tales from the script
What Is TALES FROM THE SCRIPT?
Rave Reviews for TALES FROM THE SCRIPT
“For insight into screenwriting, check out Tales from the Script.”
Jon Favreau, director of Elf, Iron Man, and Iron Man 2; screenwriter/star of Swingers
“Fascinating tales from the belly of the beast.”
Lawrence Kasdan, director of The Big Chill and Body Heat; screenwriter of Raiders of the Lost Ark
“A must-read for anyone who depends on the screenwriter’s craft. And that’s a lot of us.”
Edward R. Pressman, producer of American Psycho, Reversal of Fortune, and Wall Street
“Tales from the Script gathers notable veterans of the screen wars who demonstrate the basic truth of our adventures in Movieland: Writing is the easy part.”
John Sayles, Oscar-nominated writer/director of Eight Men Out, Lone Star, and Passion Fish
“A hidden gem.”
Leonard Maltin, Secret’s Out with Leonard Maltin, bestelling author of the annual Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide
One of the Best Movies of 2010: “A must-see documentary about screenwriting.”
Nick Lyons, DVD Corner
“Tales from the Script offers a comprehensive look at the realities of working as a screenwriter from the perspective of those who have made careers out of writing for the big screen. . . . In all, this overview captures the excitement, frustration, and reality of being a working screenwriter in an accessible and essential volume that aspiring screenwriters will devour.” -- Booklist (starred review)
"Anyone who’s wondered how their favorite scribe landed her first film job, or what happens behind the headlines of a high-profile spec sale, will find plenty of information, as well as general advice and inspiration." -- Publishers Weekly
"Relentlessly entertaining." -- New York Magazine
“Compulsory viewing for any aspiring screenwriters.” -- Leal Lowenstein, Variety & KPCC-FM (Los Angeles National Public Radio)
“A lively collection of war stories from screenwriters with experience in the trenches.” -- Todd McCarthy, Variety
“Honest insight from writers who have seen their scripts dragged through the soul-shattering development gauntlet.” -- Dave Davis, JoBlo.com
“The best film about writing I’ve ever seen.” -- Chris Gore, Film Threat
"Full of wry one-liners, well-spun anecdotes, and pithy observations on the movie-making industry." -- Ernest Hardy, Village Voice
“Highly enjoyable. . . . Manages to be fun and informative without tipping too far into the dark side; it favors war stories over horror stories. . . . Ample doses of cautionary advice to aspiring screenwriters and many relatable moments for professionals. . . . Director Peter Hanson has assembled a frank, articulate, often crisply funny group of scribes.” – Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times
"Amusingly blunt documentary about the trials of life at the bottom of Hollywood's totem pole -- in other words, as a screenwriter." -- Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News
"In Peter Hanson's dishy documentary, 46 screenwriters gab agreeably about the tribulations of their profession. . . . Matching faces to scripts is wicked fun." -- Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times
“Luckily, aspiring scribes can pick up a life lesson or two from Peter Hanson’s Tales from the Script. The documentary and companion book are full of anecdotes and advice from nearly 50 of Hollywood’s more successful screenwriters.” – Michelle Kung, Wall Street Journal
"Essential viewing. . . . Bridges a huge gap of information missing from the plethora of screenwriting books gathering dust on weary bookshelves." -- Cole Smithey, ColeSmithey.com
"Provides a piquant taste of what the business is like for aspirants." -- Kyle Smith, New York Post
"If you have any interest in writing a screenplay, this is a must-see. . . . Hanson did an amazing job editing together all of these interviews into what ends up being quite an inspirational film." -- Edward Douglas, ComingSoon.net
"With its impressive roster of participating Hollywood screenwriters, Tales from the Script is an enjoyable ride into a mean, tough, well-paying biz that grows ever more challenging." -- Doris Toumarkine, Hollywood Reporter
"Definitive. . . . This is a must-see for anyone with a script or an intention to write one." -- Ross Anthony's Hollywood Report Card
"Comprehensive. . . . An entertaining and cautionary experience, one which will prove enlightening not just for budding screenwriters but for audiences who like films." -- Roy Frumkes, Films in Review
"So full of bitchy, funny, nasty sad stories -- most of which, if you have any acquaintance with the task of writing for the movies, will have you in stitches -- that it becomes an instant classic." -- James van Maanen, Trust Movies
