My Brush With Hollywood
Since 1998, I have been writing fake Abridged Scripts for popular movies, intended to be a way to both mock and review films. The site has been around nearly 10 years, and in that 10 years I have gotten thousands of e-mails from visitors. A lot of them are from people telling me I should write a real script. These are people who find the abridged scripts funny, and imagine they would translate well to film. I also get some e-mails from people telling me the only reason I mock other movies is because I can't make it as a real screenwriter. Those e-mails are easy to ignore, since they usually come from people that liked a movie I hated, so that pretty much means they're idiots.
In any case, this is a story for both types of people. The former because it details a unique experience during which I talked to some Hollywood people and had a taste of being a real screenwriter, the latter because it ends with failure. This story really is true - if I was going to lie, I'd have made it end better. Like with me fighting giant dinosaurs with lasers or something.
After running this site for a long time, pissing on shitty movies from Hollywood, I was actually contacted by a Hollywood agent. He wanted me to write a screenplay.
It all started from a simple e-mail sent through my contact form. For the purpose of this story we will call him Jerry McSlimey. He e-mailed me to tell me he wanted to talk to me about writing for him. He made sure to let me know that he was totally legitimate and serious, and his proof was that his partner had something-or-other to do with discovering the American Pie script and turning the writer into a thousandare. This feat was less impressive to me than Jerry probably thought, but it was impressive enough to pique my interest. We exchanged phone numbers and he called me the next day.
When he called, he basically explained that he found my Lord of the Rings abridged scripts, showed them to a few people, and everyone decided that I'm a funny guy and I should write some funny screenplays for them. He also showed the American Pie 1 and American Pie 2 scripts to the people he knew who were involved in those movies, and they found them humorous as well. The first American Pie Abridged Script was actually a contribution sent in by a visitor to the site, but given that Jerry was able to miss the byline in the first place, I wasn't too confident that telling him this wouldn't just confuse and frighten him.
To give you a little background on Jerry, he was a slick, fast-talking, Hollywood cliche. He had a Blackberry, he made lunch dates, and he dropped the names of pretty much every famous person he has ever met every chance he got (he once told me Paris Hilton is smarter than she acts). In short, his personality was a unique combination of nice guy and pompous jerk, so I knew at the very least he really did live in L.A. Here's an approximation of how our first conversation went.
- Jerry: So I was wondering if you've written any full-length screenplays.
- Me: Oh, well...
- Jerry: See, I sent your LOTR script around and people like it.
- Me: Cool, so...
- Jerry: The only problem is that your site has such a weird name. You should get a new name for your site.
- Me: Well, it's always been called The Editing R--
- Jerry: You should call it funnyscripts.com or something.
- Me: Ugh, I don't thin--
- Jerry: There, I just registered funnyscripts.com for you, do you wanna use it?
- Me: Er, no thank--
- Jerry: Okay, just let me know.
When he asked if I had ever written a screenplay, the answer was only sort of a yes. I had written little crappy screenplays when I first started studying screenwriting, but they were all abandoned halfway through. The only screenplay I had completed requires a little backstory. One week, my friends and I endured a full Friday the 13th marathon. After this, Jason became a regular topic of conversation, particularly while drunk. One day, I revealed to them an idea I had for a sequel. This wasn't a serious idea, as you will soon see, but it struck me as something I'd get a kick out of seeing in a theater.
I imagined a trilogy of sequels, all taking place after Jason X. Here are the basic stories (hey New Line, if you want to use these, I want three dollars and a 'produced by' credit):
- Jason X2: Jason, in the future and half-robotic as of Jason X, finds people experimenting with time travel. They wind up sending him back to the 1950's. He finds his way to crystal lake and kills some kids. Oh, and it's winter, which makes it awesome.
- Jason X3: Camp is in session and RoboJason kills some more folks, but this time he winds up killing a counselor who tries to run out to save a boy drowning in the lake. The boy turns out to be young Jason Vorhees, so Jason causes his own drowning! Did I just blow your mind or what?
