Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hey Joe

Short of enrolling in an MFA screenwriting program, books on the trade are some of an aspiring screenwriter's best friends. There is no single bible on screenplay format or one how-to book that is going to explain exactly how to write the perfect script. For me, a basic style manual, collection of advice from working screenwriters on the aspects of craft and industry, and some war stories from a veteran of the business were enough to get me started. Once you have a firm grasp on the basics, then it's just a matter of applying what you've gleaned to the page (or monitor, I suppose these days) and coming up with the work product.

One new book that I do plan on picking up sooner or later is the modestly-titled The Devil's Guide to Hollywood: The Screenwriter as God, by Joe Esterhaz. Before there was Charlie Kaufman, there was Joe. The closest thing to rock star or celebrity that screenwriting could come up with in the 80s, Esterhaz penned adult-oriented popcorn fare such as Flashdance, Jagged Edge, and Basic Instinct. His seven-figure spec paydays and mansion in Malibu kick-started the idea of making the One Big Sale that would propel a screenwriter into the upper echelon of Hollywood.

After the debacle that was Showgirls, a battle with throat cancer, and settling down with his family, Joe left L.A. behind and returned to his native Ohio, where he currently resides. He and his wife have an interview over at MSNBC in promotion of the book's release. Although there are apparently plenty of tales from the trenches contained within, Esterhaz has also written "Devil's Guide" as, well, a guide for aspiring screenwriters. Maybe he'll never work in this town again, and we probably won't be returning to the days of $4 million spec sales any time soon. But it sounds like it will make for interesting and, hopefully, insightful reading nonetheless.


  • "Hollywood Animal," also by Joe, is worth a close read. It's a terrific mix of personal and the realities of writing in LaLa Land.

    By Blogger Scribe LA, at 8:57 AM  

  • I was perusing this one at the Borders the other day. Pretty breezy, profane (very), and relies heavily on quotes from other writers, industry people, etc. Punctuated by Joe on those people's quotes. So not a traditional screenwriting book in that sense. But fun.

    By Blogger Chris, at 8:22 PM  

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