The Truth About Josh Olson’s Rant

Ah, the secret handshake myth; the belief that success isn’t due to hard work but one random stroke of good fortune.

Last Updated: September 14, 2009 @ 5:46 PM

 

You know how you can tell that Josh Olson’s fiery rant against amateur screenwriters in the Village Voice is a classic?  Because the comments are just as hilarious.
 
Take this one for example:
 
If you have a script, you better ask anyone and everyone to read it, whether they’re a massively self-aggrandizing tool like this guy or a generous mentor.
In fact, if you’re a wannabe screenwriter you should go out of your way to pester a-holes like this until they say yes, just to let them know you’re not going away any time soon.
 
That’s right. Nothing says you’re a professional like accosting people for purely selfish reasons. Restraining orders be damned!
 
Then there’s this one:
 
Why would I want Josh Olson to read my script?
I’d rather Stu Beattie, Aaron Sorkin or some other "professional"
 
Now there’s a totally realistic goal! Just the other day Stu and Aaron were at the Ivy lamenting that not enough amateurs were sending them unsolicited scripts.
 
But this might be the most telling comment of them all:
 
Hey Josh!
Who READ your first script? You know, the one that launched you as an A-grade hack.
 
Ah, the secret handshake myth; the belief that success isn’t due to hard work and careful planning but one random stroke of good fortune. This is why people will stand up in the middle of conventions and hand their handwritten treatments to Stan Lee. This is why everybody in town has an unlisted number. This is why so many amateurs never make the transition to professional working writers/actors/directors; because they’re so focused on the big End Run.
 
They’re just not interested in taking all the little steps necessary to make a successful career. They want the big time NOW!
 
In answer to the last set of comments, Josh Olson probably had at minimum a dozen people read his first produced screenplay. It started with his screenwriting teacher, the people in his writer’s group and possibly some freelance script readers. Once he was sure it was worthy he submitted it to an agency or manager. There it got another round of reads by script readers or junior execs before finally making it to the head man.
 
After he was signed the script went out to production companies and that meant yet another round of reads by readers, lower level guys before finally the decision was made to throw down some cash and make a movie out of it.
 
One of the things I eventually learned is that it’s a minor miracle that anything gets made. Because unless we’re talking about an independently wealthy moron making his own crap, a script has a long hard road to travel before it reaches production.
 
Notice, however, that “established screenwriter” doesn’t appear anywhere along that path. Recommendations by Josh Olson or Stu Beattie carry next to no weight. Nobody in the chain is going to defer their opinion to some outsider even if he did win an Oscar. 
 
I can tell you I’ve had scripts come my way that had all kinds of endorsements, and it still didn’t influence my coverage one iota.  
 
I’m part of that gauntlet. I will read your f—ing script or anybody’s f—ing script. Depending on where you sent it, I might already have. If I liked it, I passed it on to the next link.
 
If I didn’t, well you should already be hard at work on your next project, anyway.

 

 

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."