- Jason vs. Jason: The Thirteenth Friday: Jason, now an adult, finally emerges, kills some people, and fights RoboJason. Whoever wins this battle, of course, it means that there are no more Jason movies that can possibly be made, and it would finish the series on the thirteenth film, which is awesome to the thirteenth power.
My idiot friends told me I should write the screenplay for the first movie, so I did. This was the only screenplay I had ever completed start to finish.
When I revealed to Jerry that I only had one screenplay actually finished, he wanted to see it. I told him I basically wrote it on a dare, and he told me he wanted to read it on Monday. "Oh fuck," I thought to myself. This screenplay was fifty pages long. This screenplay was written when I was half drunk. This screenplay sucks! So I rewrote the entire thing, that weekend, in basically one sitting, to have it be at least mildly presentable. I sent it to him on Monday, figuring he would be so appalled at such a convoluted screenplay that was clearly inspired while half drunk and written while half asleep that he would never contact me again.
To my great surprise, he did contact me again, and he told me he had sent my screenplay along with the summaries for the other two movies to some guys at New Line. I wasn't sure if Jerry had actually read it first, and I imagine the end result was that my name was added to some list of fucking idiots maintained at New Line. They passed on the idea, obviously, but Jerry really liked the idea of Jason vs. Jason. He suggested it would be cooler if the Jasons from all of the movies so far were to fight each other in a giant Jason battle royale. The fact that this made even less sense than my stupid idea didn't seem to phase Jerry in the slightest, which gave me a great deal of insight into why so many movies these days are so godawful.
Eventually, Jerry revealed what he really wanted from me in another hurried phone call. He liked my Lord of the Rings abridged script, and he wanted me to make a movie of it. He told me, and I quote, to "write a black Lord of the Rings". I'm not making this up, nor am I making up the next bit: I didn't understand what he meant. Maybe it was because he talked so quickly I could barely comprehend him, but when he said "black Lord of the Rings," I interpreted it to mean black as in dark or macabre. I understood it the same way I understand "black comedy" meaning a comedy that centers around dark aspects of life, such as death or misery. I responded, "Well, Lord of the Rings is already pretty dark..." No, no, no, Jerry explained. Black. "For the Wayans Brothers."
The Wayanses had been putting out Scary Movie sequels, so I finally understood what he meant. He wanted a spoof of Lord of the Rings, the way Scary Movie spoofed Scream. He wanted to take it to the Wayans Brothers. This left me in a pretty conflicted state of mind. On the one hand, this was the closest I had ever come to writing a screenplay professionally. On the other hand, Scary Movie made me want to slam my penis in a car door.
I had no idea how to write something like this. What the hell did it mean to make it "black"? He didn't say make a "funny Lord of the Rings", he said make a "black Lord of the Rings". What kinds of properties does the latter have that the former lacks? As a white guy, I don't think I'm really qualified to write racial comedy about how differently blacks and whites play miniature golf, nor would I want to. Do I just have the characters talk street? That's seems ridiculously racist and annoying - but if I *DON'T* do that, what makes it 'black'? I fretted over this for days, before eventually concluding that Jerry was probably just a racist asshole.
I figured that rather than write a 'black' Lord of the Rings, I could just write a spoof of Lord of the Rings, and let others cast the movie however they want. I thought about the Scary Movie franchise - the story of the first movie was mostly lifted from Scream, but it also strung together spoofs of several other horror films, so I figured that's what I would do since it was for the Wayans brothers. I decided to call the thing "Epic Fantasy Adventure Film" (later shortened to "Epic Movie" and then changed to "Violent Movie" because I thought the Wayans audience wouldn't know what "Epic" meant) and have it spoof Lord of the Rings, Troy, Kill Bill, Harry Potter, Star Wars, superhero movies, King Arthur, and other similar movies released around that time. I told Jerry my plan, and he told me to write a treatment.
