CONFESSIONS OF A SCRIPT CONSULTANT #3
By Craig Kellem
As we continue on our quest to assist screenwriters in achieving their
dreams, I'd like to take a step back, as I've done from time to time in the
past, and reflect on things. After all, so much of my life is vested in this
goal and I give it the same kind of care and attention I give to the other
coveted aspects of my daily existence.
As previously stated, I'm always aware of how vital and important (and often
hard won) your ideas and materials are. It really stimulates your sense of
responsibility when you realize that, entrusted into your hands, you may be
holding someone's life's work, their little dream all etched out while
others sleep, and perhaps their ticket from one life to another. Indeed,
there's always a sense of underlying passion and drama when hanging around
this neighborhood, and an awareness that it's all about the possibility of
dreams coming true.
Writers seem to crop up from the most unlikely places.
Great ideas and art, humor and passion coming out of the living rooms and
kitchens of so called soccer moms, docs who'd rather tell jokes, and lonely
kids who are bursting with important things to say. How strange it is to be
invited into their lives. Me, an almost faceless stranger involved on such a
vital and intimate level. Talk about an honor! I get to be the anonymous
stranger who (hopefully) hears them loud and clear, feels their passion,
catches something in their voices, and can often do something to help them
improve their material for the better (while being ever so careful not to
mess it up). And then there's always that juicy prospect that this could be
the one that you can hook up.
What fun and how exciting!
In the work that
we do, what a wonderful and rich potpourri of people and experiences we run
Here's a taste of some of the experiences encountered along the way:
*I so enjoyed a recent client who had, what I thought was an obsession with
our release. She was the first ever who insisted that it be notarized.
Didn't surprise me a bit when the script showed up so wrapped and taped that
I could hardly open the package. I immediately realized was that this was
(in my view) was mostly acts of love and caring for her "baby" (ie: the
script). It reminded me of a time when I was writing and was so paranoid
when I went to the copy store, thinking that the kid who did the copying
might be catching glimpses of the text and stealing my good ideas.
*Such a pleasure when I recently received a script which was way
overwritten, and yet you could immediately see and appreciate the gold that
was so apparent between the lines. The writer was so amped and sensitive
about her precious life's work, I felt a need to be ever so careful with
her. I liked knowing how good it really was and what a difference it would
make when it came down to its fighting weight. I also knew that we were
facing a dilemma in accomplishing this in that ALL the writing was good but
some would have to be removed. So cutting it along the way wasn't about
removing what wasn't working-- it all pretty much worked. But sometimes one
has to bite the bullet take out perfectly good material in the interest of
making something good, even better.
*I actually had a guy who was mad at me because he wanted more notes.
Problem was his script worked and I just didn't have reason to plaster the
material with even the average amount of notes and such. This was a first
and reminded me of someone else who didn't like it when I put the term "HA"
beside funny lines in his script. He felt it wasn't enough. I tried to sell
him on the idea that when I said "HA" it was a big deal. I mean, I just
don't use that term for any old Tom, Dick or Harry. I was very sincere but
he wasn't buying it. Frankly I didn't know how else to express my
appreciation. I could have written, "this is funny" or "I am very, very
amused" but somehow "HA" seemed OK to me. Go figure!
*How strange and moving it can be when folks sometimes write about
themselves and then, in dealing with them, act like the characters with whom
you've just become fascinated.
*Still waiting on a project we worked on (and had something to do with
getting it exposure in L.A.). It was one of the best scripts I've ever read
and it sent me around a wonderful bend emotionally. Amazing how hard it can
be for worthy projects to find homes. An agent friend of mine read it (he's
part owner of the agency in fact) but, after he sent it to his lit
department, it was turned down because they thought it wasn't a "big" enough
film; not enough vista and scope. (How do they come up with these terms?).
This exec got so mad that he actually walked this script into a competitor
(in his building) hoping to stick it to his guys based on his certain belief
that the competitor would like it. But alas, they also turned it down, and
for about the same reasons. Eventually the project did manage to secure an
agent and a producer, and the inevitable rewrites are now flowing but it
sure can take time. Know this for yourselves!!
*We work with a writer who's endlessly positive. What a nice guy. Talk about
a sunny outlook. His attitude would've made good fodder on Seinfeld. And of
course his project is all about this quality that he himself exudes. Anyway
things are actually beginning to happen for him--bigtime. Makes you wonder
how quietly powerful being such a positive soul can be.
*It's so satisfying when you start working with folks who are initially shy
and a bit suspicious, and then two sessions into it, you're howling with
laughter over a story point or both converging on an exciting solution to a
story problem and so enjoying the brotherhood and creative satisfaction of
*Working with two young writers, they both have something in common: They
never give up! Nothing frantic or neurotic about the way they operate, they
just keep making it better and taking in what nuggets of wisdom they can
find along the way to enhance their creative output. Just when you think
they've had enough of the inevitable bruises one encounters in this
marathon-like enterprise, they keep coming back to the wheel, and lo and
behold, critical mass is slowly found and an OK script begins to evolve into
something so much more. It's really gratifying to see this happen. I live
For more articles by Craig and
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