Thursday, January 31, 2008

Scriptwriters Have No Ideas

Hmm, how do I start? Okay, the title of this post maybe misleading, I don't have anything particular against scriptwriters. It's just that since I indulged more in movies and TV series, I realized there are at least 2 categories of scriptwriters:
  • the utterly creative ones
  • the dull copy-cat don't-think type
Why do I say so? And where do we encounter these 2 different types of scriptwriters? The first type is the precious type, and they could sweep you off your feet with clever tag lines and play of words (which may not necessarily be a long one, 2 words are sometimes good enough). If you are still unable to distinguish this 1st type of scriptwriters from the rest, I try to give you some examples:

Girl: How much do you love me?
Guy.: You have no idea!

Guy: The only certain things in world are death and taxes.

These dialogues and saying are by no means new, and I think they have been used numerous times, but they are good. However using things like those do not qualify the 2nd types of scriptwriters to be categorised as creative scriptwriters, because (*I believe*) their main job is to write the plot of a movie or TV series, which brings us to the main idea of this post, are we taken on a ride by these so called scriptwriters?

How sure are you that the movies and TV series that you have watched recently are original and creative products? For some reasons, I think TV writers are more original than that of movies, they are up-to-date, the settings are more familiar, there is less delay between scriptwriting and production, and they need to appeal to a wide range of agegroups. Not to mention that TV series is less likely to reproduce earlier works and pull a copycat from others.

Don't worry, I will back my claims with proof. Case studies:
  • I am Legend - a 2007 movie. Do you know that it is a 3rd film adaptation of a 1954 same-named novel? The other 2 previous adaptations are named as The Last Man on Earth (1964) and The Omega Man (1971). Warner Bros. holds the rights to that novel since 1970. How many more adaptations are going to be done if the rights of the novel still remains under Warner Bros.? I wonder if the author even get paid royalty for the latest adaptation. Is it standard practice for film studio to generate revenue by reproducing old works, after some years rummage for something decent from the store room, put in some famous faces (only 1 in this case!) like Will Smith and try to get by? Can't they just be a little more creative, do some variations, why not the last woman on earth?
  • Meet Joe Black - a 1998 movie starring Brad Pitt. This is a remake of the 1934 film, Death Takes a Holiday, originally having been remade in 1971 under the same name as the original. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie unlike I am Legend. I think the idea is quite original, but maybe that's because I have not watched the 1934 and 1971 versions, what if I have? Some ladies will of course say that it will still be enjoyable, because it features Brad Pitt (actually, I do agree Brad Pitt is kinda *hot*, even for a guy!). I think the long period of time between the few versions makes it okay to produce a remake, but try to imagine if there were another 3 or 4 remakes of the same thing in the next 100 years, just throw in different popular actors, that is no good!
  • Korean Ghost movie Ju-On turned The Ring in America. I hate Korean ghost movies, it's always The Ring, The Phone, The Eye (Chinese yeah but who inspires them?), maybe it will be The Toilet Bowl, The Table, The Water Bottle when they run out of ideas?
  • Americans movie makers wanting to reproduce Hong Kong triad trilogy Infernal Affairs. Or have they produced?
  • Most recently I read that Jessica Alba will be acting in American remake of The Eye (no good!)
OK, I guess enough ramblings for now, suffice to say that whoever involved in doing things similar to above, I classify them as 2nd group of scriptwriters. Some of you may want to point out that it's not the scriptwriters' fault, it's the producers who decide what type of movies to be produced! Yeah probably, I am not familiar with movie production industry, but I want to reserve my rights to be emotional and opt to blame scriptwriters anyway, just because they
ruined my TV series viewing pleasure by organizing a lengthy strike in US, which has not been resolved until now. Maybe consumers should organize a strike too, to weed out copy-cat, (un)creative scriptwriters?

So scriptwriters (at least those based in US), while you are out of job, try to find some original ideas and make a difference, I mean what's the point of adapting a novel for 3 times, is it really that good? What about other novels and other inspiration sources? If all novels were to be adapted 3 or more times, we really would not be short of movies everyday, but I surely would be curious about their qualities! What do you think?
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Anonymous said...

Actually, "Infernal Affairs" was turned into last year's Oscar winner for Best Picture, "The Departed."

Most remakes are not ideas originated by the screenwriters, but rather studios originate the idea to create a remake who then hire screenwriters.

BobbyT said...

Yeah I heard from my friends about The Departed, but could not confirm it. So trilogy into 1 movie, or are there sequels to follow?

I'll try to get my hands on it, hope it will be one of the better "remake" indeed! Thanks for your comment, you are the 1st!

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Dzof said...

Couldn't help commenting on this.

I personally believe that it's very difficult to tell a truly original story any more. There's so many films and TV shows and novels out there. So unless you can be very clever about things (e.g. Memento), then you're stuck retelling a story told before. Even if you don't realise it.

But at least you can try to tell it differently. Try to catch No Country for Old Men or Atonement if you want to see something that's structured differently from the usual.

Unfortunately, because people are so used to the normal 'Hollywood' style, these movies don't usually do so well. And that's the reason why writers and studios come out with the same ol' stuff - the same ol' stuff makes money.

This is also why TV can take more risks - there is less money involved. A Hollywood film will not cost less than USD10-20 million, maybe hundreds of millions for a blockbuster film. A pilot for a US TV show rarely costs more than USD1 million, maybe USD1.5 or USD2 million if it's something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Lost. (BTW, in Malaysia, anything more than RM30,000 for a TV show is already considered a lot!)

BobbyT said...


Thanks for your informative input, most probably that's the way the movie industry is run. Consumers just have to choose wisely which movies to watch lor in that case, maybe depend on some movie blog's reviews?

landy said...

As much as I love the movies - They are an essential aspect of my life - I find myself growing board with the typical 'formula' story lines. They go through the same steps, reaching the same end only with different actors.

I really long for a good, unique, original story that is unpredictable and entertaining. However, so much of todays movies are remakes or just ridiculous slasher movies.

Tech Support said...

My class will be having a sketch in a few weeks (just a simple one) and I've been chosen as the scriptwriter but I seriously have no idea what kinda story to use. Any suggestions?

Puerto Vallarta resort said...

Thousands of people worldwide have this dream - writing for the movies - and the best idea is to submit your ideas to the movie studios.

Web Design India said...

A very nice post for all, this is pretty awesome blog.

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