Writing this treatment was extremely challenging. A treatment is generally prose, not written in screenplay format. It describes the story of the film. The problem was that the story of the film was basically the story of Lord of the Rings, but with jokes. All of the jokes are in the dialogue, and you're not supposed to have much dialogue in a treatment. How was a treatment supposed to look? "Gandalf goes to visit the Hobbit village, but it's funny." "Frodo drops the ring into the lava, but it's funny." So rather than a short few pages of descriptive text, I wound up writing 17 pages of dialogue. Oops.
To make matters worse, I didn't know how to write a comedy in the style of Scary Movie. I first imagined the movie in the style of "Airplane!" but that movie made me laugh, so I knew it wasn't what the Wayans brothers would want. As far as I could tell, the Scary Movie films were just sex gags and fart jokes that take place inside lookalike sets from popular movies. "Spoofing" a movie generally consisted of recreating a scene from it but having someone smoking weed or getting a blowjob in it.
So that's what I wrote. A dialogue-heavy, 17 page treatment full of sex gags, fart jokes, and uninspired references to other films. There were occasionally some jokes that I actually found funny, but they were few and far between. When it was all done, I gave it to my girlfriend to read. She read through it, cracking a smile occasionally. "How is it?" I asked her. "It's... good," she replied, obviously lying. "Is it funny?" I asked. "Yeah, if you're fourteen," she responded. "Perfect," I said.
Finally glad to be done writing this thing (but dreading the idea that Jerry might actually like it and require I write a full-length screenplay), I sent it off via e-mail. Jerry read through it and told me via e-mail that it was "good" but that he had some suggestions. I told him to call with the suggestions, but he never did. A month later, I e-mailed him to ask what the suggestions were again, but he never responded. I could have probably pursued it more, but then I'd have been stuck writing the screenplay, so I kind of gave up.
So what happened with the treatment? Probably nothing, but a few years later the same guys who took over the Scary Movie franchise made "Epic Movie". Epic Movie, like my movie, was a spoof of a whole bunch of different epic movies, though the movies referenced were more recent since the film came out two years later.
I avoided watching Epic Movie for a while, largely because it looked terrible, but also because it looked so similar to what I wrote that I worried watching it would leave me overcome with that "fuck, I could have done that!" feeling.
Eventually, I watched Epic Movie. Here's an example of one of the jokes in the movie. In a spoof of X-Men, a bunch of superpowered kids are walking around a high school. A group of bullies, led by a Wolverine lookalike, starts harassing some kid. The kid gets angry and he rips his shirt off. One of the bullies, scared, yells "He's going to use his powers! He's about to spread Angel wings!" Ah, so the blond kid is a parody of the Angel character from X-Men 3. His wings poke out, but rather than large, majestic wings, they turn out to be short, stubby, ugly chicken wings. There's even a "ba-gock!" chicken sound before the bullies start laughing. This is mildly amusing, but then the Mystique lookalike stops laughing for a moment to exclaim, I shit you not, "More like chicken wings!".
When you see this, you just sit there, gaping-mouthed, wondering what complete imbecile wrote that line, and what utter retard filmed it. It's stunning. I had to pause the movie and rewind it to see if that really happened. Did you really just explain your own stupid joke? Are your audience members so stupid that they won't laugh when the chicken wings come out, won't laugh with the chicken noise, but will finally get the joke when Mystique explains that they aren't angel wings at all, but chicken wings? I would like everyone in the world to go rent Epic Movie and watch this scene. If Mystique's line makes you laugh, I want you to go drown yourself in your bathtub immediately. Trust me, it's for the best.
This scene occurs within the first ten minutes of the film, and the movie actually gets WORSE from there. This garbage makes Scary Movie look like fucking Blade Runner. This kind of atrocious horse shit is almost what I had my name attached to. If I have to live the rest of my life without ever getting any closer to Hollywood than in this story, it's worth it to have had nothing to do with something like Epic Movie.
So for everyone who e-mails me to say that I should write a real script, keep in mind that I almost wrote Epic Movie. Yikes!