why Josh Olson’s attitude sucks

Submitted by Amisha Upadhyaya

Josh Olson

Josh Olson

Why Your Profession Sucks.” That was the subject of the email that 14 sent me with a link to a screenwriter’s blog.  I actually did not need another reason to know why writing for film and TV is irrational and full of pompous and/or bitter asses when my hazing began ten years ago with my first job at Miramax near Harvey’s and Bob’s offices.  But I read on.

The title said it all:  “I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script” by Josh Olson, writer of the Academy nominated “History of Violence.”  Must have been an assistant of Harvey’s. But I read on.

The main point of the article was in fact, a good one.  Asking a professional writer for a “quick read” is like asking a painter to “just do a quick job” on your living room walls. It also puts us in a precarious situation, esp if you’re a friend or family member we actually like in case the only feedback is that your writing is atrocious (“give me an honest opinion” never means that).

In addition, the “quick” job pros can do has taken them years of developing their skills, including reading because most good, and definitely the great writers are prolific readers. Some scriptwriters may be horrible but they can still be good script doctors because they read extensively. They know which elements are critical for a greenlight. You are asking for a freebie into that insight when you ask for a read.

Points noted, Mr. Olson.

Also noted is the very cliche bitterness or edginess or however one would like to coat it of what is just plain disrespect and rudeness.

I almost didn’t read to the end because the beginning of the article was so in-your-face.  People starting out anywhere have an unbridled enthusiasm I, personally, would always like to retain.  So, newbies ask. So, you can say no.  There is always a mentor, always someone who has taken a chance on unproven talent, someone who has not shit on your parade.  I myself was asked to do just that — read and reply to a poorly written script by someone who I would like to continue having in my life.  Yet, there are many ways of saying the same thing.

This article was cited from another article targeted towards venture capitalists on “Let’s Not Let Silicon Valley Become Like Hollywood.”  There have been similar ones on why bankers or CEO’s or basically anyone else should never become like those in Hollywood. Mind you, these are professions full of people who help each other with informational interviews, opening doors, swapping info on deals, who will make more than most in Hollywood can ever dream of.

I know 14 helps out alums from his b-school. Fuggadabout it in H’wd.  Even being the bastards amongst the rich, we still keep our fists closed.  The reasons for this are a mystery but attitudes like Mr. Olson’s provides a hint.

The industry is very fickle but there is no part of the industry unto itself that warrants people insulting others — most especially when the point one is trying to make is that he is a professional!  To me, there is no need to say “fuck” at all to a stranger unless they have insulted your mother or something along those lines.

The same results can be achieved by saying, “I’m sorry but I’m swamped with deadlines right now.”  Or, if you like the person asking, “What I did when I was starting out was give my script to five people who I may or may not know well but whose artistic and literary opinion I trusted and got their  opinion before sending it out.” Many roads to the same answer.

I don’t buy the I’m too-cool-for-school asshole behavior of insulting, screaming & shouting, not answering emails, not calling back or at least having your assistant call back.  It coats the bitterness and anger that inevitably swells from this chaotic profession.  Excellent projects go by the wayside and mediocrity reigns. A 20 year veteran in TV must re-prove himself in film.  Shows get cancelled. Stars drop out. Financing is pulled. Breaking in is damn hard to be understated about it. But you know that going in.

When you become like the assholes you vent against, you haven’t become a professional. You’re just another asshole.

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2 comments

  1. anon847

    Thanks for this.

  2. jay

    I don’t think you understand how incredibly awful it is to be approached for a massive favor by someone who wants nothing from you but access to your agent/editor/producer. In Silicon Valley, everyone knows that we are *all* going to profit from a joint venture. We don’t do favors out of the goodness of our hearts.

    These aspiring writers don’t want to hear that there re no shortcuts. The minute the writer asked Josh Olson to look at his treatment, Josh was doomed. Politeness doesn’t work with these people.

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