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!Free ♏ Monster: Living Off the Big Screen ☢ In Hollywood, Screenwriters Are A Curse To Be Borne, And Beating Up On Them Is An Industry Blood Sport But In This Ferociously Funny And Accurate Account Of Life On The Hollywood Food Chain, It S A Screenwriter Who Gets The Last Murderous Laugh That May Be Because The Writer Is John Gregory Dunne, Who Has Written Screenplays, Along With Novels And Non Fiction, For Thirty Years In Dunne And His Wife, Joan Didion, Were Asked To Write A Screenplay About The Dark And Complicated Life Of The Late TV Anchorwoman Jessica Savitch Eight Years And Twenty Seven Drafts Later, This Script Was Made Into The Fairy Tale Up Close And Personal Starring Robert Redford And Michelle Pfeiffer Detailing The Meetings, Rewrites, Fights, Firings, And Distractions Attendant To The Making Of A Single Picture, Monster Illuminates The Process With Sagacity And Raucous Wit
The story is told over the eight years it took for the author and his wife, Joan Didion, to complete the screenplay for the film Up Close and Personal starring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer I watched the film out of curiosity and it s cringe worthy, a saccharine romance full of cliches Apparently, the movie made over 100 million at the box office which is not surprising since mediocre films appeal to the lowest common denominator.The purpose of the book is to expose Hollywood s treatment of screenwriters, but I couldn t get on board with the author From the first page where he talked about Princeton and his mother s tea party, I almost put it down I m university educated, too, but come from humble beginnings so elitist writers who hob knob with the rich and famous don t make me want to root for them.I m glad he and his wife have reached the point where they draw big bucks for their work I m sure they deserve it, but it doesn t make me feel sorry for him when he whines about late payment from the studio The couple get paid plenty for work they don t even do.Dunne exposes himself while he exposes Hollywood as lacking in integrity and compromising quality for money All the studios care about is how to make money from the film He explains why this is necessary pictures are so expensive they have to earn 10 million in the first weekend just to be viable But if he finds Hollywood so distasteful, why work in the industry Greed drives everything here and I include the author in that assessment. So wrapped up with the minutia of screenwriter s lives hustling, endless drafts, rewrites for potential stars that I can t imagine why anyone who isn t a screenwriter would want to read it But then the content really, so much about drafts feels like the end of the day rants to a partner and sort of the last thing a screenwriter wants to read least this one. John Gregory Dunne was a journalist, a writer of non fiction books, a novelist, and a screenwriter As a screenwriter, he was part of a team, he and his wife Joan Didion, also a journalist and novelist Together, they wrote some notable films, most notable perhaps was Barbra Streisand s version of A Star Is Born In 1988, they were approached by their friend John Foreman about doing a screenplay about the real life TV broadcaster Jessica Savitch This book, Monster Living Off the Big Screen, is an account of the duo s trials and tribulations writing that screenplay Over eight years, they worked with several producers and Disney pictures to get a script composed that would satisfy everyone involved, a task that became even tougher when superstars Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer got onboard Dunne put together an exhaustive analysis of this experience During those eight years, they did countless versions of the script, quit the project over and over, got rehired, and eventually, a movie emerged called Up Close and Personal, a film that had nothing to do with Jessica Savitch, but rather was a generic romantic comedy about TV broadcasters Monster is a fascinating look at the movie business Dunne tells us how the process of screenwriting works, how producers work, what happens when studio lawyers get involved, and the expectations of studios coupled with the anxieties and hopes and wishes and dreams and machinations of producers I found the book to be totally readable and enjoyable At just a few pages over two hundred, it goes quickly, and yet when all is said and done, a satisfying story has been told, and entertaining story has been told, and an enlightening story about Hollywood has been told. A very entertaining account of what it takes, from the screenwriter s point of view, to get a script translated to the screen A ton of patience, the ability to deal with truly sociopathic personalities, and, of course, writing talent Sometimes the name dropping got to be too much, but it was still a fun read. Not everyone wants to know how the sausage is made But living in Los Angeles, the stories are all around us Every serving person has a dream to be on the big screen, every grocery bagger has a screeenplay Having seen the process of movie making at arms length, I wanted the screenwriters perspective and in this book, I got it Such an amazing array of people touched this particular script that it speaks to the author s patience and commitment that he and his wife, Joan Didion did not walk away at several junctures where it seemed a good option.Big studio films are the product of committees and although the subject film in this case did well at the box office, its original raison d tre was abraded away over years of development This book is emphatically not for everyone, by any means But it may help set expectations for screenwriting hopefuls. You have to be really interested in how Hollywood works and screenwriting, specifically to love this book I was looking for humor and personal reflection about the crazy process of turning a book about the tragedy of Jessica Savitch s life into a contemporary romance not about Jessica Savitch 8 years later. The difficult and time consuming process of developing a screenplay one which eventually became the film Up Close and Personal told in an intelligent, engaging voice.More detail at my blog This book makes screenwriters look like beggars on the street, but instead of asking for a quarter, they re begging for a quarter million dollars Although I think the intent of the book was to show how frustrating the screenwriting process can be when there are too many cooks in the kitchen, my takeaway was that life for a writer in Hollywood is nothing than a never ending scramble for cash so as to afford that second apartment in NYC and the beach house in Malibu I was really disappointed by how shallow this book was Lots of name dropping, way too many descriptions of meetings at fancy restaurants where no one ever seems to eat anything, and plenty of bitching about having to fly out to LA to stay in posh hotels With that in mind, I guess it s only fitting that the last chapter of the book is not about how the author feels the final version of the film he spent 7 years working on turned out artistically, but rather a detailed account of how much the final product grossed at the box office. I m always fascinated by anything that details the behind the scenes mechanics of a process, and particularly to do with writers and film I ll read anything about working Hollywood, pretty much Monster strips back to how a screenwriter negotiates and operates, but not so much what motivates him Dunne, I mean specifically I was also interested in this, like many people, probably, because of reading Joan Didion s wonderful Year of Magical Thinking, and wanting to know some about their lives Reading Monster was in that sense a bit like time travel you can t help thinking about who will be missing in just a few years time Unfortunately, there s not much passion driving this narrative other than what feels a bit like a sneery negative drive to get their own experience told The movie that this book is telling the story of writing doesn t seem to be a good one I have pretty much no desire to see it Is this what Dunne wants us to know, that they tried to make it good, and what came out wasn t really their work, so it s not their fault I m not really convinced of that the whole thing seems kind of cold, why should there be anything magical in the results No visions were adhered to because no one had a vision, once they chucked out Savitch It s an ugly picture of the machine in action Dunne comes across as narky and prickly as well Some of the reviews of the film said it was smug that kind of summed up how I felt about the POV in monster I wanted to like him, I really did.