Cover image for The first time I got paid for it-- writers' tales from the Hollywood trenches
The first time I got paid for it-- writers' tales from the Hollywood trenches
Lefcourt, Peter.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : PublicAffairs, [2000]

Physical Description:
xxiii, 254 pages ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
1060 Lexile.
Added Corporate Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1996 .F455 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"The First Time I Got Paid For It is a collection of essays by America's best screenwriters. Linked by a theme of the writer's "first time" - usually the first time they got paid for their work, but sometimes something a bit more unconventional, each essay investigates what it takes to succeed in Hollywood and what it takes to write well." "Over fifty writers, virtually every big name in Hollywood, have contributed to this collection, which is essential reading for anyone who wants to make it as a writer in Tinsel Town. Each essay reveals what life as a writer in the real Hollywood is actually like. Full of wisdom and incredible stories about surviving in the movie business, The First Time I Got Paid For It is crucial for anyone who's dreamed of hearing their words spoken on the silver screen. It is also a perfect read for anyone who is a movie buff or curious about what happens on the other side of the camera."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Showbiz mavens ought to like the inside poop this gathering of script scribblers' testimonies serves up. Cop show master Steven Bochco remembers his first writing job, which involved stretching "unsold one-hour pilots and anthological [sic] dramas into two-hour movies" for a "cigar-chomping veteran producer" who pronounced his given name "Stiff." Youth culture chronicler supreme Cameron Crowe registers his memories of discovering that his first movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was a hit in the sticks, though it had tanked at an L.A. preview. M*A*S*H TV veterans Larry Gelbart and Alan Alda expound, though only Alda talks about the long-lasting hit series: he cites Schnitzler's La Ronde as the inspiration for the episode he wrote about a pair of long johns being passed around during the frigid Korean winter. Other contributors include Eric Bogosian, Gary David Goldberg, and Carl Reiner. Great vocational reading for scripting wanna-bes. --Mike Tribby

Publisher's Weekly Review

This delectable collection of entertaining essays by more than 50 TV and screenwriters is a treat not only for neophytes hoping to break into the business, but also for film buffs. While most of the contributors write about their first paying job in the profession, many of the tastiest tales venture off to detail other "firsts": Chuck Lorre (Roseanne; Cybill) hilariously recalls the first time he was fired (from a Beany & Cecil revival show); Melville Shavelson recollects the first time he was sued (by former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower to stop the filming of a movie about the Ike-Kay Summersby affair); and 12-time Emmy winner Carl Reiner remembers getting $1,000 to write his first novel, Enter Laughing. Many of the short pieces create suspense by withholding the name of a long-delayed or much-rewritten project until the very end. One of the best stories illustrating Hollywood's fickle nature is Australian Jan Sardi's piece on being at the center of a fierce bidding war over Shine; it concludes with the sobering fact that, over 12 years, he's had six movies produced in Australia but none in America. Each reminiscence is only a few pages long (Michael Tolkin's biography at the end of his recollection is almost as long as his story), which keeps the pace quick and the writing lively. The sassy title, eye-catching faux noir cover art and the impressive list of contributors (Steven Bochco, Eric Bogosian, Cameron Crowe, Delia Ephron, Larry Gelbart, Lawrence Kasdan and Joan Tewkesbury are just a few listed on the back cover) make this a compelling item for film buffs. (Oct.) FYI: A portion of the sales will be donated to the Writers Guild Foundation. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