"Tales from the Script is actually the ideal summation on the art of screenwriting: rigorously structured, filled with great stories." -- Ian Buckwalter, National Public Radio
"I implore any fledgling screenwriter out there to see the new documentary Tales from the Script." -- Christopher Campbell, Cinematical.com
"A must-see for anyone who has ever wanted to write a screenplay or is currently trying to." -- Craig Kennedy, LivingInCinema.com
"Many of the stories are truly memorable. . . . A likable valentine to writers and the writing process." – Joe Bendel, The Epoch Times
"A must-see. . . . Peter Hanson's doc gives you exactly what you want: war stories from the front lines. It’s inspiring to see such a colorful cast of characters, young and old, making it in the world of screenwriting." -- Jeff Bock, ExhibitorRelations.com
"Humorous, scary, and inspiring stories about the business." -- Perry Siebert, AllMovie.com
“Pure, unadulterated gold. . . . An accurate, unblinking look at the balancing act between art and commerce that is screenwriting, and moviemaking in general.” – Brent Simon, SharedDarkness.com
“An inside perspective of what the big talents on the pedestal of major filmmaking talk (and bitch) about.” – Jules Brenner, FilmCritic.com
“May be the most edifying hour and forty-four minutes screenwriters can spend at the movies.” – Jim Rohner, Zoom In Online
“Very good. . . . A powerhouse collection of screenwriters take viewers through the somewhat tortured, occasionally triumphant life cycle of those who labor away at the word processor for fame and glory (and occasional big bucks).” – Dan Persons, Huffington Post
“Dishy and very funny.” – Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters.com
One of ABCNews.com’s “Top Five Movies to Cure Your Oscar Hangover”
“Noted scenarists offer an inside look at the art and industry politics of working in Hollywood.” -- Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
“Completely enjoyable.” -- Jordan Cronk, In Review Online
“Funny as hell . . . You must see this film.” -- Emily Blake, BambooKillers.com
“Recommended.” -- Kimberly Jones, Austin Chronicle
“Required viewing. . . . Chock-full of grisly anecdotes about endless rewrites, producer interference, pig-headed actors, and battles for proper credit.” -- Scott Van Doviak, A.V. Club (The Onion)
“If you have any interest in being a screenwriter, or already are a screenwriter, then you need to watch this film.” – Mark Bell, Film Threat
“First-rate documentary on filmmaking.” -- Don Marshall, Deseret News
One of “Ten Must-See Films” at the 2009 Austin Film Festival – Chris Garcia, Austin American-Statesman
“A frank discussion of the ups and downs of the trade, the flick is a fascinating watch as it peers into the minds of the working screenwriter. . . . You could take countless ‘How to Get Your Screenplay Sold’ classes and never get the full picture of what a career looks like. Save your $300 on the seminar and see this flick first.” – Dave Howard, FilmRadar.com
“Riveting . . . a wonderful experience.” -- Frank J. Avella, NewYorkCool.com
“Peter Hanson’s superb, sobering documentary . . . should be required viewing for anybody who even thinks that they might want to write and sell a screenplay. . . . Tales from the Script is, without dobut, the best film ever made about screenwriting.” – Michael B. Druxman, author, “The Art of Storytelling”
“A wonderful and insightful window into the hidden world of words behind the cinema glitz. . . . The chance to see and hear screenwriters recount their inspirations, triumphs and failures is genuinely exciting.” – Lauren Westerfield, Spectrum Culture
“An excellent documentary highlighting some of the most important and unsung participants in the filmmaking process. Jam-packed with fantastic stories and perspectives, it’s an important addition to any cineaste’s film collection. Highly recommended.” – Casey Burchby, DVDTalk.com
“Peter Hanson’s lively and eclectic collection of interviews with screenwriters [is] one of the very best documentaries to delve into the roles of filmmakers who aren’t directors.” – Matthew Hayes, Montreal Mirror
“The advice an experience offered in this documentary can only be described as priceless.” – Gordon Cockrell, Pop Culture Beast
“Tales is the most telling screen portrait on its subject that we’re likely to have. . . . Just about all the subjects you’d want to see covered are [and] the swath of interviewees is long and deep. . . . Whatever you do, don’t skip the DVD’s bonus section. The supplemental interviews have some of the juiciest anecdotes.” – Mike Clark, Home Media Magazine
“Highly recommended. . . . If you get off on hearing the dirt about someone’s profession (as I do), then Tales from the Script will bring a smile to your face.” – Mike White, Cashiers du Cinemart
