INT. NONDESCRIPT OFFICE - DAY
Facing the camera is SCRIPTGIRL — 29 years old, vaguely exotic, both bookish and sexy (i.e., glasses + cleavage). She smiles warmly and launches into a rundown of recent screenplay sales (the stock ticker for Hollywood execs), which she delivers weekly via
witty, sexy, no-budget YouTube videos, redefining the term “broadcast journalism.”
The ScriptGirl Interview
by Kim Townsel
O.K., ScriptGirl: How did you get started sharing screenplay sales via viral video?
A producer I worked for had me compile a list of script sales every day and read them to him. Many times he would just fall asleep, but I thought, “What if I videotape them?” Then he could watch them at his leisure. The idea grew when a couple of writer friends suggested I post them on YouTube. And here we are.
Where do you get your info? There was some verbal volleyball about you breaking the story of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards sale. Comments?
I get my info from a variety of sources: trades, Internet, and now and again just through industry contacts. As the reports have become more popular, I am corresponding directly with the writers and agents involved in the sales, which is fantastic. As far as the Inglorious Bastards situation, I didn’t break the story; the sale had already been reported. And as many people do, when I saw “Weinstein,” I wrote “Miramax” in the copy and it slipped by me. But weeks later I did meet Tarantino at an event and he gallantly forgave me.
Good deal. How did you get your job as a producer’s assistant?
Tell us what a day in the life of a producer’s assistant is really like, Red Bull and all.
Well, I start early and finish late. It’s a catch-all position. I do coverage on scripts and novels, schedule meetings, make really awful coffee, and coordinate production details. On occasion I have house-sat, walked dogs, picked up dry cleaning, and handled all matter of mundane errands with grace and profanity.
What are some of the weirdest/worst demands made upon you by a production exec?
I speak German. A producer I worked for—not my current employer—knew this and had me come to his stunning house in the Hills one night to translate for a “meeting” with a German actress who spoke no English. Well, it was a full-on seduction scene. And not of the subtle variety. It was like translating for The Continental while he’s closing in for the kill. I kept trying to excuse myself and he would insist that I stay awhile longer. They were making out like teenagers, and there I was sitting off in the corner chiming in with the occasional “Your lips taste like fire” in German. I felt incredibly uncomfortable. They both acted like it was the most normal thing in the world. I did bolt as soon as the lederhosen started coming off.
Wise wahl, schönes. What are the strengths of the good or great scripts that you read?
Originality, point of view, and specificity. If it has those three elements I don’t care if it’s a comedy about horny teens or a drama about the British aristocracy. Too often writers fall into the trap of appealing to the broadest possible audience, resulting in bland, boring, and derivative mush.
“The absolute worst script was called Under the Cushions. It was about a talking couch.”
Leaving out incriminating details, what’s the absolute worst script you’ve read?
The absolute worst script I ever read was called Under the Cushions. It was about a talking couch. The protagonist’s wife dies and somehow her soul is trapped in the family sofa until she can help him find a new love. So he brings home women and has sex with them on the couch so the wife can sort of … join in. I guess you could pitch it as Breaking the Waves meets Ghost meets the Ikea catalogue.
Best—or worst—part of this story is that a year or so later, I was at an industry party and describing this excruciating script as the worst 165 pages of my life—did I mention it was intended to be almost three hours long?—when a total stranger stands up and shouts, in all sincerity, “HEY! THAT WAS MY IDEA!”
So much for leaving out details … Who helps you with the visuals and recording of your videos?
My crew consists of Brian DiMuccio, Dino Vindeni, and Steve Masani. We all share responsibilities as far as writing, filming, editing, etc. … It’s like we’re a band and I’m the lead singer who gets all the attention. Yep, that’s it. I’m Eric Burdon and they are the Animals.
You sign off each broadcast saying, “Remember, you can’t sell it if you don’t write it,” and you list yourself as a “Screenwriter/Studio Slave.” Tell us about your own creative adventures.
Well, I didn’t go to film school. I studied art history. But, like so many others, I was drawn to the movie business and came to Los Angeles. I’ve tried or suffered through a lot of different industry jobs. But screenwriting to me was always the ultimate destination. After a couple years of flailing around, I managed to find an agent who liked my romantic comedy and shopped it around. It was optioned by the production company of an actor I shall not name, and I had some meetings on other projects. It was a pretty heady time for this Thai/German farmgirl from Nebraska. But before I could even put a down payment on a Prius, the rom-com was out on its keister, promises of other jobs dried up, and I was back to the harsh reality of 9-5 living. But I feel fortunate to have had the experience, and I think I’m a better writer for it. Or at least I have a better understanding of the profession of screenwriting and recognize some mistakes I made along the way. I don’t plan to make the same ones the next time I’m called up to the big show.
How has your life changed since becoming a YouTube darling? Do desperate screenwriters recognize you at Starbucks now?
I don’t go to Starbucks. I’m a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf girl! But I do get recognized, which is odd and cool all at once. Two incidents stand out and, I think, demonstrate the long reach of the Internet. First, when I was at the Spaced DVD premiere party, Quentin Tarantino recognized me and started talking to me about my show. It was a wildly surreal moment. All I really remember of it now was valiantly suppressing a strong urge to quote dialogue from his movies to him.
The second was at a truck stop near Bakersfield. Had to drive up there for traffic court, and I stopped for breakfast and when this sweet kid hands it to me he says, “Enjoy your meal, ScriptGirl.” It took a long beat for me just to connect the dots. It all seemed so out of context in that setting. Then he said, “I’m a screenwriter too.” We ended up chatting about script formatting and whatnot. He told me that my reports inspire him to keep at it, and that he knew one day soon I would be reporting on his script sale. This will sound corny, but it was really a wonderful feeling to have, on a very small scale, some kind of positive effect on the life of a total stranger. It was a transcendent moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget. In a truck stop near Bakersfield. Who knew?
“My legs are like steel springs.”
Who would win in a fight of YouTube celebs: you or the “Chocolate Rain” guy?
Well, I’m a pacifist. So I would hope we’d get along and not fight at all. But if that didn’t work out, I would totally kick his ass. Are you kidding? I’ve got him beat on upper body strength, reach, and speed. Not to mention my Muay Thai training! My legs are like steel springs! One sweep kick and I’d cut him off at the roots like a sapling in a windstorm. Man, it’s gonna be bloody. Now bring on that Hot For Words chick!
Strong words from a pacifist. Is your goal to produce, write, or direct, or devour a combo meal of possibilities?
Definitely the combo meal. I plan to eat this town alive—infiltrate, double-cross, and conquer! That’s my mantra.
Will you read my script aloud and may I watch you while you do so?
Yeah, I do get that a lot from my many fans and friends. Would that I could … but, sadly, I never learned to read—would you accept interpretive dance?