“Tell the ‘Experts’ to Go to Hell”

Donald L. Vasicek
What I get from the experience you shared with me is
that with people like this, you need to take from them
what benefits you and let the rest go past you. Anything
that is said that ignites your emotions should be set to
the side. When listening to people like this is to be,
“What can I learn here? What can I sift from all of this
bullshit that will help me with my project?” Let your mind
go to work on that and let the rest of the bullshit go.

Remember, film is subjective. What one person likes,
another person will not like. Screenwriter/writer William Goldman (Dreamcatcher (Movie)
Hearts In Atlantis (Movie)
Mission: Impossible II (Movie)
The General’s Daughter (Movie)
Absolute Power (Movie)
The Ghost And The Darkness (Movie)
The Chamber (Movie)
Maverick (Movie)
Last Action Hero (Movie)
Year Of The Comet (Movie)
Memoirs Of An Invisible Man (Movie)
Chaplin (Movie)
Misery (Movie)
The Princess Bride (Movie)
Heat (Movie)
Magic (Movie)
A Bridge Too Far (Movie)
Marathon Man (Movie)
All The President’s Men (Movie)
The Stepford Wives (Movie)
The Great Waldo Pepper (Movie)
The Hot Rock (Movie)
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (Movie)
Harper (Movie)
Masquerade (Movie)

said no one knows anything in Hollywood. And he’s right.
There are no “experts” in the film industry because each
person and whatever job they have is always based on
subjectivity. For example, Steven Spielberg
is a Hollywood filmmaker, so he is good at making Hollywood
films, period. That doesn’t mean he’s an expert regarding how to,
or how to not write a script or make a movie. It
means he is an expert at making Hollywood films, period. It means
he has a brand that will not work for anyone else. So, one
needs to sift from talk about their project what benefits them, and let the rest of the Hollywood bullshit in his films go.

When your work is being critiqued, remember this, they
are going to be critical because they are critiquing your
work. This means that they will always have a tendency
for overkill to impress upon you they know what they’re
talking about, which really translates to mean, that the
more they say, they less they know about your work.

All filmmakers have to get themselves to a point where
they settle on who they are and what kind of films
they make. They have to just take from criticism what
benefits them and let the rest of it go. Usually, this
means about 90% about what anyone else, I repeat,
anyone else, says about your work, doesn’t know
what they’re talking about. Remember, you’re the one
in the trenches creating and during your work. Remember,
you’re the one who is sweating blood and bleeding tears
to get your work just the way you want it to be. No one,
I repeat, no one, has any concept of that experience,
except you. So, ask others to tell you what they
think about your work, but don’t believe most of what
they say because it isn’t true. And never, never, never
argue with anyone about your work. For lack of
better terminology, f*** them, they don’t f***** know
what they’re talking about. Bleed and sweat with
you, and they might know a bit more about your
heart and mind and how much of that you put
into your work, but for the most part, they don’t
know shit about your work because they are
perceiving it from their point-of-view, which is
different than your point-of-view.

I have often noticed that filmmakers find a television
director to direct their feature film, or find a
television scriptwriter to write their feature film
script. Guess what? They don’t know shit about
writing or directing a feature film. The reason for
this is that writing and/or directing for television
is different than writing and/or directing feature films.
And that is where their experience is at, so be careful
with getting television people to help you with your
feature film.

Take care. Keep up your chin. Be proud. Be confident
to the point of arrogance, and at times take yourself
past the point of arrogance regarding yourself and
your work. Do not allow anyone to take anything
from you you do not want to give to them. Nothing!!!

It matters not who it is that is bombing you with
their thoughts about your work, always remember,
film is subjective, which includes everything it takes
to make a film. How many times have you watched
a movie and discussed with another or others, or
found very few if any who agreed on how good or
how bad the movie was? Movie goers and people
who are involved in different facets of making movies
are subjective, the same as favoring one politial
candidate over another candidate. That’s just what
movies generate in people, subjectivity, which is
based on their total life experience to date, and that
includes their upbringing, their education, the location
or locations where they have lived, etc. It’s supposed to be that way, but you don’t have to buy into everything someone tells you about
your project, because, unless they jump down there
in the mud and grime with you, roll around in the dirt,
and mud and swamp water and work hard to make your project, they know little, if anything about your work.

Hollywood, Reflections of Reality


Two producers greeted me warmly when I stepped off the plane in Los Angeles. I was there at their request to discuss two scripts of mine in which they were interested.

