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A revealing insider�s view with panache
am 13. April 2000
The allusion to the "skin trade" in the title isintentional of course. Goldman is playing the old saw about thescreenwriter as very well-paid whore. Be that as it may, this is an excellent book. If you're even thinking of becoming a screenwriter you ought to read it. You may change your mind, and then again you may not. You'll learn some screenwriting tricks and get a vivid glimpse inside the industry, circa 1982.
Goldman has a style that is as earnest as all heck, emphatic, breezy, engaging, flippant, a little high schoolish-but that plays. He thinks very highly of himself, but he is also a modest man. (Reasonable combination.) He trashes some people here, lionizes some others, but bottom line, he's not afraid to reveal himself, foibles and all. His two main rules of Hollywood are: NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING and SCREENPLAYS ARE STRUCTURE (his caps). He means that nobody knows ahead of time what is going to be a successful movie, and it's a mistake to think that screenplays are mainly dialogue (I used to think that) because what really counts is the structure.
Part One is about "Hollywood Realities" and it's the best part of the book: who controls whom and what, the pecking order, etc. Part Two he calls "Adventures" and it's about what it was like making some of the movies he was involved in; and remember Goldman wrote some top drawer films: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), All the President's Men (1976), to name a couple. This part is also very good. Part Three he calls "Da Vinci" from the title of a short story he wrote as a young man that he turns into a screen play for the edification of his readers. The story is a dog and the screenplay not very readable, but it's good textbook stuff. A highlight is George Roy Hill's acidic comments on the script. I give Goldman credit for including that and I also give him credit for telling it like it is from his POV. He's one very professional, very hard-working writer with a fine understanding of movie psychology, somebody well worth listening to. END