August 23, 2011

So Many Screenwriters, So Few Produced Movies: AMC's 'Malkovich's Mail'

In 2003 AMC aired, as part of a series of docs about movie production, an hourlong episode entitled "Malkovich's Mail." Screenwriters all across the country were submitting unsolicited material to Mr. Mudd, a production company John Malkovich was associated with, and the doc is a look behind the curtain at what happens to the vast majority of these submissions. The doc walks a fine line between making fun of crazy screenwriters and sentimentalizing the pursuit, but ultimately finds a way to bring the viewer (and the screenwriters portrayed) a sense of satisfaction. All five parts of the doc are embedded below. I discovered the show via the excellent Filmmaker newsletter, where editor Scott Macaulay observes better than I can:

These days, unsolicited pitches are more likely to come through email, Facebook or even Twitter rather than snail mail. But the film’s meditation on gatekeeping is even more relevant. Today, a smartly executed YouTube video will get you meetings all over Hollywood. A well-aggregated community of friends, peers and people who just think you are cool will get your film funded and seen. But still there are those who would like to believe that if only that man in the castle would read their script... As Malkovich’s Mail shows, that man in the castle has his own issues and is probably sitting by the phone right now waiting for his own call to be returned.

Here are all five parts of the show.

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[via Filmmaker Magazine]

Your Comment


I caught this when it aired. Smart show. Too bad most screenwriters and filmmakers didn't see it.
Definitely worth watching. Thanks for reminding me of it, I have a few people that should see this!

August 23, 2011 at 11:50AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I did a reading with the people at Mr. Mudd one time. They're all genuinely great people. I feel bad for these poor screenwriters though. Keep flappin those wings Pterodactyl Man!

August 23, 2011 at 2:10PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Chad Hugghins

thats Andy Richter right?

August 23, 2011 at 5:12PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I felt that it made light and at times fun of the fact that these people clearly had mental and social problems, and whilst the documentary was meant to highlight the pointlessness of cold mailing producers and directors, it also seemed irresponsible and blase'. It was nice that Malkovich fulfilled a little part of the dream that they held even if it was extremely patronising. I hope this isn't what passes for intelligent documentary making state side.

August 23, 2011 at 5:03PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Neill Jones

I think you missed a lot of nuance in this. The key is the constant emphasis on the parallels between the production company and all the outsiders: 'we're effectively outsiders ourselves' says Mr Mudd's producer. Inside these crazy-seeming ideas are kernels that resemble movies that are made - all the unforgettable blockbusters with much less polish but not much more creative integrity. The people they contacted were unaware of how their ideas come off but they were all heart-warming people without a shred of guile or entitlement. I bet there are many more who are unsavory, who have order-of-magnitude better ideas and presentations - but who would want to spend "years" in a relationship with them without guarantee of success. Most importantly, the parts that Malkovich chose to play have a poignancy that's worth playing in such a short form (and to gently lambast, yes). I found the documentary enlightening and touching, not condescending.

August 26, 2011 at 9:06PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I enjoyed it and was proud of these writers and of the cast, crew and Mudd. I do not feel there was any teasing here, I believe it was in good taste and that these screenwriters should be proud of their efforts.

August 26, 2011 at 12:11PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I felt like they effectively walked the line between portraying the screenwriters as disillusioned -- which you could argue is a requirement for many artistic pursuits -- and taking them seriously. You could certainly read it either way, which is probably a sign that they effectively found the middle ground...

August 26, 2011 at 11:07PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Ryan Koo

This is definitely worth watching. OK, it pokes fun here and there, is lighthearted and enjoyable to watch. But the real point is this: Screenplay writing is a demanding, know what the hell you are doing, exacting science. You cannot just dream and it comes to the big boys. Like trying to win the lottery - it won't happen. It takes study, study and more study to know the ropes, psychology to know audience reactions, acting experience to know how to present your story, filming experience to know how it is going to be presented on the screen. And you have to have a damn good story that will move the audience, like ET, Ben-Hur, Lord of the Rings, etc. And that is what this article was all about - crap stories don't get past the first 2 minutes, nor should they. Don't be illusioned that your great story is so great. It is not.

If it is a great story, well presented, formatted, and made for the screen, then you have to go through an exacting process to get it to the attention of the right producers. It took a year to get Schindlers List to the attention of Spielberg. And guess what, many great producers are begging for great stories. and sadly, few are to be found. This movie shows that so clearly. Good reality check.

August 30, 2011 at 12:20PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM