From the Mail Bag

Dear Mr. Howell: Why are screenplays three-hole punched, but secured with only two brass brads? What if I put a third brad in the middle hole — will film producers think I’m a rube? — Jakob M., Tarzana, CA

Dear Jakob: You’re not a rube and never let anyone tell you otherwise. I’m a firm believer that you are what you think — if you think you’re a rube, you’re a rube. You can’t help what others think about you, however, you can head them off from errant conclusions, vis-vis resisting the third brad, which, yes, would make you a rube in the eyes of film producers. Honestly, I too would think you’re a rube. Even my writing partner Cary Carpe (who clearly is a rube, but in such extreme denial, no one has the heart to tell him) would also think you’re a rube.

Carpe and I have had a occasion to visit many a development exec, one of which in recent memory was the affable Mark Ross at Toby Maguire’s eponymous production shingle Maguire Entertainment. Resting on Ross’ desk is a decorative urn brimming with brass brads plucked from screenplays that had once boasted three (he generously invited Carpe and I to each take a fistful for the road). These brads had to be removed seeing as that third hole serves as a window into the writer’s soul. When the “soul-hole” is blocked, the deeper aspects of one’s script, if not one’s very being, cannot be realized. If your eternal soul is too large to be peered at through a hole no larger than a pencil eraser, you haven’t been in Hollywood long enough. Just be patient. Soon your soul will atrophy to the proper size, or maybe even disappear altogether.

Dear Mr. Howell: I’m a neophyte filmmaker. What books on the art of screenwriting do you recommend? — Julie R., Topanga Canyon, CA

Dear Julie: None. There are no books on the art of screenwriting. Screenwriting isn’t an art, it’s a craft. It’s macaroni and Elmer’s glue on a paper plate, sister. The sooner you understand that, the better the world will be for yourself and others. That said, I do have a copy of Irwin R. Blacker’s “The Elements of Screenwriting” I’ll sell you. In it, you will learn that Blacker feels cliches are abhorrent (see “neophyte filmmaker”), thusly he chides one to write of “Not the whore with the heart of gold, but a venal slut.” Hell, I’ll even sign it for you. Call me.

Dear Mr. Howell: Recently, at a lunch meeting with a perspective manager whom you endorsed at the Wayzata Screen Expo and Summit in Minnesota (in point of fact, it was your manager Marcus Crescendez), he insisted my partner and I pick up the tab. I’m new to the whole Hollywood game, but come on, we’re poor, we’re filmmakers. Shouldn’t he have treated his future clients? — Check Please in Minnetonka.

Dear Check Please: First off, I know you’re writing just to sling mud at my manager, who, for the record, I would never endorse publicly or otherwise. Furthermore, the notion that poverty confers credence to one’s identity as a filmmaker (“We’re poor, we’re filmmakers” ack!) is utter tripe. The condition of poorness does not presuppose affirmation as a filmmaker so much as lead one to the conclusion that one is an unsuccessful filmmaker. If I may invoke an analogy — Carpe insists that one can be a virgin and still qualify as a lover at the same time. However, one could assume that a virgin would make a lousy lover, likewise, a broke filmmaker is probably just looking for a free lunch.

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