Sean Hood: What Does it Feel Like to Write a Flop?
Sean Hood was a script doctor on the remake of Conan the Barbarian. The film opened last weekend to less than stellar numbers. Today Sean wrote a fascinating piece for Deadline about how it feels to have written a flop. Here’s the telling paragraph:
Unfortunately, the work I do as a script doctor is hard to defend if the movie flops. I know that those who have read my Conan shooting script agree that much of the work I did on story and character never made it to screen. I myself know that given the difficulties of rewriting a script in the middle of production, I made vast improvements on the draft that came before me. But its still much like doing great work on a losing campaign. All anyone in the general public knows, all anyone in the industry remembers, is the flop. A loss is a loss.
But he also offers this inspiring story:
My father is a retired trumpet player. I remember, when I was a boy, watching him spend months preparing for an audition with a famous philharmonic. Trumpet positions in major orchestras only become available once every few years. Hundreds of world class players will fly in to try out for these positions from all over the world. I remember my dad coming home from this competition, one that he desperately wanted to win, one that he desperately needed to win because work was so hard to come by. Out of hundreds of candidates and days of auditions and callbacks, my father came in… second.
It was devastating for him. He looked completely numb. To come that close and lose tore out his heart. But the next morning, at 6:00 AM, the same way he had done every morning since the age of 12, he did his mouthpiece drills. He did his warm ups. He practiced his usual routines, the same ones he tells his students they need to play every single day. He didn’t take the morning off. He just went on. He was and is a trumpet player and that’s what trumpet players do, come success or failure.
Less than a year later, he went on to win a position with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he played for three decades. Good thing he kept practicing.
So with my father’s example in mind, here I sit, coffee cup steaming in its mug and dog asleep at my feet, starting my work for the day, revising yet another script, working out yet another pitch, thinking of the future (the next project, the next election) because I’m a screenwriter, and that’s just what screenwriters do.
However, the one thing that struck us about this piece: Hood never defends the film. Sure he defends his own writing. But not the film. Many good films have flopped. Even some classics.
We’ve had our own tastes of good reviews and bad. (Though we’ve never been party to a flop.) And most of the time … whatever the overwhelming critical reaction … we still believed our own assessment of the project. If we thought ti was good, we still think it was good. We wish for the sake of the other people that worked on Conan that Sean had included a bit of this sentiment in the piece.
You can read Sean Hood’s full piece here.