“Some of Hollywood’s top screenwriters share horror stories and successes in this insightful showbiz documentary.” – Chris Ball, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“This lively talkfest from Peter Hanson . . . offers much in the way of advice for aspiring screenwriters.” – Ed Grant, DiscDish.com
“Any true fan of movies will find a lot to like in Tales from the Script. . . . All of the stories and insights in Tales from the Script are worth hearing not just for would be screenwriters, but for any fans of film who are interested in both the creative process of how scripts are written as well as the mechanics of getting a film made.” – Patrick Bromley, DVD Verdict
“Fascinating . . . Whether you’re a writer or not, Tales from the Script is an engaging documentary for all audiences, filled with insightful stories about the life and times of a screenwriter.” – DVD Corner
“Documentarian Peter Hanson assembles a small army of veteran scribes for an engaging look at how movies are pitched and sold in Hollywood.” – MSN Canada
“I got sucked right in. The writers of some of Hollywood’s biggest successes reveal their triumphs and failures, and get honest about what it takes to make it as a writer in the movie business. Eye-opening stuff.” – Jonathan Witherspoon, Parade Magazine
“A must-see for anyone interested in the inner workings of the movie industry. . . . Totally engrossing.” – Rogers Radio (Canada)
“Five stars out of five . . . A great documentary.” – DVDLegion.com
Behind the Scenes
Pre-Production and Principal Photography
Peter Hanson’s TALES FROM THE SCRIPT is the most comprehensive documentary ever made about screenwriting, joining the ranks of “The Cutting Edge” (film editing) and “Visions of Light” (cinematography) among the essential behind-the-scenes studies of Hollywood filmmaking. Featuring exclusive interviews with a who’s who of cinema storytellers, TALES FROM THE SCRIPT gives an unprecedented inside look at the lives of screenwriters.
“I wanted to give faces to the faceless,” Hanson remarked. “The public tends to hear from actors and directors, but it’s ironic that the very people whom actors and directors entrust to provide them with stories worth telling are the people least likely to speak on behalf of the movies based upon those stories. Having been captivated at speaking engagements by screenwriters including William Goldman over the years, I knew there was a wealth of film professionals with inside knowledge and the wit to share that knowledge in an entertaining way.”
Assembled over the course of three years, TALES FROM THE SCRIPT and its companion piece, a major nonfiction book of the same name, give dozens of Hollywood screenwriters the opportunity to tell their side of the story about movies ranging from beloved classics to notorious flops. As Todd McCarthy of “Variety” noted, TALES FROM THE SCRIPT is “a lively collection of war stories from a host of screenwriters with experience in the trenches.”
The project’s origin dates back to co-producer Paul Robert Herman’s time in UCLA’s Professional Screenwriting Program, when he came up with the idea for a project exploring the rejection screenwriters face during their careers. He presented the idea to Peter Hanson, who took the reins as the project's director, producer, and writer once the decison was made to simultaneously create a documentary feature and a nonfiction book. Hanson oversaw the creative execution of the project and secured most of the interviews, while co-producer Herman helped by securing additional interviews and building a project website. On the set during most of the project's Los Angeles interviews, Herman aided the process by reading pre-written interview questions while Hanson operated the camera, recorded sound, and orchestrated the conversations.
When production began in November 2006, Hanson’s working title was “Pass! Screenwriters on Surviving Hollywood Rejection.” The first participant to sit down for an interview was screenwriter/UCLA professor Kris Young. Hanson’s work as as one of the producers of the annual Saturn Awards helped land a linchpin interview with horror-movie legend John Carpenter (“Halloween”) in February 2007. Carpenter’s participation immediately gave the project a profile, leading to attention including a “Los Angeles Times” article. Throughout the late spring and early summer of 2007, notables including John August (“Go”), Shane Black (“Lethal Weapon”), and Oscar winner David S. Ward (“The Sting”) joined the project.
In the summer of 2007, an interview was conducted with two-time Academy Award nominee Melville Shavelson (“Houseboat”) at his home in Studio City, California. The comedy veteran passed away the following day at the age of 91, making his appearance in “Tales from the Script” a touching farewell.
