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Art Beat

by Shawn Stone on March 10, 2010


When humbly recommending a film by a friend and former colleague, it’s probably best to start with a few quotes from unbiased observers.

“Relentlessly entertaining!” said New York magazine.

“Required viewing,” said The Onion AV Club.

“The best film about writing I’ve ever seen,” according to Film Threat’s Chris Gore.

And now, the most important verdict of all, from one of the most respected critics in the business: “A lively collection of war stories from a host of screenwriters with experience in the trenches,” wrote Variety’s Todd McCarthy.

The film in question is the First Run Features release Tales From the Script, a documentary by Peter Hanson. Yes, that Peter Hanson: documentary and fiction filmmaker; screenwriter; author of scholarly studies of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, and the indie directors of 1980s and ’90s; and ex-Metroland Arts Editor. (He also wrote for the Times Union and the late, unlamented alt-paper The Source.)

Hanson left the gray Northeast for sunny California years ago to pursue a filmmaking career; this is his latest success. He will be in town on Wednesday evening (March 17 at 6:30 PM) for a screening of Tales From the Script at the Spectrum 8 Theatres (290 Delaware Ave., Albany).

Screenwriting is a notoriously miserable occupation; it’s all about rejection. And for this documentary, he obtained choice interviews with some of the most successful Hollywood scribes on their difficulties. These include William Goldman (The Princess Bride), Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging), David S. Ward (The Sting), Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost) and Ron Shelton (all those entertaining sports movies). He even got an interview with director, screenwriter and ex-Bob Hope gagman Melvin Shavelson the day before Mr. Shavelson passed on.

Hanson edited down over 60 hours of footage into Tales From the Script. You’ll have to wait for the DVD (coming soon) for the extras, but you can see the best of the interviews on Wednesday.