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09/24/2001
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: This column was written and posted before the horrible events of 9/11/01. In light of everything that has happened last week, screenwriting certainly seems trivial. Consider this: in the very least, this is a reminder to all writers that we are the conscience of society...of the world. What we write has the potential to be read or seen by so many people that we must not forget what a tremendous responsibility and awesome obligation that is.

"From An Audience Of Brass Fasteners To ?Must-Meet status' for the Big Brass." Part 6

Paul Buscemi's Column for Monday September 24th, 2001. Buscemiarts@hotmail.com.

Okay, big mistake in asking those brass fasteners why they have turned on me. They made themselves scarce after that. Haven't seen them in days. No matter. What I really want to talk about are Howard Klausner's rewrite stories. I'm always curious about those. What IS expected of a writer in the rewrite process? Is that procedure essentially always the same? Predictable or variable? Regular or decaf ? I'll let Howard clue us in.

"Let me give you my two primary experiences, I'm on my fourth movie now," he begins casually. "The first was Space Cowboys with Clint (Eastwood) and the only rewrite we came close to doing was (for) some technical changes - most of which we had actually gotten right - I'm proud to say," Klausner continues. "We sat in this meeting with NASA just expecting them to lower the boom on us. We (expected) them to say: ?are you crazy? This could never ever happen.' For the most part, they were totally engineers and (the only corrections they had) were like, ?you know we don't use meters, we use feet.' And Ken and I were going, ?that's it? That's all we missed?' " Remembers Klausner.

"So development with Clint Eastwood (can be quite simple). He basically shoots what he buys. As he said, ?If I liked it when I read it, chances are pretty good I'm gonna like it when I shoot it.' He doesn't really believe in monkeying with something. He is a writer's best friend, because he does understand, you really can develop something to death," Klausner concludes.

"Now let me tell you my opposite story (which) in this case I think was equally successful," he begins. "Ken and mine's second movie is one called ?D-Men.' It's in flashing green light status at Warner Brothers right now. That (script) has gone through ten or twelve drafts over a three year period. It was a long, long period of time. Most of these (rewrites) were page ones (complete rewrite starting with the first page)," Klausner explains.

"We would pitch the director of development on how we were going with the story. (He would say) ?great, go write it.' We'd come back in three months (and he would say), ?That's great and it's a great script but you know what? We don't really want to tell the story that way anymore. We want to do this...' " Klausner continues. "Unfortunately," he begins, "you are usually only paid for two or three drafts but it's obviously in your best interest to do the job."

"I think, on average, a development period when you have either sold a pitch or sold a script, is never really finished before a year is out. (In big budget movies.)"

"D-Men was an unpublished novel called the ?Encyclopedia of Hell' that Warner Brothers bought. It was a novel with no plot, nor a lead character might I add. It was sort of a Zagget guide for when the demons attack the earth in the coming demonic invasion from hell. It's clearly a comedy. So we were kind of free to develop it the way we wanted to. Which, on the one hand, sounds really great - on the other hand, when you are trying to second guess what everybody else wants, as well as make yourself happy, it's a pretty dicey situation."

As usual, I am writing this very late at night. I dosed off during spell check and woke at 2am or something. I checked the box for the brass fasteners right away. Usually they are all in there, fast asleep but tonight the box was empty. Then I heard the ?voice.' You know, the one from deep inside the carpal tunnels of my wrists. Usually when the ?voice' does speak, it's quite talkative, but not tonight. All it said was, "They're here."

c.2001pdb

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