I don’t read many screenwriting books, but Stuart does. So I’ve asked him to start reviewing some.
As you would expect from two members of The State, Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant’s Writing Movies for Fun and Profit is very entertaining.
It is also full of good information for aspiring screenwriters hoping to write studio movies.
The book is significantly less blithe than its Funny or Die promo video, but it is still light in tone. Topics run the gamut, from basic 101s, like story structure (“If Your Screenplay Doesn’t Have This Structure, It Won’t Sell, Or Robert McKee Can Suck It.”), to a step-by-step explanation of how an unpaid intern can make or break your script’s shot with a major.
Some of the seemingly less serious chapters in that same vein are some of the book’s most useful. Lennon & Garant provide a fun and surprisingly helpful studio-by-studio breakdown of how to tell what your employer thinks of you based on your assigned parking spot:
Important = Melrose gate, VALET. [...] Ask the guy in the car next to you if he happens to have some Grey Poupon. He won’t laugh, because almost nobody remembers those commercials anymore.
Not Important = The open parking lot that’s JUST TO THE LEFT of the Valet. You’ll find a spot, sure. And it’s out in the open, under the big fake panorama of sky, no real shame in that … BUT YOU’RE ALSO CLOSE ENOUGH TO THE VALET TO KNOW THAT YOU WEREN’T ALLOWED TO PARK THERE. Yep. And there’re so many open spots in the Valet area? Well, you fell just short of making that list. Chew on that as you walk the extra 300 feet to your car.
In a later chapter, they dispense advice on what to say if a star giving you notes brings up or compares your script to one of her previous flops:
It’s best not to discuss flops at all. BUT, if they come up, YOU SHOULD HAVE ONE POSITIVE DETAIL ABOUT THEM TO DISCUSS.
For example: you’ve just sat down in the trailer of, say, JENNIFER LOPEZ [...]
Wow. I can’t believe how crappy Gigli turned out.
I dunno, I thought you looked great in those fight scenes.
Ha, thanks. I worked really hard on those. Now here’s my notes ...
Whew! Nice save.
Another particularly useful section breaks down WGA credits and what each means in terms of dollars, with a detailed explanation of the arbitration process and strategies for winning.
The appendix provides three sample outlines, one of which is the treatment/script/plan for the unproduced Reno 911!: Miami sequel. For any Reno fan jonesing for new content, this alone makes the purchase worthwhile.