The glitz, the glamour, the pain, the agony; it was all present as we drove past SONY, CBS and through Universal Pictures. It was Hollywood, but all the same as we talked about my scripts, they said to get them produced was like winning the lottery.

Perhaps you have to live in the fast lane (whatever that means) to be successful (whatever that means) in Hollywood. There is one thing for sure, as the producers hammered into my brain, particularly on the way to a meeting with my agent, if you don’t write for the sheer joy of writing, you are not going to succeed in Hollywood.

They told me my scripts were on the fringe of being great (we know that good scripts have to be great scripts to have a chance, but then, what one perceives as great can be perceived by someone else as bad, and subjectivity rules Hollywood and all movie goers as far as that goes). But, they said I was going to go back into each script and identify with the journeys my protagonists were taking so that I can write the stories more simply and with more authority.

I asked, and by now we were waiting for a stretch limo (limos are cliche in Hollywood, but people still use them), to take us to pick up an investor of theirs so that we could go to dinner at a club and listen to soft jazz. How they knew I loved soft jazz was beyond me. Matilda, a short, a bit overweight, penetrating eyes and a soft heart (at least she looked like a Matilda to me even though that was not her real name) said, “Remember, Don, I read your scripts.” Ahh, I thought, just because one of my characters loved soft jazz in the story, that didn’t mean I loved soft jazz too, although I did and do. Not too hard to figure that one out, is it?

Matilda and Jerome (not his real name, but he looked like a Jerome to me, you know, Hollywood handsome with slicked back hair, sparkling blue eyes, and skin as smooth as marble with words that would’ve outdone a circus barker’s) explained that my protagonists’ voices in both scripts were not quite clear enough. “You’re going to have to reach down more deeply and make them multi-dimensional,” Jerome said. “You’ll know when you have them right.”

Then, perhaps, surprisingly, (we were in the limo driving through South-Central LA), Matilda, also a screenwriter with roots in a famous and successful Hollywood screenwriting family, asked me, “What do you want to achieve as a writer?”

I blinked curiously, “Well, uh, I…” I looked through a tinted window at an elderly woman in a wheelchair, clumped, with a sign scrawled on cardboard in black, “Hungry.” And my back was next to the limo driver’s back. “I have things I want to share with people,” I said. “I want to see my stories on the screen.”

Matilda studied me with the eyes of a statue. “Then you aren’t going to make it,” she said.

“Make it?” I asked.

Now, she was electrified. She jabbed at her heart. “Here!” she said, her voice cracking. “Here is where you write from and here is where you make it!”

The dinner and the show at the club were enjoyable, but somehow I couldn’t wait to get back to San Francisco where my wife was attending a conference. Raindrops on the window in the plane appeared like tears on my face reflecting back at me as I contemplated the rewrites on my scripts.

My wife and I purchased apples and oranges. We walked on Market Street in San Francisco until we had given away all of the fruit to homeless people. And then, as remarkable as it might sound, we came across the elderly lady in the wheelchair. I took her “Hungry” sign from her. I pushed her to a nearby restaurant where we bought her dinner and then my wife and I went home and fed the cats.

“Screenwriting – How to Not Be Boring”

Award-Winning Filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek with University of Denver class

Award-Winning Filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek with University of Denver class

If you create movement in a scene for the mere sake of moving characters about in talky scenes, it is very likely the scene comes off just as that on the screen, creating movement for the sake of creating movement. Any type of movement in any scene should expand the character(s) and/or the story.

For example, instead of having two characters walk in a park and talk to give them movement and us story information, have one of them ride a bicycle and one of them run. The bicycle rider cannot walk or run for distance because of a serious knee injury in college as visually depicted in the scene by a knee brace. This disability will come suspenseful into play later when the character has to save the other character from the bad guy before he kills him. He falls because of the bad knee, but then arrives in time by riding a bicycle.

Simultaneously, the runner is running because walking does not move him along rapidly enough. He is a type A personality. His impatience causes him to be disabled by the bad guy. He runs to escape the bad guy unaware that to slow down would save himself because his friend is chasing both of the bad guy and him on foot with a bad knee. It should all culminate when the bicycle rider comes to the rescue just as he is slowing down because of exhaustion. He learns that speed is not always the quickest way to success.

It is obvious by this example how much the story is embellished by not only giving the characters movement in a talky scene, but giving them dimension as well. Conversely, this dimensionalizes the story and makes for more depth in the film.