What initially might seem interesting only to Hollywood insiders and aspiring movie and TV writers is in fact an enjoyable read for anyone fascinated with entertainment media. A foreword by famed screenwriter and novelist William Goldman is followed by 54 essays on screenwriting by the likes of Alan Alda, Eric Bogosian, Tina Andrews, Delia Ephron, Steven Bochco, Larry Gelbart, Fay Kanin, Lawrence Kasdan, Carl Reiner, Joan Tewkesbury, and Richard Wesley. Among the highlights are John Gay's recollections of writing for live TV, Cameron Crowe's discussion of his well-founded but totally mistaken belief that Fast Times at Ridgemont High would flop, and the congratulations accorded Georgia Jeffries for writing like a man. Although some of the contributors don't follow the theme of the title (Peter Casey had already written for The Jeffersons but here describes pitching Frasier to NBC executives; Melville Shavelson's piece is "The First Time I Got Sued") and some of the material that these writers created is hardly majestic, the book proves that persistence and luck as much as talent may carry the day.DKim Holston, American Inst. for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters, Malvern, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Excerpt Alan Alda I was writing my first episode of Mash in a hotel room with French furniture from the Wilshire Boulevard period, and I noticed I had begun dancing around the room.     I was in the hotel because the architect who was doing renovations on our house had promised me the work would be finished by the time I came back to town for the second season of Mash, whose first season had paid for the house in the first place.     Renovations, like rewrites, take longer than expected, and I had made things worse by insisting that the house look like the plan we had agreed on before I left town. "I don't want that big excrescence in my living room," I had said, using the biggest word I could think of for a modernist hump on the wall the architect was proposing. Sure enough, when I got back to L.A., the house wasn't finished, but there was the hump, big as life, and just as excrescent. I took a sledgehammer to it and knocked it off the wall. This made my point, but set back construction another three weeks.     So, here I was, working on my first serious try at a television script in the cool, contemplative solitude that can only be found in a cheesy, fake-elegant hotel. More and more, I found myself taking a sledgehammer to my own scenes and dialogue, and after a while I was dancing.     I was dancing because, after hours of rewriting a scene, I had finally solved it and had crashed through to something I knew would work. "I can do it ...! I can do it!" I chanted, dancing and jumping for joy until the thought intruded that there were another few dozen problems to solve before I'd be finished.     This was the first time since I had decided I wanted to be a writer at the age of eight that I was actually working on something that might be seen by millions of people. Every little writing victory was therefore charged with emotion.     I've thought, since then, how lucky I was that my first script was one in which so many problems had already been solved for me. The show had been on the air for a year: I wasn't creating characters from scratch; I wasn't imagining a whole new world.     As an actor, I had already researched the time and place. I'd read that the Korean winters were bitter and, in a series of two-handed scenes, I let a humble pair of longjohns go from one shivering body to another through a string of deals, love offerings and extortions. It was, of course, similar to a device used by Schnitzler in the film La Ronde, so even some of the plot was borrowed.     In this way, I was able to concentrate on the pleasures of putting words together, discovering the voices of the characters, tracking the subsurface tectonics of their emotions. This made my victory dances a whole lot easier to come by than I realized at the time. Even after I had written a number of episodes and was exploring new paths, I was still making use of the work of people who had first explored the territory.     It was something of a shock when I began working on the first feature-length script I'd try after writing for Mash . Since it would be three times longer than an episode, I assumed it would be about three times harder. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be about 27 times harder.     Suddenly, I had to create, through research and imagination, a new world, populated by characters I had to build from their heads to their toes. I had to find out how they would act on one another in a way that would plunge them into Act Two and let them climb out through Act Three. I was all by myself on a huge construction site.     Hemingway said that writing is architecture, not interior decoration. I was learning that, even with all the rewriting, it wasn't renovations, either.     Now I was taking a sledgehammer to the foundation itself, redesigning it time after time, from scratch.     After all that, when I would finally crash through to something that worked, I would feel--and every writer must feel something like this--a thrill, a rush of joy, a desire to dance around the room.     I still feel it. And, once in a while, I still dance. * * * Alan Alda has written five screenplays: The Seduction of Joe Tynan, Four Seasons, Sweet Liberty, A New Life , and Betsy's Wedding . He wrote eighteen episodes of Mash , one of which, Inga , won him an Emmy for writing. Copyright © 2000 Writers Guild Foundation. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Laura J. ShapiroWilliam Goldman
Prefacep. xi
Forewordp. xv
Alan Aldap. 1
Tina Andrewsp. 4
Steven Bochcop. 9
Eric Bogosianp. 12
Allan Burnsp. 16
Peter Caseyp. 20
T. S. Cookp. 26
Cameron Crowep. 30
Roger Directorp. 36
Delia Ephronp. 41
Devery Freemanp. 44
John Furia, Jr.p. 47
John Gayp. 52
Larry Gelbartp. 57
Gary David Goldbergp. 61
Bo Goldmanp. 64
Pamela Grayp. 67
Dean Hargrovep. 79
James V. Hartp. 82
Charlie Hauckp. 88
Georgia Jeffriesp. 93
Amy Holden Jonesp. 97
Fay Kaninp. 101
Lawrence Kasdanp. 104
Nicholas Kazanp. 110
Richard LaGravanesep. 114
Peter Lefcourtp. 118
Chuck Lorrep. 124
Nat Mauldinp. 129
Peter Mehlmanp. 133
Marilyn Suzanne Millerp. 137
Daryl G. Nickensp. 143
Gail Parentp. 147
Daniel Petrie, Jr.p. 151
Anna Hamilton Phelanp. 155
Alan Platerp. 158
Carl Reinerp. 164
Del Reismanp. 168
Gary Rossp. 171
Jan Sardip. 177
Tom Schulmanp. 183
Melville Shavelsonp. 188
April Smithp. 195
Ed Solomonp. 199
Beth Sullivanp. 207
Robin Swicordp. 212
Miguel Tejada-Floresp. 215
Joan Tewkesburyp. 223
Caroline Thompsonp. 226
Peter Tolanp. 231
Michael Tolkinp. 236
Audrey Wellsp. 241
Richard Wesleyp. 246
Steven Zallianp. 249