Dreams on Spec
Dreams on Spec is a 2007 documentary film that profiles the struggles and triumphs of emerging Hollywood filmmakers. Directed by Daniel Snyder, it features interviews with a dozen Hollywood luminaries including James L. Brooks, Nora Ephron, Carrie Fisher, and Gary Ross.
James L. Brooks
- I had a screenplay once where I was 90 pages in and I knew it was all over. I knew it was a disaster. And it was driving me crazy because the studio had gone down a path with me, so there was no getting out and I didn’t know how to go past these 90 pages. And then it all worked out—and the change which made it from absolute despair that there was no way to save it to it all working out was minute. But, but key. INTERVIEWER: Which screenplay was that? JAMES L. BROOKS: Uh, it was Terms of Endearment.
- There was a great director who directed a picture that I wrote who barred me from the set—quite appropriately—and said, “I’m sorry, Jim. When you’re directing, you don’t need to know everything. You need the illusion that you do.” And, you know, and I WOULD be there—behind him trying to signal the actors in, you know, in a way I wasn’t even aware of.
- [Hollywood] is a very male business, and it has in vast portions of it—the whole action movie part of it might as well be the United States Army in 1943 in that the ethics of it are, you know, boot camp and action movies and guns and explosions and all the rest of it, and that – so that means that about 50% of the business is not only pretty much closed off to women, but women don’t even wanna be in it!
- I moved into directing for a couple of reasons. ... Most directors, I discovered, need to be convinced that the screenplay they’re going to direct has something to do with them. And this is a tricky thing if you write screenplays where women have parts that are equal to or greater than the male part. And I thought, 'Why am I out there looking for directors?'—because you look at a list of directors, it’s all boys. It certainly was when I started as a screenwriter. So I thought, 'I’m just gonna become a director and that’ll make it easier.'
- Mostly, you write a script and someone’s gonna rewrite you. They get hundreds of—not hundred but they get ten writers to write something. If you have a big budget, you can go and get a lot of people to write on script .... I just actually heard that somebody said, 'Well, your screenplay got bought and now someone like Carrie Fisher will come in and rewrite you.' And I feel terrible, you know, because that’s not what I mean to do. My idea was never to raid something and trash it, you know. ‘Cause that – that’s more work for me!
- I have gone to the set and you’re kind of around in this—it’s kind of combat writing when you do rewriting and stuff, and I feel like it’s a kind of ambulance chasing. Recently, I did this kind of a (laughing) where you go, “Oh, my God, it’s bleeding from the second act. Quick! Quick! Give me a suture! No, give me the paddles! This is the third act that’s having a heart attack!! The star is coming. The star is coming. And it's this incredibly intense process!”
- Oh, I remember on Dave, I’d written a bad draft. I was on page 150 and climbing and I had no money then. ... I went home and I said to my wife that I needed to write it again because I wasn’t satisfied. So we took out a loan—a second mortgage on the house—to finish the script and Mike Ovitz, who was a very powerful agent in Hollywood at the time was yelling at me to deliver the script to one of his very powerful clients ‘cause I was late. There was a huge amount of pressure. I literally threw away the first draft and started again from page one.
- I think that it’s easy to give it away—give the definition of success away. Empower other people in determining whether you have talent. The catch-22 is that the more you do that the less you’ll be able to write. That’s the hard part – writing is all about the preservation of your own voice. So if you give that voice away by guessing what you think and you think and you think as you go, you’ll have less to say and then it’ll go away completely!
- Steven E. de Souza (Die Hard): Well, Jack Warner may have been celebrated for calling writers 'Schmucks with Underwoods,' but 20 years earlier Irving Thalberg … said, 'The most important person in the motion picture process is the writer, and we must do everything in our power to prevent them from ever realizing it.'
- Paul Guay (The Little Rascals, Liar Liar, Heartbreakers): For the first time, I heard actors saying my lines and my partner’s lines, and it was – it was extremely thrilling because the kids -- most of them -- were too young to change them, so they were actually reading them as written, which was nice, and it hasn’t happened a lot since then. Although I have to mention that one of the kids, who was ten, came up to us when we were doing rewrites and said, 'You know, can you write some more stuff for me?' And I thought, 'This is good training for the Jim Carreys of the world.'
- Ed Solomon (Men in Black): The first screenplay I ever sold was something I’d written with Chris Matheson, my sometimes writing partner. It was Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. And we had a meeting with the director – not Steve Herek who ended up directing the movie, but a director prior to that, who had some really lame ideas. And Chris and I said, 'I don’t think that would really work.' And this director said, 'Well, if you don’t think that’s a good idea, we’ll – we’ll find some writers who do think it’s a good idea.' That was, you know, meeting one. And we thought, 'Agh.'