The violations and indignities that the written word suffers in Hollywood are many and sundry, but screenwriters get their say in Tales from the Script, a highly interesting documentary built around wide-ranging conversations with 46 big screen storytellers, from John Carpenter and Frank Darabont to Bruce Joel Rubin and William Goldman. Eschewing voiceover narration or some artificially manufactured chronological narrative structure, the movie instead more or less embraces chaos theory, loosely grouping its anecdotal insights with title cards.
Yes, Tales from the Script is exclusively a talking-head affair, which lends it the feel of a cultured curio — a selling point, to be sure, for cineastes, but something of a hurdle for general audiences. (There’s also a hefty companion book to the film, underscoring a certain academic worth.) A lot of the observations herein are pointed but somewhat generic. Steven de Souza (above) amusingly and perceptively notes that there are people in the room during a story meeting who basically “make their day,” work-wise, by offering comment on your script, so such an environment encourages even dumb, from-the-hip remarks over more thoughtful silence.
Some stories, however, are pure, unadulterated gold, like Guinevere Turner hilariously recounting her work experience with director Uwe Boll on BloodRayne, Darabont talking about being offered a $30 million budget for shooting The Mist with a different ending, and Rubin ruefully recalling a Disney executive taking him to lunch and surreptitiously picking his brain for ideas for Armageddon by just letting Rubin talk about his work on Deep Impact. Director Peter Hanson and co-producer/co-writer Paul Robert Herman are also smart enough to include in the mix a number of writers laboring chiefly in the straight-to-video realm, which keeps Tales from the Script grounded in reality, providing an accurate, unblinking look of the balancing act between art and commerce that is screenwriting, and moviemaking in general. (First Run, unrated, 105 minutes)