When Albert Brooks compared being a screenwriter in Hollywood to being a eunuch at an orgy, he probably wasn't talking about being a screenwriter on a summer action extravaganza. That's a sweet gig. The writers of eight upcoming summer tentpoles admitted as much during a roundtable discussion with The Hollywood Reporter. Among the notable perks:
You can tell people what to do
Kung Fu Panda 2's Jonathan Aibel says he and his writing partner had no hesitations about telling director Jennifer Yuh what her movie was about and what it should look like.He explains, "My partner and I saw our role to be there for the director to remind her at any point, 'The story point is this, that the emotion of the character is here, and even though you're dealing with these huge issues we'll be there to whisper what the character's thinking.'" That extended to visuals, too. "We had a scene where the color of the sky was a certain color," recalls Aibel "It was the most beautiful sky ever, but it made it seem ominous ... The story and the artistry all have to work together to communicate the emotion." The color got changed.
You don't have to work hard
Release dates for summer blockbusters are set years in advance, and the special effects for a specific set piece can occupy designers for months. For scribes who want the flexibility to fix glaring plot holes, that's not a good thing, but it's great if you don't want to work hard, explains Transformers 3's Ehren Kruger. "Under a normal process, [things that] would have been considered a first draft outline" become part of a blockbuster's DNA and can't be altered.
You don't have to be profound
Thor's Ashley Edward Miller points out that "the audience isn’t walking out of the theater saying, 'You know when Optimus and Bumblebee were having tea together at Marienbad, and they were having that conversation, it really made me think about my place in the world.' Those conversations don't happen. Those conversations are kind of bullshit," he says, because they're "all intellectual," while "going to the movies is an emotional experience."
You can write boring things
It's okay if your big chase sequence is a little dull, apparently. People like Michael Bay will always be around to punch it up. Reasons Kruger, "Whatever I come up with for a set piece, he's going to inject with human growth hormone and make it something wilder than I could imagine."
You don't have to care
Hey, it's not your $250 million. Let the director and the studio and the star who is under contract for two sequels agonize over what direction the story needs to go in. All you need to do is provide the various options, like Greg Berlanti did on Green Lantern. "Rather than write one scene 15 different times, because that’s exhausting and not fun," he says, "I’ll write a few different versions of the scene and let them duke it out amongst themselves."
People actually see your work
More than the money, exposure is the best part of a high-profile writing assignment. "What we’re talking about is wanting to reach people, so it isn’t about how much money the movies made" says Aibel. "It’s about, Oh my -- millions of people went to see something you’ve spent all your time on and enjoyed it, hopefully, and are telling their friends to go see it. That’s the reward.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.