Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, two of the (lesser talented) guys behind “The State” and “Reno! 9/11” before selling their souls in exchange for unearned cash (and lots of it) are releasing a book today called Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too! It’s a semi-serious self-help book for screenwriters, not about how to make a good film, but about how to make a commercially successful one. In other words, how to cheat the system.
Clearly, Lennon and Garant have a lot of experience in making incredibly shitty but very popular films that appeal to moviegoers barely smart enough to count out their ticket money. Garant and Lennon are so proud of this ability to write films for dumbshits that they want share screenwriting advice to all those out there, not who want to make good films, but who want to make lots of money by appealing to the lowest common denominator. Chapter One: “Follow elementary school-children around the playground, write down what they say.” Chapter Two: “Check the toilet before flushing. Write the first thing that comes into your mind.”
Sadly, Lennon and Garant have no sense of responsibility. They’re more interested in contributing to the glut of Paul Blart: Zookeeper-type movies than they are to actual comedy. In fact, for all of you who have given Lennon and Garant a pass for years because of their work in “The State,” it’s time to revoke it. They’re no better than the guy behind Big Momma’s House. If there were a Hollywood equivalent of the Lehman Brothers or Enron Executives it would be people like Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garrant, screenwriters who want to make money at the expense of those paying to see them, as well as at the expense of the overall deterioration of comedy. They don’t make movies; they make high-concept trailers.
In short, they’re assholes. Sadder still, Garant and Lennon aren’t even using their Hollywood capitol to make the occasional decent film. The next two they have lined up are a Steve Carr film (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Daddy Day Care) and another family movie with Vin Diesel, like one of their biggest hits, The Pacifier. They just don’t care.
But they are not alone. In fact, among terrible screenwriters whose movies have made massive fortunes, Lennon and Garant are only at number six (these are domestic totals, only, and in the United States, that writing duo fell short of the $1 billion advertised in their book title). Still, they’re not even the best at capitalizing on being shitty screenwriters, although I’d argue that they are the worst among the top six (just not the most profitable). So, if you really want to make money as a screenwriter in Hollywood, I would ignore Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too! and glean tips from these untalented but successful screenwriters:
1. Ted Elliot and Terry Rosio ($2.4 billion): Worst Offenses: The second, third, and fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Godzilla, Treasure Planet, Small Soldiers, National Treasure: Book of Secrets and The Legend of Zorro.
Advice: Convince a huge star like Johnny Depp to give up his dignity to star in a film about a amusement-park ride.
2. Akiva Goldsman ($1.5 billion): Worst Offenses: The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, Practical Magic, A Beautiful Mind, Lost in Space, Batman and Robin, and Batman Forever.
Advice: Make friends with Ron Howard.
3. Ehren Kruger ($1.02 billion): Worst Offenses: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Reindeer Games, Scream 3 and Blood and Chocolate.
Advice: Convince someone to allow you to write the screenplays for already established franchises. Write them further into the ground.
4. Alfred Gough & Miles Millar ($880 million): Worst Offenses: I Am Number Four, Herbie Fully Loaded, Shanghai Knights, Lethal Weapon 4 and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. (They also produced “Hannah Montana: The Movie).
Advice: Take someone else’s characters and ruin them (see also, the last five seasons of “Smallville”)
5. David N. Weiss ($870 million): Worst Offenses: Daddy Day Care, Are We There Yet?, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and The Rugrats franchise.
Advice: Write to your own intelligence level. If you have the intelligence of a 7th grader, write movies for 7th graders.
6. Thomas Lennon and Ben Garrant ($701 million): Worst Offenses: Taxi, The Pacifier, Let’s Go to Prison, Herbie: Fully Loaded, Balls of Fury, and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.
Advice: Just stop giving a shit.
7. Don Rhymer: ($639 million): The Big Momma’s House franchise, Deck the Halls, Santa Claus 2 and Surf’s Up.
Advice: Find excuses to make your male characters wear fat suits.
8. Stephen SommersVan Helsing, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, and The Jungle Book.
Advice: Find someone willing to put millions of dollars into marketing budgets to obscure the fact that you write (and direct) terrible, terrible films.
9. Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer ($361 million): Worst Offenses: Vampires Suck, Disaster Movie, Meet the Spartans, Epic Movie, Date Movie, Scary Movie 2-4 and Spy Hard.
Advice: Take scene from the films of the other crappy but successful films and make them even worse by adding flatulence, stereotypical gags, and pop-culture jokes that were old the day after the spoofed movie was initially released.
10. Allan Loeb ($315 million): Worst Offenses: Just Go with It, The Dilemma, The Switch and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Advice: Convince studios to hire you by threatening them with billion dollar disability lawsuits if they don’t hire you because of your brain damage.