29 December 2006

finally, a screenwriting book that i like

I have a reputation (based almost entirely upon fact, thank you very much) of disliking most all books on screenwriting. There's all sorts of fancy sounding reasons I could throw out there to justify this attitude, but pretty much all of them boil down to the simple fact that most all of these advice and how-to books are written by people with a clear history of not actually using their own advice for much (if any) practical effect success.

But The Wife gave me a book for Christmas, HOLLYWOOD DEVIL: THE SCREENWRITER AS GOD by legendary Hollwood bad boy Joe Ezsterhas, writer of such big name movies as BASIC INSTINCT, JAGGED EDGE, FLASHDANCE, SLIVER, SHOWGIRLS, etc. If you follow screenwriting personalities and stories, then you know who Ezsterhas is and why he rates any notice of consideration: when you look at the top-selling screenplays of all time, Joe's name is attached to something like 7 of the 12 priciest screenplay deals in the history of the game.

But beyond just the financial success he enjoyed, Ezsterhas, perhaps more than any other screenwriter, managed a degree of celebrity and notoriety usually reserved for actors and directors. He was the closest thing the game has yet seen to "a screenwriting rock star." And he lived life in proper rockstar fashion during the heyday of his success, acting like a mouthy overly indulged chemically imbalanced manic freakshow willing and eager to bed whatever woman might accept his advances.

It all makes for some hilarious and often educational reading.

I fear it might also reinforce some screwy ideas and attitudes in my own head, however, as I recognize various beliefs and positions in Ezsterhas's makeup which seem curiously similar to some of my own. The cocksure/arrogant willingness to accept your own brilliance and ability in the face of morons trying to argue otherwise. The barely controlled rage and urge to assault morons and know-nuthinks eager to try and bring you down or waste your time and energy merely because they can. The love of annoying and offending those who are easily annoyed and offended.

Is the book rocket science or sure to change your life? Hell, no, but it might give you a second opinion on the necessity of always behaving like an overly accommodating meek worm eager to sacrifice any ethical or moral high ground in the hopes of starting or perpetuating a career in an industry where ethics and morals often little more than garnish (pretty, but irrelevant). There are concepts and personalities who truly rate our respect and allegiance, and then there are others who just as surely deserve scorn and contempt, and Joe has never been shy about describing who sorts into which pile.

For my money, Ezsterhas's book demonstrates the benefits — and dangers — of hyper-developed ego, and does so with the sort of angry bull in a china shop glee that seems rare among successful people in any field of endeavor. He clearly loves what he does, and he has fun loving it.

We could all do far worse.


Pooks said...

Of course you do. LOL!

Ryan Rasmussen said...

I'm annoyed and offended. Happy New Year!

Scribe LA said...

"Hollywood Animal" is a fantastic read, too. I will pick this one up soon.

Anonymous said...

Yep. I'll get that one. Haven't found a screenwriting book I like either, but I guess I feel too far removed from Hollywood to like any of 'em. Living in New Zealand makes it hard to imagine "getting there" with a screenplay. However, it's a new year, new vision, new possibilities.