Picks and Pans Review: The Craft of the Screenwriter

updated 11/16/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/16/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

by John Brady

The author, an editor of Writer's Digest, has produced long interviews on the art (its practitioners modestly insist that it is a craft) of writing movies. The late Paddy Chayefsky (Marty, Network) appears here as abrasive and unpleasant. William Goldman is pretentious—he considers himself a novelist who just happened to have been paid $400,000 for writing the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) is pompous ("I find that on the one hand it's nice to be Damon Runyon, and on the other it's nice to be an intellectual stylist"). Neil Simon (The Odd Couple) writes movies just because it's fun, but he wants to be remembered as a playwright. Interestingly, one learns here that very little of what screenwriters do—except for Simon—ever gets the financial commitment to make it into full production. And yet a good script is the single most important ingredient to get a $10 million project into motion. This is a must-read book for serious film buffs, and fun for anyone who is interested in the stories of some of the most successful screenwriters at work today. (Simon and Schuster, $16.95)

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