ADVENTURES IN HOLLYWEIRD: A Working Man's Screenwriter
March 14th, 2004
Bud Fleisher -- A Working Man's Screenwriter
I get this email one day from Bud, and he says, "...I'm a rather blunt, frank guy, had a lot of doings in showbiz, so don't interview me unless you're willing to allow me to be sincere and honest as best I can from my experiences--I'm not interested in hyping up wannabees. I feel the truth is much more helpful and appropriate in the long run."
I was thrilled. I've seen some of his stuff. I like some of his writing. But the one thing I respect is that he's a "working writer". Not flashy, but steady. I wouldn't mind having his resume. Speaking of which you should read it, before you read his thoughts on Hollywood. We didn't do an interview, that wasn't needed...Bud came up with something else, something even better. Thanks Bud!
-Christopher Wehner, Webmaster of The Screenwriters Utopia.
- 1996 - Instructor at a private school in Tampa, teaching a course on Screenwriting and related essential knowlege.
- 1995 - "Silent Hunter" Action/drama. Production completed. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to Big Bear Licensing (Cinemax Sunday night 8:00 P.M. premiere, released by New Line Cinema).
- 1994 - "Dreamboat" Drama. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to Rex Films.
- 1994 - "The Beverly Hills Club" Pilot treatment and follow-up story treatment for TV series to be filmed in U.S. for European TV. MY POSITION -- Writer, co-producer for Rex Films.
- 1993 - "The Enemy Below" (aka "Hammerstrike") Action/adventure. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to Introvision Movies.
- 1993 - "The Pulkovo Incident" Action/thriller. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to Introvision Movies.
- 1992 - "Greed, Bread, and Murder" Mystery/thriller. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to Hollywood Royal Pictures.
- 1992 - "Deaf Must..." Romantic/comedy. Production completed. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to CSUN Deaf Community Foundation.
- 1992 - "Dracula Never Dies" Vampire/thriller. Production completed. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to Rex Films.1991 "Samurai Cop" Action. Production completed. MY POSITION -- Second Unit Director for Rex Films (TNT action night premier)
- 1991 - "Under The Gun" Action/drama. Production not completed. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to Peacock Films.
- 1991 - "Rocketman" Fantasy/adventure. Production not completed. MY POSITION -- Writer/Director, on assignment to Elixir Productions.
- 1991 - "The Story of Adam & Evan" Several full-length treatments for proposed TV series to be filmed in U.S. for European TV. MY POSITION -- Writer/co-producer, on assignment to Rex Films.
- 1990 - "Trio For Danger" Adventure/comedy. Production not completed. MY POSITION Writer/Director for American International Enterprises.
- 1990 - "Pirates Blood" Action/adventure. Same as above for American International Enterprises.
- 1990 - "Gypsy" Action/drama. Production completed. MY POSITION -- Co-director for Hollywood-Royal Pictures.
- 1989 - "The Overcoat" World War II drama. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to United Entertainment Corp.
- 1989 - "The Crazy Mc Coys" Comedy. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to Channeler Productions.
- 1988 - "Forgotten Heroes" Viet Nam war drama. Production completed. Released by Miracle Pictures. MY POSITION -- Writer/Second Unit Director for Marino Film Prods.
- 1989 - "The Silent Senator" Docudrama of the U.S. Constitution funded by the U.S. Government grant for the deaf community. Production completed. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment for Amicus Productions
- 1989 - "Death Comes Quietly" Crime drama. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to Eye Communications (another independently financed project for the deaf community)
- 1988 - "Heaven Can Help" Fantasy/comedy. Production completed. Released by Overseas Film Group. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to United Entertainment Corp.
- 1988 - "Savages" Suspense/drama. Production not completed. MY POSITION -- Writer and Second Unit Director, on assignment to Rex Films
- 1987 - "Devil Rider" Horror/thriller. Production completed. Released by Curb/Esquire. MY POSITION -- Writer, own original screenplay. Ozark Pictures, released by Curb/Esquire films
- 1986 - "Hostages Of Fear" Action/suspense. Option expired. MY POSITION -- Writer, own original screenplay, to AVO Prods.
- 1986 - "Hardcase" Police action/drama. Production completed. Released by Overseas Film Group and Forum Home Video. (Cinemax Sunday night 8:00 P.M. premiere). MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to United World Entertainment Corp.
- 1985 - "Hollywood Cop" Police action/drama. Production completed. Released by Celebrity Home Video and Noble Distributors. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to Peacock Films.
- 1985 - "American Avenger" Action/Drama. Production not completed. MY POSITION -- Writer, on assignment to Delta World Prods. (now American Int'l Enterprises.).
And now in his own words, Bud Fleisher...
This isn't going to be easy. How can I relate my feelings and experiences without shots and dialogue? Too, I know going out the gate that many of you "wannabees" are going to find some of this disenchanting--to say the least. But the things you will read here are the truth (although I have declined to name names); and, at times reflect my emotions based on years of being there. No, I did not "make it big' but I did move in, out and around showbiz.
