Likewise IN 1926, Herman J. Mankiewicz, a New York writer who had relocated to Hollywood, wired his friend Ben Hecht to join him: “Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is peanuts. Don’t let this get around.” It has gotten around. In 1994, 118 new screenplays are registered every day with the Writers Guild of America, and, while the proverbially naive starlet sleeps with the writer, many Texans fall asleep with dreams of writing Giant. More than a hundred of them paid $40 each to attend a WorldFest seminar on screenwriting. The session, at the Wyndham Warwick Hotel, was led by a local prodigal daughter; a graduate of Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Helen Childress went on to study screenwriting at the University of Southern California and to become a hot Hollywood player. She wrote Reality Bites, directed by Ben Stiller and starring Winona Ryder, as well as an earlier script, Blue By You, that is currently being developed by Laura Dem. For most of two hours, Childress wowed the crowd with practical tips on how to succeed in the movie business. “If a 12-year-old can understand your story, you’re doing something right,” advised the writer, who is barely twice that age herself. In a breathless monologue that scattered the word “like” as liberally as an Italian chef sprinkles oregano, Childress offered her recipe for bankable scripts. Three acts of 120 pages total, they should portray a hero retarded by obstacles in pursuit of his goal. The hero must be in every scene, and the page number must be positioned in the upper-right-hand corner of every sheet. The powerful producers who buy the scripts command little of Childress’ respect: “They’re idiots. They’ll believe anything. Tell them anything. They’ll never check.” Those who checked out the second WorldFest seminar found a somewhat different take. The topic “Production of the Independent Feature Film” brought together a panel of eight professionals responsible for translating writers’ texts onto the screen. \(The third seminar was a demonstration of astounding new capabilities made possible by digital technology for creating special effects and restoring damaged master prints; it now seems conceivable to simulate an entire live-action feature without ever shooting any new ducers seemed as crass as Childress’ portrait promised, and almost all invoked the words “vision” and “passion” almost as frequently as she had “like.” It is true that these were independents, and they were not reluctant to heap scorn on executives of big studios. Robert Kline, who is currently producing the Greenpeace story Warriors of the Rainbow, recounted how the mogul he pitched Heaven and Earth to had no idea what the Tet Offensive was. When Kline and Kenneth Branagh called on another one, they discovered he had neither read nor heard of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. “The studios don’t know what they want,” complained Kline, who knows what he wants and manages to produce it. “Follow who you are,” advised Karen Murphy, who produced This Is Spinal Tap, True Stories and Drugstore Cowboy. “Be passionate about what you do,” urged Fred Kuehnert, producer of The Buddy Holly Story. “Be tenacious. Be informed about the business.” Yet he also dittoed the legendary dictum of screenwriter William Goldman: “Nobody knows anything.” —S.G.K. cameo appearances by Lou Fen -igno as Cain and Soupy Sales as Moses. “You don’t have to have a big budget to make a great film,” declares an inept, inane producer, and Borman’s exuberant debut, shot in 19 days for less than $1 million, proves him right. “Everyone associated with this film should be ashamed,” declares Michael Medved on camera about …And God Spoke, a view that few would apply to the savvy film that frames it. Shame, pride, and greed sunder the souls of moviemakers. Absent the prospect of windfall profits, they aim to attain honor and avoid disgrace. At some of the more exclusive film festivals such as New York and Telluride, an invitation to exhibit is suffi cient distinction. At others, such as Cannes, Berlin and Sundance, the show is not simply on the screen but also in the competition among entries. At WorldFest, a professional jury dispenses awards to contestants, but viewers at each screening are also handed a rating ballot to determine the festival’s “People’s Choice” awards. This year, 12 of the festival’s 54 features each received a Gold Special Jury Award. However, the People were more particular. Third place in the People’s Choice Awards went to Twenty Bucks, while Kika and Belle Epoque placed second and first, respectively. For all the six flags over Texas, audiences at the 1994 WorldFest-Houston were most impressed by the reign of Spain. This is Texas today. A state full of Sunbelt boosters, strident anti-union ists, oil and as companies, nuclear weapons and power plants, political hucksters, underpaid workers and toxic wastes, to mention a few. p s , d k, 4_. ./ i.,0′ . 4 -4.’1 1 ,-’40, ‘ …” Cf4 &,_ ! 4’…’ -4ii A \\-a ai ‘ 4011!;:si 4 ., . it % a. ti Q’ ‘ , , -A , iir tai ki .4 BUT 7.1″ DO NOT .._ DESPAIR! -, rim ” THE TEXAS 1 op server TO SUBSCRIBE* Name Address City State Zip $32 enclosed for a one-year subscription. Bill me for $32. 307 West 7th, Austin, TX 78701 20 MAY 6, 1994
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