MCN Blogs
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

The Invisible Writer

Just read this very interesting piece by Reid Rosefelt on his career of writing press books — you know, those production notes we all get at screenings that tell us everything about a film. Rosefelt notes in his piece that when he ran into J. Hoberman at a screening recently, the latter commented that he had no idea anyone actually wrote those things. To be honest, neither did I — or rather, obviously I knew that someone wrote them, but I guess I assumed that was a task usually farmed off on some poor unpaid intern working overtime for a publicist.
Rosefelt’s piece got me thinking about how there are a lot of jobs that people do in which the person performing the task is largely invisible to the consumer of the output. I used to work in project management in the tech industry, and I felt that way a lot back then, that me and everyone on our team would work our asses off to meet insane deadlines for disposable websites that were obsolete almost from the moment they went live.
We pushed them out, they lived briefly with no one outside the team knowing or caring who the people were who brought them to life at the expense of countless hours eating meals hunched over a desk, working late away from family, friends, outside life, and then we killed them as soon as the next big project was ready. It was soul-sucking work that paid very, very well, but when I quit to move to Seattle and took some time off to raise babies, I didn’t want to get back into it. Rosefelt seems to have a much better attitude toward the disposable and invisible nature of his work writing pressbooks: He gets paid to watch movies, to talk to the creative people behind them, and, very often, to completely make up the things these creative people supposedly say about their own work. So, cool.
I know the same can be said of the nature of just about any job, including the job we do in writing about movies. We watch a movie, we work hard to craft a review that articulates our thoughts, we read the emails or comments from people who think we’re stupid, and we move on to the next one, and the next one, and the next one. During a fest like Sundance or Toronto, especially, it’s a constantly hungry machine waiting to be fed by the next thing on your to do list to write about.
But if you love movies, and you love writing, then getting paid to write about them — even if what your writing is pressbooks — is a hell of a sweet gig.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon