What Is TALES FROM THE SCRIPT?
Peter Hanson’s Tales from the Script is a feature-length documentary movie AND a nonfiction paperback book. This unique dual-format project explores the world of Hollywood screenwriting through dozens of exclusive interviews. Participants include Shane Black (Lethal Weapon), John Carpenter (Halloween), Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), William Goldman (The Princess Bride), David Hayter (X-Men), Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost), Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), and many more.
Are the Book and the Movie the Same?
The movie features stories not included in the book, plus entertaining film clips. The book has almost four times as much content as the movie, plus additional off-camera interviews with Nora Ephron (Julie & Julia), Robert Mark Kamen (Taken), Paul Mazursky (An Unmarried Woman), and others. The book and the movie offer different experiences designed to complement each other, so if you only experience one of them, you haven’t gotten everything that Tales from the Script has to offer!
Praise for TALES FROM THE SCRIPT
“For insight into screenwriting, check out Tales from the Script.”
Jon Favreau, creator of The Mandalorian, director of Elf and Iron Man, 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, best-selling author of 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
“A lively collection of war stories from screenwriters with experience in the trenches.” — Todd McCarthy, Variety
“Compulsory viewing for any aspiring screenwriters.” — Leal Lowenstein, KPCC-FM (Los Angeles National Public Radio)
“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
“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
Behind the Scenes
From the 2009 Los Angeles premiere at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood: Tales director Peter Hanson, David S. Ward (The Sting), Zak Penn (The Avengers), Larry Cohen (Phone Booth), Adam Rifkin (The Dark Backward), Billy Ray (Shattered Glass), Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries).
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.
“The public tends to hear from actors and directors,” Hanson remarked, “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 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 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.”
The project’s origin dates back to coproducer 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 decision 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. Herman also participated in most of the project’s Los Angeles on-camera interviews.
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 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 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) graciously sat for interviews.
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 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 spotlights 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, while Merrill and Hanson 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 indie-film community based around Albany, New York. That community was the subject of Hanson’s feature-length documentary 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.
“Editing was an exciting challenge,” Hanson said. “Sifting through sixty hours of footage and something like 400,000 words of transcript drew on my experience in journalism, where the object is to distill significant volumes of information into brief stories. Throughout editing, I tried to let the participants shape their own collective narrative. I looked for connections and throughlines, 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. “Obviously the creative and financial rewards for A-list screenwriters can be amazing,” Hanson said, “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 their 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 their own destiny.”
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 Hanson’s then-managers Anna Cottle and Mary Alice Kier of Cine/Lit Entertainment/Management sold the book version of TALES FROM THE SCRIPT to !T Books, a new imprint of HarperCollins Publishers specializing in popular culture.
“I jokingly describe the book and the movie as a study of the life cycle of the screenwriter from pupa to carcass,” Hanson said. “I strove to assemble an eclectic 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.”
Book Publication and Film Distribution
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 Newport Beach Film Festival, the Starz Denver Film Festival, and more. In addition to its run on the festival circuit, the movie played 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 home-video distribution. The movie played special limited-engagement runs in March 2010 on both coasts, and on April 20, 2010, First Run Features released TALES FROM THE SCRIPT on DVD, featuring over an hour of special features. 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 momentum. The 346-page paperback original, formally titled Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories, was published on January 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.”
Hanson with Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), Antwone Fisher, and Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver).
Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories
Nonfiction book published by !T Books
An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
U.S. Publication Date: January 26, 2010
346 pages / 58 black-and-white photographs
Written, edited, and photographed by Peter Hanson
The book features exclusive interviews with the following screenwriters who do not appear in the movie: Mike Binder, Nora Ephron, Robert Mark Kamen, Daniel Pyne, Paul Mazursky, Joe Stillman, Duncan Tucker, Linda Voorhees, and Richard Wenk.
The book also features interviews with the following film-industry professionals who describe their work with screenwriters: talent agent Richard Arlook, contest administrator Greg Beal (Nicholl Fellowships), film director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers), script reader Katherine O’Brien, development executive Charles Vignola (Jerry Bruckheimer Films), and author/educator Richard Walter.
Note: The book’s cover credit, naming Paul Robert Herman as co-editor, has created confusion. Mr. Herman conceived the original idea for the project and served as one of the producers for the movie version, but Mr. Herman did not participate in editing or writing the book.
The Movie: Tales from the Script
Documentary feature film distributed by First Run Features
105 minutes / color / stereo / 4×3 letterbox DV / NR
Writer, producer, and director: Peter Hanson
Executive producers: Rick D’Avino & Pamela Murphy
Coproduced and Based on an Idea by: Paul Robert Herman
Edited by J.D. Funari / Music by: T.J. Raider
Archival supervisor: Tim Merrill
Cinematographer and still photographer: Peter Hanson
Additional crew: Leslie Connor, Nick Fair, Kyle McKeveny
Allison Anders, Jane Anderson, Doug Atchison, John August, Shane Black, John D. Brancato, John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Frank Darabont, Steven E. de Souza, Gerald DiPego, Mark Fergus, Antwone Fisher, Naomi Foner, Joe Forte, Josh Friedman, Mick Garris, William Goldman, David Hayter, Peter Hyams, Michael January, Steve Koren & Mark O’Keefe, Jonathan Lemkin, Andrew W. Marlowe, Dennis Palumbo, Zak Penn, Billy Ray, Adam Rifkin, Jose Rivera, Mark D. Rosenthal, Ari B. Rubin, Bruce Joel Rubin, Richard Rush, Paul Schrader, Melville Shavelson, Ron Shelton, Ronald Shusett, Stephen Susco, Guinevere Turner, Kriss Turner, David S. Ward, James L. White, Michael Wolk, Kris Young, Justin Zackham
Movie Release History
World Premiere: Palm Springs International Film Festival (January 10, 2009)
Sonoma International Film Festival (April 2, 2009)
Newport Beach Film Festival (April 25, 2009)
Writers Guild of America West, Los Angeles (May 14, 2009)
American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood (August 5, 2009)
Big Bear Lake International Film Festival (September 19, 2009)
University of Southern California, Los Angeles (October 8, 2009)
Austin Film Festival, Austin, Texas (October 23, 2009)
540 Film Fest, Fayetteville, Arkansas (November 7, 2009)
Starz Denver Film Festival, Denver, Colorado (November 19, 2009)
New York Theatrical Opening: Quad Cinema, New York (March 12–18, 2010)
Canadian Premiere: Vancity Theatre, Vancouver (March 13, 2009)
Albany, NY, Sneak Preview, Spectrum 8 Theatres (March 17, 2010)
Los Angeles Theatrical Opening: Laemmle’s Music Hall (March 19–25, 2010)
American Film Institute, Los Angeles (April 6, 2010)
Salt Lake City Film Society, Salt Lake City, Utah (April 17, 2010)
Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles (April 19, 2010)
North American DVD Release (April 20, 2010)
American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre, Santa Monica (April 28, 2010)
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio (May 14, 2010)
Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe (June 1, 2010)
French/Spanish Broadcast Premiere on Turner Classic Movies (October 2010)
DVD Special Features
Advice for New Screenwriters (9 minutes). Priceless tips and inspiration for beginners.
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.