Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Discussing July/August With Andrew Shearer

There seems to be a common concern in the July/August edition of Script magazine that original screenwriting in Hollywood is an endangered product. Editor-in-Chief Shelly Mellott mentions her concern over unique films like Away We Go and The Hurt Locker receiving proper attention. In Ray Morton’s article, “Going Global: Screenwriting in the International Marketplace,” he talks about how Hollywood is importing more and more remakes from overseas, once they’ve proven themselves in foreign markets. And of course we’re all aware that every third movie in the multiplex these days is a comic-book adaptation -- and now we’re on to toys!

But who’s to blame? The studios? In Morton’s article, he quotes screenwriter Don Handfield, “I wish these networks and the studios would take more chances on homegrown entertainment, stuff that might be a little more off the wall, instead of saying, ‘This was a hit in a foreign country so let’s adapt it.’” But you know what? I’m kind of tired of hearing writers bitch because I’m finding more and more that we don’t even go see the movies we claim to want the studios to make.

Last year, I saw an amazing, original, important film, Stop-Loss, in the theater. I tried to get anyone and everyone -- friends, writers -- to watch it. I couldn’t, even on DVD. Finally, after an entire year, one friend finally watched it (and loved it) -- after a year. Mark Boal’s article “Writers on Writing: The Hurt Locker,” about his journey to Iraq which inspired his screenplay, is electrifying. The film is playing in Los Angeles and New York right now and opened to stellar reviews across the board, the best reviews I’ve seen this year. Who of us will go see it? How many of us will go see the enticing Away We Go? It’s made $4 million over 4 weeks with a budget of $17 million. Why would a studio continue to make that kind of movie with a performance like that?

I read an article in Variety recently about the films bought from Cannes last year and their severe underperformance at the box office (Waltz with Bashir, Che, Synecdoche, New York). Maybe that’s why films at Sundance this year had such a hard time selling. What I’m saying is that I find that many of the people who claim to want these films made don’t make the time to go support them, despite many of the movies being wonderful films. And if the studio can’t make box-office profit, how can they make the films? What’s the solution? How can we keep unique writing thriving in Hollywood? And how can I get you whiners to go see The Hurt Locker and Away We Go?


A redneck from Small Town, North Carolina (population 8,000, high school drop-out rate 40%), one day decided to tackle the film industry. Andrew’s film-school short, Son Up, based off his experience teaching at a juvenile hall, ended up winning seven festival awards and made the regionals for the Student Academy Awards. Andrew’s feature script version of Son Up, co-written with Nick Sherman, went on to win first prize at Cinequest. Then one day, the screenwriting gods shined their rarely shown light down from the Heavens and awarded the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship to Andrew and Nick for their feature script, Holy Irresistible. The duo is now repped by Endeavor and Brillstein Entertainment. They have two projects in development and are lucky enough to be co-writing a spec with another writer they’ve admired for years.


  1. You're totally right. I promise to go and see Away We Go straight away. ;)

  2. Maybe "Synechdoche, New York" underperformed because it stunk. Just a thought.

  3. After weeks of waiting and gorging on hype, I saw 'The Hurt Locker' and found it vastly overrated. The hardman-going-AWOL-sequence was ridiculous, the bonding-with-baby felt bolted on, and the final moments ... cowboy-rides-into-the-sunset .. give me a break. Good points: the early death of a charismatic character, and the long 'sniper' section. Oh, and Ralph Fiennes as posh SAS. Thank God for the Brits.

  4. Please explain to me why The Hurt Locker is such a great film in your opinion. In mine, it is an episodic soap opera that just doesn't work. I was not engaged by the cowboy in the spacesuit idea and actually think that it tends to distance the audience from the protag. Some of these new films are just not well written -- they have taken a post-post-modern stance of simply introducing characters with no background even in the foreground. They come from nowhere and we are expected to care about them because of situations that are scripted, not because of deep inner conflicts. I want CHARACTER -- DEEP CHARACTER!

  5. The best you can hope for is that your own work changes things.

  6. Both The Hurt Locker and Stop-Loss are flawed in the same two ways.

    First, they're factually inaccurate - in the case of Stop-Loss, so much so, that it undermines the whole credibility of the film. And second, they present the romantic view that we should feel sympathy, if not sorry for, soldiers fighting in Iraq.

    War is brutal, and the soldiers fighing it know that. The sentimental oh-our-poor-soldiers, how-they-hurt message is nauseating.

  7. I watched 'The Hurt Locker' the day before yesterday, and last night I dreamed I was in bed with David Beckham - and we weren't sleeping :0)...

    What a superb film! Magnificent!!!


In order to prevent spam, comments are moderated. Thank you.