Gerald Hanks Filmography

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Room, The Disaster Artist, and The Joy of Being Terrible

Theatrical Poster for
The Room

I realize I'm late to the party, but I recently had the “pleasure” of watching The Room in a double feature with The Disaster Artist, the adaptation of actor Greg Sestero's book about the making of the infamous film.

Since The Room came out and became a cult hit (in spite of itself), many screenwriters have asked, “How does a piece of garbage like that get made, when I can't even get anyone to look at my scripts?”

The answer is simple. The Room was nothing short of a vanity project for writer/director/producer/star Tommy Wiseau. He reportedly poured more than $6 million into the project in 2002, which comes out to nearly $8.5 million in 2018 dollars.

Aside from the amateurish acting, the inconsistent direction, and the excruciating love scenes, one of the hallmarks of The Room was its poor script. This attempt at a screenplay featured characters whose relationships were unclear, characters who appeared for the first time past the halfway point, and storylines that were picked up and dropped with no explanation.

If The Room was a train wreck, then The Disaster Artist shows how the engineer and the driver got together to drive the train straight off the rails. The film shows Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) as a modern-day Don Quixote, with Sestero (Dave Franco) as his Sancho Panza, both of them tilting at the windmill known as “Hollywood Stardom”.

Where The Room is excruciating to watch, The Disaster Artist is oddly inspiring. It shows how someone with no talent, no experience, and a complete unwillingness to work with others can succeed if they're stubborn enough. (Insert contemporary political reference here.)

In its own way, The Disaster Artist parallels one of the finest films of all time, and my personal favorite to use as a teaching tool: Rocky. In both films, a lead character with an unrecognizable accent attempts to reach the heights of their profession, assembles a rag-tag crew, and achieves their dreams, but not in the way that they had anticipated.

The success of Rocky, the cult status of The Room, and the Academy Award-nominated screenplay of The Disaster Artist shows that audiences love a great underdog story. The lesson to take away from the successes of these three films is simple: Don't be afraid to be terrible.

Your ideas suck. Your writing is unreadable. Your dialogue sounds like it's coming from an alien who's just recently learned the concept of social interaction. Your characters have the depth of wet tissue paper. Your story has the frenetic pace of a tranquilized sloth.

Your first draft will suck. Get used to it.

Your rewrites will feel like a never-ending root canal in your brain. Them's the breaks.

Every reader will find something new and different to hate about your script. Just accept it.

You will hate your script, your characters, and your life. You will become a miserable excuse for a human being.

How's that for motivation?

As the old workplace poster says, “You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps.”

As a writer, you have to be crazy just to get started. You have imaginary conversations in your head with people who don't exist. Not only that, you expect companies to pay millions of dollars and employ dozens of people to take your writing from the page to the screen. Then, you expect people to pay up to $15 a ticket to watch what you wrote. If that's not crazy, then what is?

Was Tommy Wiseau crazy? By nearly every objective measure, he was, to use the clinical terms, nuttier than a fruitcake. But did he succeed? He made his movie, his way, with his script. A decade and a half later, people are still watching it, talking about it, and (GASP!) blogging about it.

So enjoy writing your terrible script. Have fun pounding your pile of garbage into something resembling a usable screenplay. Make party hats out of those harsh coverage reports and form rejection letters.

Tell your story. Write your script. Get it made. Tilt at those windmills.

Because you're the only one who can.

If you need help in improving your “terrible” script, Story Into Screenplay can help. We offer script consultations, coverage reports, and expert advice on how to hone your screenplay. Contact us at storyintoscreenplayblog[at]gmail[dot]com, or send us a message on our Facebook page.

Gerald Hanks of Story Into Screenplay will be appearing at the Comicpalooza sci-fi convention again this year. The convention will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, from Friday, May 25, to Sunday, May 27.

Gerald will be on two panels:

Saturday 5/26
1:30 - 2:30pm
Horror for the 21st Century: Film and Literature

Sunday 5/27
3:00 - 4:00pm
No Money, No Problem - Screenwriting for Low Budget Filmmaking

We'll be posting more details and panels as they become available.