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Josh Olson Is My Hero or "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script"

13 Sep 2009

A History of Violence put me to sleep. Twice. Despite Viggo Mortensen, I found the movie predictable, which is forgivable, and slow, painfully so, which is not. I never understood how it received so many Oscar nominations. (Then again, I still haven’t seen Titanic in its entirety and I napped throughout Brokeback Mountain. I am not, however, beyond redemption. I did enjoy Le Scaphandre et le Papillon.)

Now, despite having adapted A History of Violence, Josh Olson is my hero. Why? Because a barest acquaintance asked him to read a SYNOPSIS of a screenplay. His reaction?

So. I read the thing. And it hurt, man. It really hurt. I was dying to find something positive to say, and there was nothing. And the truth is, saying something positive about this thing would be the nastiest, meanest and most dishonest thing I could do. Because here’s the thing: not only is it cruel to encourage the hopeless, but you cannot discourage a writer. If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you’re not a writer. If I can talk you out of being a writer, I’ve done you a favor, because now you’ll be free to pursue your real talent, whatever that may be. And, for the record, everybody has one. The lucky ones figure out what that is. The unlucky ones keep on writing shitty screenplays and asking me to read them.

Like too many people, his acquaintance couldn’t take the constructive feedback over which Olson agonized. Thus, from now on, he will not read your fucking script.

And this is why I will not read your fucking script.

It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you’re in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you’re dealing with someone who can’t.

(By the way, here’s a simple way to find out if you’re a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you’re not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)

The real jewels, however, are from the offended, unimaginative whiners commenters who have a false sense of entitlement. And the ones who have trouble with reading comprehension. Check out the comments. You’ll see what I mean.

And there are some who come up with the most ridiculous excuses as to why they’re not Akiva Goldsman:

There’s thousands of writers in America – especially in the fly-over states – who will never have a chance at getting prestige status in their niche of the professional writing industry. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good writers. It has far more to do with proximity than talent.

Ri-ight. You’re not successful because you live in Colorado.

Anyway, I love the article because it can apply to more than just screenwriters. For instance, many people seem to think I would jump at the chance to fix their computers. Not just give them a five-second verbal troubleshooting, which I don’t mind, but actually drive to their houses on the weekend and plunk myself down in front of their machines for untold hours because I’m a computer geek and therefore THEY must be doing ME a favor. I love it even more when OTHER PEOPLE try to volunteer my services. Then there are the ones who ask dumb things like, “Will you teach me how to hack a web site?”

Yeah, that last one leaves me speechless, too.

ETA: SciFi writer David Gerrold wrote a follow-up to Josh Olson’s piece that’s funny as hell:

Josh is being way too polite. The only proper response when an amateur attempts to hand you his manuscript, his screenplay, his unpublished novel, his short story, his treatment, his outline, his notes, is to take an axe to his laptop, follow him home, burn down his house, and salt the ground.

I think I need to buy this man’s novels. Yet, once again, it’s the commenters who make my left eyebrow inch up:

when trying to get established writers to read your script the first thing people tend to ignore is that no matter what the established writer’s opinion is, it’s going to suck.

no matter who you get to read your script and no matter what they say, you will feel defenseless. you will feel immature trying to debate your reasonings for doing certain things, you will feel disrespected when they tell you your ideas are stupid, and you will be left with no other option other than to think that the person you wanted to critique your work is a dick.

That’s why I love when my parents read my work. Do they critique it in the slightest? No. Do they absolutely laud over it? Yes.

Dear God.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 Sep 2009 1:35 PM

    What?! I loved A History of Violence. Great article, too. So many lame comments in that thread, OMG.

  2. Ann Bruce permalink
    22 Sep 2009 5:27 PM

    When it comes to movies, just like with books, I rarely enjoy critically acclaimed releases. šŸ˜€ I don’t mind being the odd person out.

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