In Hollywood, There Are No Longer Any Dreams to Crush

We’ve gone from a period in the ’90s when anybody could sell a spec to a period where not even Robert Towne could get an original produced.

Last Updated: September 30, 2009 @ 10:19 PM

Back doing what I do best. 

Reading scripts and telling people what’s wrong with them.
 
I’m hypercritical. I get that from my mom. Truth is I was kicked out of just about every writer’s group I was ever a part of because I was too mean.
 
I remember a scorching email I got from a friend after I told her what I really thought of her script. Somewhere along the line I forgot the “friend” part of the friendship.
 
But thankful I found a place where my talents were appreciated; the wonderful world of coverage. My first for a producer he told me “Just say what you really feel.”
 
Boy, did I ever.
 
Not to brag but I quickly became his favorite reader — the one they wanted to bring in when they wanted to make the writer cry if said writer was unlucky enough to be shown my notes.
 
So now I’m back reading for two screenplay contests crushing the dreams of more would be screenwriters. I should feel bad about this, and I probably would but for two important things.
 
The number one reason is that right now the industry 100 times harder on writers than I could ever be. Right now there are no dreams to crush. We’ve gone from a period in the ’90s when anybody with a typewriter could sell a spec to a period where not even William Goldman and Robert Towne could get an original produced.
 
There’s always been an apparent Catch 22 cycle at work in Hollywood. You couldn’t get your submitted unless you were signed by an agent and you couldn’t get an agent without an industry reference. But how do you get references when nobody will read your work without an agent?
 
There were loopholes in that cycle — but now it’s like everything has collapsed just like the financial markets did last year. So that spec could be the greatest story ever written and could indeed cure cancer, but specs aren’t being bought so tough luck.
 
The second reason I don’t feel that bad is that writers make it too easy for me.
 
I’ve read thousands of scripts and I can remember very few that really blew me away. There have been a few but not that many. The spectacularly bad on the other hand, those are a joy forever. I’ll look back at some of the real zingers I’ve dished out in the past and still get a chuckle.
 
Is that evil? Maybe. But try it sometime. I guarantee it’s habit forming.
 
The evil truth is, it feels good to play Simon Cowell for a little bit at least.
 
  

Michael Lee is a novel writer, blogger and freelance journalist living in L.A. He's been a judge for the prestigious PAGE Awards and blogs about his two biggest passions, screenwriting and food, at Screenwriting Foxhole and To Cook and Eat in L.A., respectively. Lee is also a co-author of "The Insider's Guide to Screenwriting" and has just published his first novel, "My Frankenstein."