Screenwriting: Why Kim Cattrall got mad at me

I just saw Kim Cattrall mentioned in the news and it took me back to a long time ago when I did a rewrite of one of her early movies, “Mannequin.”

It was my first script doctoring job and I was in a hotel in Philadelphia, every night faxing the new pages to the studio in LA. where the head of the studio read them the next morning. I wanted to make it as easy for him to visualize the script as possible, especially since he was reading in installments of about ten pages a day. Because of that, I used “parentheticals” like “angrily” or “wearily” much more often than I normally would.

Then the cast came in for the first read-through. Kim Cattrall took out a big marker pen and started marking stuff out. Somebody asked her what she was doing. She glared at me and said, “Crossing out all the places the writer told me how to act.”

Ouch. But I was right, because I was writing a reading script, one that was being read under difficult circumstances.

If you’re writing a script to be read by someone who is possibly going to buy it, you want to make it as easy and entertaining as possible. Yes, it’s easy to overdo the parentheticals, ideally your dialogue itself suggests how it will be delivered. But when it helps, go ahead. A sarcastic remark from an actress is not too high a price to pay.

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For screenwriting tips from Jurgen Wolff, come back here every Tuesday and also see his site, and check out his book, “Your Writing Coach,” available from Amazon and other online and offline booksellers.

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ARTICLE BY Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff has written more than 100 episodes of television, the mini-series “Midnight Man,” starring Rob Lowe, the feature film “The Real Howard Spitz,” starring Kelsey Grammer, and as been a script doctor on projects starring Eddie Murphy, Michale Caine, Kim Catrall and others. His books include “Your Writing Coach” (Nicholas Brealey Publishing) and “Creativity Now!” (Pearson Publishing). For more tips from Jurgen Wolff, grab this screenwriting resource.