One of my first suggestions is that anybody anticipating going into showbiz watch the film "Swimming with Sharks." The V.O. introduction to that film tells a lot of truth. Sure the film is a satire, but like all good satire it is pointing at a certain truthfulness. The writer of the film (a young oriental man) based his screenplay on his experiences while working for Columbia Pictures under Barry Sonnenberg (Director of "Men In Black"). The film says a lot about showbiz; and although the ending is done in an attempt to make it appear that we "all" will do anything for ambition, you will get a insight into a lot of "goings-on."
"Ninety percent perspiration and ten percent inspiration" has become one of my more repeated comments when asked about getting a job writing for the screen. Like it or not (and you are going to see me using the phrase over and over) the people in showbiz are not going to make your dream into a movie. You think you have the most wonderful screenplay ever? Well, none of the readers are going to agree with you. You've heard a recent story about a newbie selling his first screenplay to Spielberg for one million dollars--it's baloney! Stories like that are either plain crap or made up for various reasons and mainly by people who need the hype to keep themselves dreaming. If one of them really ever happens to be true, then keep in mind that was probably the first time in ten or more years it happened and you would have a better chance at winning the lottery than having that happen to you.
Don't believe the bull.....
What about books on writing? I can very easily just point out that except for a few rare instances, NONE of these guys writing books on how have actually had a movie made! It always seems astonishing to me that so many just can't seem to see through what should be the next logical conclusion! Still, there are some good books that can help you to get the thinking process going, and if you need a plan, etc., then some of those might be worth your while. In the long run, however, let me offer the opinion that if these people writing those books could really produce what they promise in their books they'd be in control of Hollywood--and they aren't! A word to the wise here, should be sufficient.
"Opinions are like assholes--everybody has one." Remember that and remember it well! The ONLY opinion that should be or any real interest (or importance) should be the person who is going to "pay" you for your script (miracle of miracles!). The rest, while sometimes maybe helpful, isn't worth bothering with. Don't get inundated with "opinions." Instead move mountains to get a sale and get produced.
"So then once you are working it gets better?" Well, it's better because your are getting paid and you are getting to see a film made. But "better" is a matter of your personal definition and what the includes. I'm going to relate a classic experience and you decide it this is "better.
My Script was sold to a producer who had done many other films. He had already paid another writer some money to do a rewrite, but he was not satisfied and contacted me to do it again (again, a common thing in the biz). I went to his office and waited in the lobby while he was finishing up a meeting with some other people. The Director (an experienced actor-director with twenty-plus years) came in. "You Bud Fleisher" he asked me and I shook his hand and told him I was. He then told me that this producer was "full of shit" and "didn't know anything." I declined commenting, because actually I had found this producer to be a nice guy, etc.
At the ensuing meeting we had a "story conference." That's a euphemism for those "opinions" mentioned previously... BUT now there is pay involved, so let them fly. Most of it was utter nonsense, but I kept on taking notes and nodding (also choking, but you gotta hold that back...). Came the part where the producer says something to the effect that "you have the character utter here 'Oh God!'" "They don't do that in films anymore--mention God." Well, I took it out, but that same evening I was watching "City Slickers" with Billy Crystal and they used "Oh God!" about five times in a minute during the scene where one of them almost drowns in the river! I could go on and one about this, but here is the bottom line on this, of many other experiences:
There was one particular scene that was causing both the producer and director concern over "how" it could be done. Over and over again they kept on finding problems and such and I was taking all my notes (like a good boy). Actually I could see no problem with the scene, but those two were really beating their drums! It's not useful here to go into details, but here is the upshot: They shot the scene "exactly" as the one I had originally written and that was about the only scene that was done "exactly" as written.
The film got made. I ended up sharing writing credits with two other guys: one because he was a friend of the Director, and the other because some of the financing came from Canada and the name of a Canadian writer must also appear under those circumstances.
What about agents? Do I have one? Yes. I sold over 18 scripts and treatments--not one of them was ever obtained by my agent. A word to the wise here should be sufficient.
I could tell many more true stories. Not all of them are bad, a few of them have a glimmer of "dream world". Yet, overall, they are real and are what the biz is all about. It's fun, at times, and I think most of us are in it because we love the idea of making a movie and having our name on it. But the reality is, as one producer/director once told me: "I was in Hollywood a few years and then one day it finally dawned on me that nobody is going to finance my dream." That is why he eventually sought independent financing and has been in business for himself ever since. He makes atrocious movies--but he sells them, makes money, and only deals with his own crap.
On about two occasion's I went to the Newsgroup about screenplay writing on the net. There was a neophyte there asking for advice. I gave him the best: "Marry rich and with contacts if possible." Man the guys on the group went ape. Except for one or two wise enough to see I was trying to help, the rest felt their "dream world" was being pulled apart by a crank. Actually, I am not a crank. I have a great wife, two great adult kids, and sure, I still have my own kind of "fun" in doing the Biz. But, like it or not, it is what it is, and if I were attempting to sell a book on writing I guess I would have to be less frank and honest.
If you want to do the Biz, then go ahead and do it. Don't give up your day job, unless you have married rich, etc. It really is about contacts too (in my opinion, nepotism is Showbiz's middle name). That's where the 90% perspiration comes in. Get real. Enjoy the Biz for what it really is and who knows...?
Send Bud feedback at: Budwrite@gte.net