Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I think if I could be any type of scribe, it would be that of a screenwriter. While I love the notion of locking myself in a private hideaway and churn out The Great American Novel, I've always had an affinity for the craft. It also helps that I'm a huge movie and TV buff. Television, by the way, is churning out some of the best writing I've seen in years. "Treme," anyone?

I've dabbled in the form (check it out HERE), have been read by some agencies (bog whoop, I know) and in my younger days turned down an offer on one of my scripts from a small production outfit. Dumb mistake, I know, but that's another post.

I say screenwriting is a craft, because that's exactly what it is. The script is a blueprint for a film -- the guide for the actors, director et al. That said, I was more than stoked to see a recent article in Variety about a type of writer most people are unaware of: the rewrite scribe, that last-minute gun-for hire who gets none of the glory and a whole mess of dough. An added plus? The rewrite scribe gets NONE of the grief if the film tanks.

According to the piece, the most frequently tapped polishers haven't had official onscreen credits in years. Jim Uhls, who has only one screenplay credit since penning "Fight Club" more than a decade ago, works regularly as an uncredited gun-for-hire. Shane Black, who once earned the distinction as Hollywood's highest-paid screenwriter, also is high on many studio wish-lists for being a closer.

Not that I'm exactly a whore for the benjamins, but alot of A-list scribes like John August, Jamie Vanderbilt, Steve Zaillian, Scott Frank, Akiva Goldsman, Brian Helgeland, Eric Roth, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, Paul Attanasio, Aaron Sorkin, Susannah Grant and Ron Bass are on many a studio speed dial and have been polishing many hits through the years.

Despite earning up to $60,000 a day, the piece says the gig isn't right for everyone.

As a lit manager remarks, "You don't see Diablo Cody doing polishes. Her voice is too original, and if she came in and punched up dialogue on someone else's script, it would probably sound out of place."

Check out the full-length fascinating piece HERE.

And while we're talking screenwriting, check out a few vids from the cool video series "Learning From the Masters" after the jump.

This groundbreaking interview series goes behind the scenes of the fascinating craft of screenwriting. In the 70-90 minute in-depth discussions, more than two dozen of today's most successful screenwriters share their work habits, methods and inspirations, secrets of the trade, business advice, and eye-opening stories from life in the trenches of the film industry. Each screenwriter discusses his or her filmography in great detail and breaks down the mechanics of one favorite scene from their produced work.


  1. It certainly is an art, Anthony. Great post. BTW, thanks for your comments on my 'Sweet Dreams' challenge entry. Appreciated.

  2. Where do I sign up?! Man, couldn't you just use that kind of dough?
    Interesting post, something most writers probably never think about.

  3. I don't buy that it's $60,000 a day for the average re-writer. Plenty of nightmare stories from Hollywood on screenwriters being treated like dirt. It's probably $60,000 for a very lucky few. Any word on the average income of re-writers, Anthony?

  4. Actually, from what the article says, it's kinda way way WAY more... It averages to around $60,000 a day when all is said and done.

    That's cuz you have A-list writers coming in and doing a full rewrite and sort of being on retainer in case something comes up during the shoot.

    Kevin Smith is a huge rewrite guy. tarantino polished Crimson Tide... You may even hear his voice in some of the dialogue.

    john Sayles supposedly rewrote Apollo 13.

    mamet does tons as well


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