Customer Reviews: Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too!
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on July 1, 2011
This book is full of practical, professional advice on how to swim with the sharks in the very weird world of Hollywood screenwriting. In many ways it's more about the business of writing and selling movies, than it is about how to write. But I've got lots of books on writing; this is the first one that's quite like this.

Not surprisingly, since Lennon and Garant are comedy guys, it's a very funny book. It's easy to read, in a self-mocking conversational tone, and it seems like they're telling real, often embarrassing stories that actually happened to them. There are details that I've never seen in other screenwriting books, like how to tell if you've "made it," based on your studio parking spot; how to take notes from executives and movie stars; what script arbitration is, and how to win at it; and how to get fired with a gracious smile, and then get hired again.

They're also obsessed with In n Out Burger, and dedicate many pages to printing its secret menu and all the locations in Los Angeles. At first I didn't get what that had to do with movies. But whatever. It's part of their guide to living in Los Angeles, so I guess it makes sense?

"Writing Movies..." is unapologetically NOT about "art" or anything at all high-minded, so if that's what you're looking for, the writers are happy to send you elsewhere. I believe they suggest "gazing longingly out the window at the moor." They also say that if you follow their system, you'll soon think of "Oscar Season" as "Ski Season," because the kind of movies they're talking about will never win any Academy Awards anyway. Probably not a book for Documentarians, or Art House types. But if you like your popcorn movies, and if you're looking for tons of practical advice for going into the business of making them, it seems like a genuinely great book.

Also, I can't wait to try to sell some the "free movie ideas" in the back of the book. Somebody's got to do it...
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on July 6, 2011
Really deserves 4.5 stars, but it's a fantastic book on real-world Hollywood screenwriting.

What's in this book:

* a few completely useless sections, like "Living in Los Angeles." Pure filler.

* a few very entertaining but not really useful sections, like having lunch with Jackie Chan. Fun to read, glad they're included, don't do much heavy lifting but that's ok.

* all the rest. That is, comically written advice, tips, and tricks that will not only make you smile, but will actually give you GREAT inside information. You think the section on "where you part at a studio tells you how important you are" is a joke? It's NOT. It's how the industry actually works. Their advice on how to write, when to write, where to write: gold. How studios give notes... and how YOU as a WRITER need to RESPOND to those notes: platinum. How to work the studio system, how to deal with changing execs, how to handle arbitration for credits, how much you will really get paid, how to get from spec script to produced writer.... there is really great information all over this book.

Seriously, not for indie films, not for art house films. This is for commercial, formulaic studio films that are proud to be just that. A must-read for those who want to learn that system.
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on July 5, 2011
I should start by mentioning that I have no interest in writing a screenplay. I do however love The State, Viva Variety, and Reno 911!, so I was very familiar with the authors of this book. Naturally I was dying to read it. It was everything I expected and more. There was tons of humor mixed with some really useful information. My favorite section was probably the chapter on determining if you had made it in Hollywood by where the different studios sent you to park.

Through all the humor, you get a real sense of passion for writing. They don't just do this for money; they write because they feel compelled to. They go through their process of writing an outline, pitching to studios, and then writing the screenplay. There is also a lot of useful information about how the studio system works and what to expect from the entire movie making process. I also learned a lot about all the different writing and production credits and the arbitration system with the writing guild. It's all very complex and fascinating.

Clearly if you are interested in writing screenplays, there is a lot of useful information here. Even for us non-writers though, there is so much stuff to learn from this book. Naturally, it's all relayed with tons of humor. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in movies. It is sure to entertain!

Galley provided by publisher for review.
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on July 6, 2011
There are a lot of books on the craft and "art" of screenwriting out there but this books cuts through all the BS and gives you practical advice about how to make a living as a screenwriter.

It's also the funniest book about screenwriting ever written. Lennon and Garant are super funny guys (just check their work in front of and behind the camera in Reno 911) and their talent as comedy writers comes through loud and clear in every page of this book. So while they are basically dealing with all the technical aspects of selling screenplays the material is presented in such a fun way I found myself reading passages out loud to friends because it's so entertaining.

Finally, how many books about screenwriting are written by actual working screenwriters?! Sadly, not many. These guys have made movies you've heard of. Take their advice. They know what they are talking about! This book is a gift. I just wish it had been around five years ago.
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on July 18, 2011
Writers and artists are generally FOS* and, therefore, EVERY BOOK THEY PRODUCE ON WRITING THEORY IS ALSO FOS...


Seriously. How many books on writing have you read where the author talks about finding some ridiculous "spiritual center" to bring out the "meat and bone of your character," and to "tell the story within you that NEEDS to be told"? After you finish these books, you're still left staring at a blank page and a blinking cursor wondering what the hell a "spiritual center" looks like, and nauseated with the visual in your head of your character's "meat and bone." You may be trying to write the next great stoner comedy, not "Citizen Kane," and Tom and Ben speak to that clearly and effectively. Most books on writing theory are written by failed screenwriters who feel the need to spout off some esoteric and useless pablum in hopes of stealing $23.50 from the pockets of aspiring writers. In sum, they're dicks.


