some of the computer programs that supposedly make crafting a screenplay easier?

A: Hey, if they work for you, great. However, I feel many novice screenwriters fool themselves by thinking, “If I have that cool program, I’ll crank out a killer script!” Sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. If you don’t have the initial talent to begin with (and believe me, most people don’t), there’s a good chance that none of those programs will make a darn bit of difference.

See, that’s precisely the problem with the screenwriting game nowadays. We’ve got Final Draft, Movie Magic, et al. (which are most definitely a necessity these days), but we also have all these plot generating/story outlining/character development programs. Now pretty much every Tom, Dick, and Mary thinks all they’ve got to do is come up with some half-baked idea, input it into their computer, click the mouse a few times and—voilĂ —all the work is done! Again, it just doesn’t work that way.

Any which way you slice it, writing a screenplay—one that could actually be viable in the marketplace—takes a lot of hard work. It also takes thought, planning, organization, and a steadfast belief in oneself. Face it, it takes guts.

Now, I’m not saying that these programs don’t have a place in a screenwriter’s toolkit, and I’m not saying these programs are a waste of time and/or money, but—and I might be completely wrong about this—I do think it’s necessary for all of us to learn how to craft a screenplay without all the “tech” stuff getting in the way. I just happen to think you’re shortchanging yourself when you let a computer program do most of the work. After all, toughing it out on your own is one of the most efficient ways for us to learn and grown as screenwriters. But hey, you gotta find out what works for YOU.

So go ahead, spend some of your hard-earned cash on the latest plot generating/story outlining/character development programs. Perhaps they’ll work for you. If they don’t, well, it’s all part of the learning curve, right?’s four o’clock in the morning and I’m just spouting off my opinion here, so if any of you have a testimonial regarding the effectiveness of any of those plot generating/story outlining/character development programs, then please feel free to send ‘em my way.

Finally, a bit of silliness...

Here's something I recently found posted on a screenwriting/filmmaking forum (unedited):

Fiction Writter for hire
I am looking for an opportunity to compose a short storie and turn it into a film.

I don’t mean to poke fun at the poor guy who posted that, but c’mon...

HAPPY 2008!

IT’S A NEW YEAR!! As much as I love the holidays, it’s really good to get back to business. This is gonna be a great year, too. Business-wise, I’ve got some exciting things on my plate: scripts to complete, ideas to develop, a project or two on the brink of a green light, and a whole bunch of blogs to post. On a more personal note, a very wonderful thing that’s happened to me recently was reconnecting with a fabulous young lady I dated back in the early 80s. As nice as things were between us back then, it’s all so much better now. This relationship is all very familiar, yet very new—and very exciting. Yup, my year is definitely off to an excellent start!

As for you, my blog-reading friends, I hope you all have good things going on in your own lives. I hope you all have health, happiness... and some fabulous screenplays to get completed and sent out into the world!


I was in this ultra-hip bar in Hollywood last night, celebrating my friend Craig’s birthday. We were sitting at a table—I was sipping my customary cranberry juice, of course—when a man brushed past me on his way to the restroom. I glance up and noticed it was Rex Lee, the actor who plays Ari’s Gold’s assistant Lloyd on the hit HBO show Entourage. This got Craig and I talking about the show and how much we both enjoy it. Then I suddenly remembered a question that a reader to this blog asked me a few weeks ago:

“Can you elaborate on how true of a depiction the HBO show Entourage gives of Hollywood?”

I thought this was a fun question. I mean, I really enjoy the show. At first, it was a bit too raunchy for my taste, but I’ve grown to love it. (C’mon, how could I not love it? After all, it’s about the movie business!) If you’re not familiar with the show, here’s the plot summery:

In this sitcom, the suddenly risen film star Vince Chase, a jeune premier of humble origins, learns the ropes of the business and the high-profile world of the wealthy happy few in and around Hollywood, but not alone: he brings from his native New York his atypical entourage (hence the title), not glitterati or professionals, but a close circle of friends since childhood, and his agent, Ari Gold, finds they often make his job harder as the Queens boys not only sponge off the star but also have his ear, so Vince is much harder to counsel.

Yes, Vince and his entourage roam the chic restaurants, bars, and glittering palaces of Los Angeles as a constant stream of established stars, wannabes, and a bevy of beauties fill the 1:78.1 aspect ratio HBO frame. OK, so how realistic is what we see on the show? Well, based on my own personal experiences and observations...pretty accurate.

Yup, it all exists: the self-important, temperamental film director, producer, and/or cinematographer...the budding, poser actor...the fair weather associates...the arrogant, high-strung, mile-a-minute agent...the bratty, snobbish mail room hustler...the sycophantic phonies...the smarmy pseudo-studs in their (usually rented or borrowed) $300,000 sports cars...the vacuous bimbettes shopping Melrose Avenue. At one time or another I’ve known, or at least met, all of these archetypes. (I want to make something clear: there’s a high population of generous, wonderful and creative people in this town. I’m fairly confident they outnumber their counterparts by about 8 to 1. Well, maybe 7 to 1.)

I’ve also been to many of the “trendy” locales featured on Entourage. If you’ve watched even one episode, you’ll be well aware of how producers tend to fill many of their scenes with unbelievably gorgeous eye candy. For the most part, when it comes to this eye candy, I find that true life is represented fairly accurately. (Ladies, please don’t ask me about the men in this town cuz I simply don’t notice them. I just don’t.) Believe me, there are hordes of gorgeous women in this town—there’s more plastic in L.A. than you’d find in a couple dozen Mattel toy factories—but I do think the show exaggerates it all just a tad bit. For instance, if Vince and the guys are walking along a street in Santa Monica or strolling along the Venice boardwalk (both of which are situated right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean), you’ll see nothing but bodacious, bikini-clad beauties. But there’s one thing you probably won’t see: the homeless and the psychologically impaired. Ugh, it’s a bit of a mess in that part of town.

But...can you see Hollywood movers and shakers driving along Sunset Boulevard in their high-priced convertibles and SUVs, cellphone to ear, working out the details of some big film, TV, or recording deal? Yup, you sure can.

Can you have a drink at a trendy west-side watering hole and find Harrison Ford nursing a drink a mere couple chairs over? Ask my friend Craig, he’ll tell you it’s absolutely possible.

Can you go into any one of the chic restaurant/bars and find yourself sitting next to Lindsay Lohan, then a couple hours later run into Bill Murray at another chic restaurant/bar? Sure, Craig will tell you that’s totally possible.

Can you be casually strolling through a Halloween pumpkin patch one moment and caught up in a Paris Hilton/paparazzi maelstrom the next? Been there, done that.

Can you walk down a street in Beverly Hills and nearly collide with Sean Connery as he emerges from a restaurant?

I think you're gettin' my point here, aren't ya?

Buy Q and A: The Working Screenwriter here!