Bad Decisions in Screenwriting: Part I

Everybody makes a bad call from time to time.  

For me, it’s usually the projects that I turn down that I’m later slapping myself for rejecting.  Sure, I’ve regretted writing stuff that I’ve been hired for, but you usually learn valuable lessons writing those projects.  They help you grow.  

Here are my top four “What the fuck was I thinking?"s:

"What the fuck was I thinking?" #1:  

Bobby and I had a meeting with Andrew Panay at Tapestry.  He had just read our script The Last Rites of Steve Guttenberg and wanted to take a general meeting.  He pitched us a story about two best friends who crash weddings in order to get laid.  He basically offered us the job.  We, of course, said no.  Because who the hell would want to see a movie called Wedding Crashers?  Now, to be fair, I don’t think we would have written anywhere near as great a script as Steve Faber & Bob Fisher wrote.  But... still.  Beyond stupid.  You think that’s bad?  Bobby was given a preview copy of Harry Potter to see if he was interested in writing it.  He passed, thinking it was “too British”.

"What the fuck was I thinking?" #2:

Not researching a concept to see if a similar project is in development someplace else can really bite you in the ass.  Bobby and I pitched and sold a project to Fox called Speed Dating with director Luke Greenfield attached to direct.  The film was less about speed dating than about a guy who teaches a dorky guy how to date.  He was sort of a "dating doctor"... a guy who specializes in how to win women over.  Is this sounding at all familiar?  I'm sure it is.  We were putting on the finishing touches of our first draft for the studio (having spent several months cracking the story with Luke) when we saw a preview for Will Smith’s Hitch in the theater.  I almost choked on my popcorn.  Not only was the idea identical, but we had several matching scenes in the trailer that we had already written -- like the male-male kissing scene on the stoop -- we had even written some of the same dialogue.  Five months of our lives (and several hundreds of thousands of dollars of the studio’s money) down the drain.  Stupid

"What the fuck was I thinking?" #3:

Shazam!!!!  Pete Segal was directing the movie.  John August wrote a draft.  So did Geoff Johns and Billy Birch.  Before those writers had been brought in, I had several meetings with Segal on the project.  Not only that, but I had an exec over at New Line (the guy actually doing the hiring) calling me, personally asking me to take a crack at it.  He kept saying that he wanted me for the project.  My meetings with Segal were fun and productive, but at some point, I just dropped the ball.  It’s a project I should have fought tooth and nail to get.  One day, it’s going to be a huge film; it’s a great property.  But I got lazy and fumbled the ball on the five yard line.  Stupid.  And all my own fault.

"What the fuck was I thinking?" #4:

Bobby and I got about as screwed over as one can get on Passion of the Ark (aka Evan Almighty).  From getting thrown off our own project without getting our WGA mandated rewrite, to getting shafted in the arbitration process (certainly not a first in this town).  But if we had been a little smarter, we could have protected ourselves from much of the heart-break.  Finding yourself in a seven-studio bidding war only happens once in a lifetime, but should lightning ever strike twice, you can be damn sure we’ll use some of that leverage to protect ourselves... and the project.  Whether it’s trading money for a “no-other-writer” clause or getting director approval, there are ways of protecting your baby when you’re in the middle of a feeding frenzy like that.  We sold out.  And paid for it.  



Feel free to send questions, comments or anything else you'd like me to rant about to the email on the "Contact" page.