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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

DEAR JOSH HARNETT...

In the February 22 edition of the weekly City Pages, screenwriter and retiree Paul Martin Hennessey made a desperate plea to Josh Hartnett -- Read My Script!

Behind Hennessey's Oscar week plea lurks the populist assumption that anyone can write a movie script -- anyone. And that anyone can become famous in Hollywood and win an Oscar. Hennessey puts his desire to be read up in public almost as an entitlement.

In his open letter to the Minnesota-raised actor, Hennessey states he pays $8 a ticket to see Hartnett's movies, therefore, Hartnett should read his script and he'll both win SAG and Academy Awards. Hennessey states it as the promise of an American dream come true but also an obligation, at least, on the part of Hartnett to make the project go forward.

Where do the self-promotional ideas of writers like Hennessey come from? No doubt, from countless seminars offered on marketing, packaging projects, and selling your script devoid of content, skill, ability, technique and education. Here you see the Dale Carnegie and the Harvey McKay approach on how to market yourself unfiltered, without qualification or pre-requisites.

However, Hennessey's ideas also stem from the perception that movies are the popular form of cultural expression and they belong to everybody. When you walk into the movie theater and the lights go down, the story becomes your story and you live in the world of the story. Moviegoers put themselves in the movies and, consequently, easily see stories in their life as potential for the screen. How many times have you been at a house party or a gathering of relatives and after someone has told a story, hear the expression, "Oh, that would make a great movie!"

Average citizens will do a lot of crazy things in pursuit of fame and fortune. Acts of daring-do and puffery occur in New York and L.A. all the time. Stories appear frequently in the New York Post or Daily News describing crazy acts and bazaar behavior by artists, actors, standup comedians, writers or musicians to try and get themselves recognized and bring them fame. Desperate fame seekers can also be scary aggressive in stalking people they perceive have the ability to make them famous and won't aid their cause. They jump off the Brooklyn Bridge or tether themselves to the ledge of Rockfeller Center!

The greatness of the story is not in it subject or the actors who play it, ultimately, it is in the art and craft of its telling. Often, the appreciation for the art of writing or storytelling is lost in the thrill of seeking fame or fortune. Some might see Hennessey as a crackpot and others simply think he had nothing to loose and what harm is there in trying?

What does Hennessey have to loose? Self-respect, humility, a proper appreciation for the art and craft of writing perhaps? The price of a half page ad in City Pages? Do hawker tactics to get your script read speak more about the professions surrounding Hollywood movie making or just a ploy by a desparate man?

You decide...

7 comments:

Geoff Hankerson said...

Carleton College DVD Festival.

Films are available online!

http://2005.dvdfest.org/

paul hennessey said...

For "Executive Producer" regarding my attempt at getting a script read by someone in the biz.

Your comments remind me of the self-proclaimed critic in line in Annie Hall. You haven't a clue as to my writing and acting abilities and you should certainly be aware of the walls built to keep out new ideas in Hollywood if you are truly an "executive producer". I'm not desparate. I've decided if no one really wants to read it anymore, fine. I can wait until after this life. Then you can read it and weep. Myself, I enjoy the peace and tranquility of the country. So much better than all the bs in Hollywood.

Paul Hennessey

Executive Producer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Executive Producer said...

True, I don't know your script and I didn't pretend to in my writing about your appeal to Josh Hartnett in City Pages. I know all too well the failure rate of scripts, from dozens of friends and hundreds of colleagues who send their scripts to producers, agents, and managers in Hollywood with no response or form rejection letters. I've also been on the receiving end of stacks and stacks of scripts with writers seeking production on the screen or the stage.

Like so many concepts in the realm of ideas and business venture, perhaps only one in ten succeed to full fruition. In Hollywood the number of scripts that go into production are thousands of times smaller. Many, many projects are destine to fail and a number of them are good. It's not a conspiracy.

Your act of bravado, taking a City Pages ad out appealing to Hartnett to read your script is bold, aggressive and brash. The action invites comment. Certainly, you knew this when you did it. If you are a actor, than you know that exhibitionism invites reaction and comment.

Probably the saddest aspect of working in film and media is the extent to words and actions quickly cut and are taken as personal indictments. Your script might be brillant, on that I do not comment, but that doesn't change the fact your ad carried with it all kinds of assumptions and expectations, not to mention claims, that invite comment.

The public appeal of your letter reflects not soley on you but on every one of us who forfeit our dignity by submitting our creation and endeavour to the judgements of others. That's what makes your public act emblematic and worthy of special notice.

All I can say, is what I say to others: "Good Luck with that." And I mean it.

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Paul Hennessey said...

Dear Producer,

I have decided to post my copyrighted screenplay that I tried to get Josh Hartnett to read on my website at http://theseedmovement.com/

I sent a copy of the screenplay after the open letter to him when I got a response from a supposed acquaintance of his. Never heard back as to whether he read it or not.

Paul Hennessey