Story Notes From Hell

Collection of story notes screenwriters received from Hollywood studio executives. And general anecdotes from the trenches of screenwriting. Submit your anecdote - Follow us on Twitter

October 13, 2011 at 1:38pm
1 note

A gay Watermelon Man

My partner and I were pitching our ideas for action comedies to a development exec. At the end of the session, he sat back in his chair.

Exec: Those were fun, but you know what I’d like?

Us: No, what?

Exec: A gay ‘Watermelon Man.’

Us: You mean like the Godfrey Cambridge thing?

Exec: Yeah, except gay. No one’s ever pitched me that.

October 8, 2011 at 5:57pm
8 notes

Tree Of Life isn’t a movie, it’s a 2 1/2 hour cinematography reel.

— Writer friend

October 4, 2011 at 7:14pm
11 notes

Suspense theory

Studio exec’s theory on suspense: 

"A guy takes a chicken outside the door, says:  ‘I’m gonna fuck this chicken.’  He leaves.  Now you’ve got suspense, see? You don’t know when he’s gonna fuck that chicken or if he even is gonna fuck that chicken. Do you race out there to defend the chicken? Do you? That’s suspense.” 

September 28, 2011 at 3:51pm
8 notes

What’s the quadrant?

At the end of a pitch of a delightful, romantic comedy, the studio exec’s only comment was a question: “What’s the quadrant?”

Off our blank looks, he offered: “The four age groups a movie will appeal to are depicted in the quadrants of a pie chart of the movie-going demographics by age.”

We quipped that since ours was a family film it would appeal to all quadrants. He seemed miffed by this. “You gotta pick a quadrant.”

We randomly chose a quadrant and he seemed pleased. “Every screenwriter needs to know the quadrant he’s writing for. If you want to make it in this town, you gotta know your quadrants.”

Note: we still don’t know our quadrants nor do we care.

September 21, 2011 at 9:44pm
16 notes

How come no one has made an animated film about gay pigs? You should write a film about gay pigs.

— A producer’s advice on a new project

September 9, 2011 at 4:01pm
6 notes

Just make sure someone gets killed with a chainsaw. I have a great idea on how to shoot it.

— Director giving me a final note on a horror story treatment

September 6, 2011 at 6:22pm
5 notes

High Concept

I was getting ready to graduate film school and was making the rounds at a pitch festival with a dark, character driven basketball drama. The first producer I pitched it to had some concerns:

Producer: Your main character’s not likable.

Me: The story’s not so much about him being likable as vulnerable.

Producer: Look, I’m not interested. Your main character’s not likable and there’s no high concept. What’s this story about in one sentence? What’s the high concept?

Me: The story’s about the world of college bas—

Producer: That’s not a high concept. A high concept is like… a dairy farmer who’s lactose intolerant. That’s a high concept.

My other pitches went better. 

September 3, 2011 at 10:23pm
4 notes

There’s something about it that I’m not quite sure about. Make your monster more realistic. Maybe it should come from outer space.

— Producer after reading my horror film screenplay

September 1, 2011 at 6:51pm
10 notes

Does he have to be gay?

Many years ago, I was a SR VP of Comedy (I’m now a writer) for a TV studio. We developed a pitch with the most flamboyantly, fabulously gay (male) writer who is quite well-known as a playwright in NY who writes primarily about gay men. 

The pitch was basically a true and sweet and funny story about a gay man whose sister and small child come to live with him when her husband abandons her. The main character (the gay man) has just lost his lover to AIDS.  I couldn’t believe this particular network - known more for its fat guys w/gorgeous wives than its textured, smart programming - had bought this pitch, but they claimed to loooove it.

However, when we turned the outline in, I had the following conversation with the Network exec:

Network: The main character seems so sad. Why is he so sad?

Me: Well, his lover has just died from AIDS, so he’s sad about that, I think.

Network: Oh no, that can’t be the reason he’s sad.

Me: OK, I can talk to the writer and see if he can kill his lover another way… though I think he likes the AIDS concept because it’s somewhat unique to the gay community.

Network: Well, that’s our other note: does the main character HAVE to be gay?

August 28, 2011 at 3:50pm
12 notes

Revolutionary Road is about two people who argue for two hours and then one of them dies.

— Writer friend who really hated Revolutionary Road