Don't get me wrong--they may very well be dicks, but they're RICH and SUCCESSFUL dicks who give you oodles of REAL and PRACTICAL advice on getting off of your futon and writing that screenplay that everyone who works with you at Starbucks says you should write (because you have all those really wacky jokes about how "grande" your genitalia is).

This book takes you through the nuts and bolts of the screenwriting profession--how to get started, how to survive and how to succeed. The authors don't take themselves too seriously and, as such, they don't pretend that they (or you) are trying to write The English Patient. They demystify the entire process, helping the reader sift through all the bad and useless advice you've read in EVERY OTHER BOOK ON SCREENWRITING.


If you take one thing away from this review, it should be this: when you're done reading this book, you will be INFINITELY more CONFIDENT, better EDUCATED and BETTER PREPARED to WRITE and SELL your screenplay than at ANY OTHER POINT IN YOUR LIFE. If you're ever going to get that great idea for a movie out of your head and into a theater, this is the ONLY book out there that CAN and WILL help you do it. Seriously. I'm looking at YOU.**

*Slipping past the censors using acronyms, like a foul-mouthed ninja.

**Note: I usually don't use this much CAPS.
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on July 5, 2011
There is enough good stuff in here to make it worthwhile. These guys have obviously made their way in a very competitive, zero-sum world. They have lots of good advice applicable far beyond Hollywood. The general theme of customer is always right but watch your back, is fleshed out with really good practical tips to keep you working plus getting paid. Yes, there is some filler here but it is WAY outweighed by the good stuff. Get it.
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on May 7, 2015
It really is an actual playbook for getting jobs writing movies. This is really good and very funny - even if you don't really plan on moving to Hollywood to be movie writer. It's also way better than one might expect as far as technical, useful, real knowledge about this line of work.

The most valuable insight (besides knowing the technical specifications for properly formatting drafts for various production companies, and knowing why one NEEDS a manager) is knowing what sorts of screwings are just totally normal, inevitable parts of the process. It's great to know ahead of time what should not at all cause one to be discouraged, or feel run out of the game, or express anything but gratitude and politeness towards even the most intolerable studio jerks every time they're not interested, or, even if you get hired, they inevitably fire you.
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on July 11, 2015
Witty. At times downright funny. This book describes where and how the money is made by professional screenwriters. If you believe being a screenwriter is the gig for you, pour yourself three fingers of your favorite nosh and read this book. Then decide. Do you have the ego strength to be fired? You will. Can you live with the fact that your career can be screwed up and you did everything they asked? It can happen. If you weren't neurotic enough, this book will put you in need of some serious therapy. Seriously. This book explains how the studio system works for writers (and where the real money can be made).
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on April 27, 2016
The book , although very funny, is a rude awakening to those who plan to hit the lottery by writing a good movie script. I now look at hitting the script wring jackpot in a more realistic manner and not the through the rose colored glasses that many of us view success in the movie industry. The book is very easy to read and is very informative, the information comes from guys who are actually successful in making money from writing scripts for movies. I am glad I purchased it for the ease of understanding Hollywood and for learning who is actually making all the money and who is being taken, this book will truly help you get on your way.....or tell you to keep your day job.
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on July 15, 2011
Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant are funny, seriously funny. They were/are members of The're welcome MTV generation! And they have written a book in which you are robbed of any and all excuses to not write that screenplay. Sure, they don't tell you how to be an Altman or an Ozu but odds are you are neither of those men and may only lay claim to having seen the bulk of their output to impress drunks at a fancy dinner party when you've only seen the last 20 minutes of MASH on AMC and you complain to the waiter that you never got your side of Ozu...but I digress.

In plain simple English (it's English wright?) they lay out what you will need to do in order to sell a screenplay to a studio, how to present yourself, how to present the script, what execs will actually be looking for and what to expect. I do take a bit of joy anytime McKee is shown to be a butthead and it's TRUE! Why read a "this is how you make a great script" from someone who hasn't sold scripts? Or was trying to sell scripts in the '70's?! They're doing it now.

And for those of us who want to make ART! it's invaluable to know what actually SELLS and how its SOLD. As they say, you can always make an indie. So I will gladly happily and hopefully sell out then self-finance because, as Orson Welles said, "I'm an idiot."

So get this book and get a clue. Clue comes free with the purchase of the book. The demystifying of the process will at least alleviate all the stress and anxiety around "Buh..wha...what will it be like? I don't know what to do, I'm scared!" So at least get the book to stop being scared. That's no way to live young screenwriter.
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