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The First Time I Got Paid For It: Writers' Tales From The Hollywood Trenches Paperback – February 7, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (February 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306810972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306810978
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #363,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This delectable collection of entertaining essays by more than 50 TV and screenwriters is a treat not only for neophytes hoping to break into the business, but also for film buffs. While most of the contributors write about their first paying job in the profession, many of the tastiest tales venture off to detail other "firsts": Chuck Lorre (Roseanne; Cybill) hilariously recalls the first time he was fired (from a Beany & Cecil revival show); Melville Shavelson recollects the first time he was sued (by former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower to stop the filming of a movie about the Ike-Kay Summersby affair); and 12-time Emmy winner Carl Reiner remembers getting $1,000 to write his first novel, Enter Laughing. Many of the short pieces create suspense by withholding the name of a long-delayed or much-rewritten project until the very end. One of the best stories illustrating Hollywood's fickle nature is Australian Jan Sardi's piece on being at the center of a fierce bidding war over Shine; it concludes with the sobering fact that, over 12 years, he's had six movies produced in Australia but none in America. Each reminiscence is only a few pages long (Michael Tolkin's biography at the end of his recollection is almost as long as his story), which keeps the pace quick and the writing lively. The sassy title, eye-catching faux noir cover art and the impressive list of contributors (Steven Bochco, Eric Bogosian, Cameron Crowe, Delia Ephron, Larry Gelbart, Lawrence Kasdan and Joan Tewkesbury are just a few listed on the back cover) make this a compelling item for film buffs.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Showbiz mavens ought to like the inside poop this gathering of script scribblers' testimonies serves up. Cop show master Steven Bochco remembers his first writing job, which involved stretching "unsold one-hour pilots and anthological [sic ] dramas into two-hour movies" for a "cigar-chomping veteran producer" who pronounced his given name "Stiff." Youth culture chronicler supreme Cameron Crowe registers his memories of discovering that his first movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was a hit in the sticks, though it had tanked at an L.A. preview. M*A*S*H TV veterans Larry Gelbart and Alan Alda expound, though only Alda talks about the long-lasting hit series: he cites Schnitzler's La Ronde as the inspiration for the episode he wrote about a pair of long johns being passed around during the frigid Korean winter. Other contributors include Eric Bogosian, Gary David Goldberg, and Carl Reiner. Great vocational reading for scripting wanna-bes. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By anonymous-pete on April 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
Maybe I missed the fine-print or something, but this book isn't what I was expecting, really, or what I was looking for. The book doesn't get three stars because it's bad -- it's not a bad book -- but because I think, well, the title is a sort of false advertising. When I picked up the book, I was expecting essays by successful writers about how they broke into the business of screenwriting ... inspirational-type stuff. Instead, what the book contains are stories about:
"The first time I ...
"... sold a tv-pilot after working for fifteen years as a staff-writer for a highly successful television show."
Or ...
"The first time I ...
"... adapted one of my highly sucessful stage plays into a screenplay."
And so on.
Many of the personal essays are interesting, some are funny, and the book is worth reading, if what you want to read are the kind of mildly amusing, sometimes hopeful essays contained in this book. If what you want is a book of essays by highly successful screenwriters about how the broke into the business, you'll find little (although some) of that here.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a hoot! The tone of this compilation of short essays by Hollywood writers ranges from thoughtful to irreverent to downright hilarious. The title is somewhat of a misnomer since not all chapters tell about a writer's first sale. Chuck Lorre tells of the first time he was fired from a writing job (for defending a remake of "Beany and Cecil" from the eventual creator of "Ren and Stimpy.") Carl Reiner skips telling about his extensive television and screenwriting but focuses instead on the sale of his first novel. Delia Ephron covers the sale of several books as well as how she came to be a screenwriter. Peter Casey, already a successful television writer, relates the miraculous meeting when he and his partners pitched the idea for "Frasier." While these essays provide glimpses into the Hollywood machinery and a few of its gears, facts and advice are scarce. You won't learn how to navigate the "trenches" by reading this. Instead, you'll be entertained by the irony, good humor, and storytelling presented by this large group of talented writers. Because each piece lasts for only three or four pages, you can dip into this book for a few minutes at a time and read passages out of order. Don't skip any, though, because you might miss a gem.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Yung on February 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
For anyone who's ever wanted to get paid for it, you ought to read this book. Especially wonderful for those who follow the Who's Who of Hollywood writers, and how they struggled. The foreword by William Goldman is especially charming as is the closing anecdote by Steve Zaillian, which I found touching. Audrey Wells' tale is flippant and funny as is Pamela Gray's.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jim Dunn on January 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'm a screenwriter. Not a big name, no big successful movies or TV shows yet, but I'm working on it. This book isn't the endless parade of "how I won the lottery in Hollywood" tales that some people want...but that's because it reflects the reality of a career in screenwriting.

Truth is you need skills AND luck AND connections. It's a tough gig, it really is. Million-dollar screenplay sales are very rare these days. Only about 5% of the scripts produced bewteen 2000 and 2004 were written "on spec" (that is, a screenplay some writer sat down & created, then turned around and sold as a completed piece of work). Most work is done as a "hired hand" in one form or another. War stories like these are a useful reality check for anyone thinking about taking up the career. If you LOVE to write, it can be a great job. If you want to get rich, buy lottery tickets, your odds are better.

Also check out Wordplayer.com and SamAndJimGoToHollywood.com for realistic tales of struggle.
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The First Time I Got Paid For It: Writers' Tales From The Hollywood Trenches
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