Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Could’ve Written A Better Movie Than That! Book Review

I Could’ve Written A Better Movie Than That!
2005, Michael Wiese Productions, $26.95

From the get-go, I was a bit skeptical.

Derek Rydall’s I Could’ve Written a Better Movie Than That! claims to show you “how to make six figures as a script consultant even if you’re not a screenwriter.” The book aims to train you to analyze screenplays like a pro, so that you can hang up a shingle and become the next Linda Seger or perhaps open your own coverage company.

Okay, disclosure time. First of all, like Mr. Rydall, I own a script analysis company. So let’s be frank: do I necessarily want a book telling others how to do it? Hmm. Secondly, six figures? Okay, maybe there are a dozen people who make six figures as professional script consultants. Even union studio readers don’t make that kind of money.

But credit where it’s due: Mr. Rydall won me over. His book is in fact very well-done. Even if you never actually use it to learn the script analysts’ trade, reading it should teach you to become more analytical about your own writing. And that in and of itself is worth the price of admission.

Rydall’s approach is thorough, his writing style breezy. He lays out step-by-step how he himself got into the field, the different types of analysis, then—and this is where the rubber hits the road—he lays out all the things a script analyst should be aware of, from myth, plot and dialogue to the look and format of the script. While none of this is earth-shatteringly original (or a real substitute for thorough screenwriting education or experience working as a reader at a prodco,) it’s a smart and thorough overview that should get you up to speed on what analysts look for in a script. Best of all, Rydall drives his points home with commentary from established analysts like Michael Hauge, Linda Seger and Jeff Kitchen.

The second half of the book deals with the business aspect of becoming an analyst, and Rydall is again complete in his roadmap. He covers everything from opening a P.O. box to finding an established script consultant to mentor with to handling clients with both flexibility and firmness. Again, Rydall’s approach is solid. He knows whereof he speaks.

My only real quibble with ICWABMTT is that it may be setting readers up with unrealistic expectations. Rydall contends that script analysis is a burgeoning field, but in my opinion, we’re glutted with coverage companies and script analysts already. Breaking in right now--and making six figures--would be a real trick. On the other hand, is this book’s approach really any different from a book that promises to teach you to write a million-dollar spec? Both set the bar high and show you how to get there. The fact that most folks never will is of less importance than the journey and the knowledge gained along the way. To use coverage parlance, I’m giving this book a STRONG CONSIDER.


Anonymous said...

Just stumbled on your site, Jim -- didn't know you guys did the CS Open...

I'm a sucker for these kinds of books. I think I have about 30 of them.

Way off topic, but my screenplay, DOG EATERS, won 3 awards at the ScreenwritingExpo5, including the Dabel Brothers Award: adapting the script into a comic/graphic novel. It should be in-stores Nov 26, but we'll see. It's been far from automatic...

For more on this adventure, please check out:

Anonymous said...

Hey, Malcolm! I remember seeing you on stage at the Expo last year. Nice work! Let me know when DOG EATERS streets!


Jim C.