Interviews continued throughout late 2007, and Hanson augmented the project’s Los Angeles shoots by assembling and leading a second unit in New York. In fact, the final interview of principal photography was Hanson’s conversation with Paul Schrader at the writer-director’s office near Times Square in January 2008.
Some of the project’s participants elected to be interviewed off-camera, and Hanson conducted supplemental interviews with industry “gatekeepers” who accept and reject scripts for a living. As a result, the TALES FROM THE SCRIPT book integrates interviews not seen in the documentary. Participants in book-only interviews include Academy Award nominees Nora Ephron (“Julie & Julia“), Paul Mazursky (“An Unmarried Woman”), and Joe Stillman (“Shrek”); director David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers”); and writer-directors Mike Binder (“The Upside of Anger”) and Duncan Tucker (“Transamerica”).
When post-production began in early 2008, archival supervisor Tim Merrill, composer T.J. Raider, and editor J.D. Funari joined the project. TALES FROM THE SCRIPT marks Raider’s third collaboration with Hanson; Raider did the music for the documentary feature “Every Pixel Tells a Story” and the award-winning short “Stagehand.” Merrill has a long history with Hanson as well; they were classmates at NYU’s film school and have collaborated on writing projects. Even Funari has a close connection with Hanson’s past work. Funari got his start in the vibrant indie-film community based around Albany, New York. That community was the subject of Hanson’s “Every Pixel Tells a Story.”
Concurrent with picture editing and the collection of archival material, two final interviews were conducted. After a year-long effort to land the interview, Hanson persuaded Frank Darabont to participate, resulting in one of the film’s funniest and most inspirational conversations. Two weeks later, Hanson traveled to New York for an interview with two-time Oscar winner William Goldman at the novelist-screenwriter’s home near Central Park. The interview was conducted in the room where Goldman held his famous meeting with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon when the actors were writing early drafts of “Good Will Hunting.”
“Editing was a huge challenge, but also an exciting one,” Hanson said. “Sifting through sixty hours of footage and something like 400,000 words of transcript took me back to my journalism days, when the challenge was to distill huge volumes of information into brief stories. I dove into the material and tried to let the participants shape their own collective narrative. I looked for connections and through-lines, trying to identify the commonalities that join the disparate experiences of these disparate writers.”
Eventually, two key themes emerged: enthusiasm and tenacity.
“Over and over again, writers talked about the importance of preserving enthusiasm for the creative aspects of the job,” Hanson said. “Screenwriters endure so many indignities throughout their careers that it’s crucial to compartmentalize. A working screenwriter needs to be able to listen to actors, executives, and directors make absurd requests for changes in screenplays without reacting negatively. And then the writer very often has to integrate those changes, or else the writer will be shown the door. All of the clichés are true about how little autonomy is given to screenwriters, so in order to survive these vicissitudes, professionals must learn to keep workplace adversity from making them cynical about the work itself.”
Similarly, tenacity is an essential survival skill. “The body blows that one endures on the path to becoming a screenwriter are myriad,” Hanson said. “And then if one manages to become a professional, there’s more abuse in store. Obviously the creative and financial rewards for A-list screenwriters can be amazing, but even the top people in this field experience crushing disappointments. Sometimes a great script doesn’t get made, and sometimes a promising script turns into an awful movie. The problem is that a screenplay is not an end product. If a novelist publishes a book that flops, at least the novelist has the satisfaction of completing his or her work. A script that stays on the shelf never gets exposed to the public, and a script that gets made badly the first time is not likely to get remade. The screenwriter does not control his or her own destiny.”
“As a result, the writers who go the distance manifest tenacity in one way or another,” Hanson continued. “Some seize power over their own material by becoming directors and/or producers. Some find creative satisfaction elsewhere, by writing books or creating paintings. Some take comfort in financial rewards. But to a one, successful screenwriters develop thick enough skins that professional setbacks are insufficient to deter them from pursuing their goals.”
During post-production, Hanson made overtures to publishers for the companion book. Discovering marketplace resistance to the original idea of a project focused on rejection, Hanson reframed the material into a broader discussion of the lives of screenwriters. Herman suggested the title TALES FROM THE SCRIPT. The project’s literary component found the right home in late 2008, when Anna Cottle and Mary Alice Kier of Cine/Lit Entertainment/Management sold the book version of TALES FROM THE SCRIPT to IT Books, a new imprint of HarperCollins Publishers specializing in popular culture. Cottle and Kier have represented Hanson’s screenwriting endeavors for several years.
“I used the assembly of the movie as a dry run for assembling the book, because by its reductive nature the movie could not contain as much material as the book,” Hanson said. “Very early in editing, I knew that I wanted the movie to feel like a panel discussion, as if all of the writers were in a room together having a conversation. I think that strategy keeps the material lively and even occasionally creates some drama. Different writers approach their careers in different ways, and it’s easy to imagine some of the participants in this project getting into a heated discussion about the subjects on which they don’t agree. I’m thrilled about that aspect of the project because if every participant had articulated the same attitude, I wouldn’t have had any counterpoints to play against each other.”
“I jokingly describe the book and the movie as a study of the life cycle of the screenwriter from pupa to carcass,” Hanson continued. “I strove to assemble a diverse cast, so that viewers of the movie and readers of the book are exposed to everyone from Ari B. Rubin, a young second-generation writer who has just entered the business, to two-time Oscar winner Bill Goldman, who has quite literally seen it all. I hope that anyone experiencing this project walks away with a deep understanding of what it means to be a professional screenwriter.”
In the final weeks of 2008, post-production was completed and the film was selected as one of the handful of world-premiere screenings at the 20th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival. Screenings followed at the Austin Film Festival, the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival, the 540 Film Fest (Fayetteville, Ark.), the Newport Beach Film Festival, the Sonoma International Film Festival, and the Starz Denver Film Festival. In addition to its successful run on the festival circuit, the movie played special word-of-mouth screenings at the American Cinematheque; the Writers Guild of America, West; and the University of Southern California. Along the way the feature received accolades including a glowing review from Chris Gore of “Film Threat,” who called TALES FROM THE SCRIPT “the best film about writing I’ve ever seen.” In November 2009, First Run Features acquired the film for North American theatrical and video distribution.
The movie played special limited-engagement runs in March 2010 on both coasts, playing one week each at Laemmle's Music Hall in Beverly Hills (Los Angeles) and Quad Cinemas in Greenwich Village (New York City). And then on April 20, 2010, First Run Features released TALES FROM THE SCRIPT on DVD, featuring over an hour of special features personally assembled by director Peter Hanson. The DVD has earned fantastic reviews, with household-name film critic Leonard Maltin spotlighting the film on his Reelz Channel TV show "Secret's Out With Leonard Maltin." He called TALES FROM THE SCRIPT a "hidden gem."
Concurrently, the companion book built impressive momentum. The 346-page paperback original, formally titled "Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories," was published on Jan. 26, 2010. In addition to interviews, the book features exclusive photographic portraits of the participants taken by Hanson. Feedback from industry professionals includes a remark that sums up the ambitions of the entire project. John Sayles, the Oscar-nominated writer/director of “Eight Men Out” and “Lone Star,” said “TALES FROM THE SCRIPT gathers notable veterans of the screen wars who demonstrate the basic truth of our adventures in Movieland: Writing is the easy part.”
Distribution/Exhibition/Publicity Inquiries: Contact Peter Hanson via firstname.lastname@example.org or (323) 620-5086
TAGLINE: Hollywood screenwriters finally get the last word.
LOGLINE: Dozens of Hollywood screenwriters share war stories and life lessons.
PRINCIPAL CAST: Shane Black, John Carpenter, Frank Darabont, William Goldman, Paul Schrader
SHORT SYNOPSIS (50 words): Screenwriters ranging from newcomers to living legends share their triumphs and hardships in this probing, insightful, and often hilarious odyssey through the world of movie storytelling. Candid and unafraid to name names, dozens of participants reveal the fascinating creative adventures that gave birth to notorious flops and beloved classics.
PRESS MATERIALS: DVD screeners, Final Cut video clips (formatted upon request), JPG stills, MP3 audio clips, PDF press kit
The Gospel According to Bill (12 minutes). The wit and wisdom of author/screenwriter William Goldman.
More Tales from the Script (47 minutes). Nearly an hour of fascinating unheard stories from top screenwriters,
featuring cast members plus Daniel Pyne (Pacific Heights), Joe Stillman (Shrek), Duncan Tucker (Transamerica), and more!
All DVD special features written, produced, and directed by Peter Hanson