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Luckiest Motherfucker Ever

You know my feelings on luck.  I generally don’t believe in it, but Peter Steinfeld is trying to very hard challenge that disbelief.

The other day, I listened to Creative Screenwriting Magazine’s interview of Steinfeld after 21. (By the way, it’s a great podcast series, if you’re interested in writing. You can download old podcasts here, or just go to iTunes.)

Before the movie came out, I was excited about it because I like math. (I’m a nerd.)

The movie started with Kevin Spacey talking about the Monty Hall Problem, which didn’t make any sense. This was supposed to be a senior level math course at MIT, and Spacey was talking like these students had never heard of it before. I know about the Monty Hall Problem, and I went to film school, for fuck’s sake. I can barely read.

And then, he got it wrong. He, or rather, the writer, left out the most important part of the problem: the fact that Monty Hall knows which door has the goat. If he doesn’t know, it’s just a fifty-fifty chance, like Deal or No Deal.

So, you’ve got an MIT professor explaining a basic math problem to a senior class, incorrectly. The film went downhill from there.

I was so annoyed at 21 that I read the original book, Bringing Down the House, just to find out if any of this actually made sense. Turns out, the book is amazing. Besides all the nerdy math stuff, the story and the people are far more interesting. I don’t know why they changed anything.

Once I discovered Steinfeld’s interview on the Creative Screenwriting site, I had to listen to it, in the vain hope that he would explain why he took such an awesome book and crapped all over it.  Sadly, he did not feel compelled to defend himself.  But he did tell this story–

Steinfeld moved to LA a few days after the Northridge earthquake. Not knowing anyone and having no connections, he immediately got a job on a Showtime movie as Chazz Palminteri’s driver.  (This in itself is pretty lucky.)

He didn’t have a Thomas Guide and spent most of his time lost. On the last day, as he was taking Palminteri to the airport, Chazz says, “Kid, you’re the worst fucking driver I’ve had in my entire life. I hope to God you want to do something else with your life.”

Of course, he said he really wanted to be a writer. Palminteri gave him some writing advice: “Write something that people might want to see.”

“Like what?”

“What’s the oldest story in the book?”

“I dunno. The evil twin movie.”

“Great. Write the evil twin movie.”

“But I don’t want to write the evil twin movie.”

“Just do it as a writing exercise. Get it under your belt.”

A week later, Steinfeld’s out of a job and has some time on his hands, so, he takes Palminteri’s advice.

He doesn’t want to waste any time on this stupid idea, so he writes fifteen pages a day. He finished the whole script in a week.

After that, he got a job at a production company. He tells one of his coworkers that he just finished a script. His friend asks him to bring it in tomorrow (Tuesday).

Sure, why not? The friend reads it Tuesday night, and on Wednesday says he likes the script, can he show it to a producer friend?

Sure. So the guy shows it to his friend, who reads it Wednesday night. Thursday, the producer calls Steinfeld, says he likes it, can he show it to his agent at ICM?

Sure. Friday, the agent calls, asks if he can send it out to some people over the weekend?

Sure. Monday, ABC bought it.

Holy shit.

Ho.

Ly.

Shit.

I mean, seriously. Seriously? Six weeks in Los Angeles, and he’s sold his first script. Seriously.

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15 Responses

  1. To GH,
    As anonymous said, this guy might have only had four movies made in the last ten years but many writers earn their living by being hired to revise or rewrite scripts by other writers.

  2. Love poker. Andy Bloch, great poker player, is one of the card-counting MIT guys who took down Vegas. Which was why I got the book.

    I loved the book.

    When I found out there was gonna be a movie I was uber excited. When I found out Kevin Spacey was going to be in it, I was even more excited.

    But then, I saw the movie. It made me sad.

    Glad you read the book, though. You should try the Professor, The Banker and the Suicide King. You might dig it.

  3. i’ve know the ‘monty hall’ problem for years but never by that name. nice to know. it’s always struck me as funny that people don’t believe the solution. but i believe it’s simply a problem of scale. the way i eventually explained it to my family was by using 10 doors, which gets reduced down to three after you make your choice: yours, and two others, one of which the host opens. then they could easily see how it would make sense to switch.

    and ya, how sick is that story?

    and gh, i should be so lucky to have sold anything in 10 years, let alone four. that’s actually a very high rate of sales for one person.

  4. is it weird that, after reading the summary, I wanna see this twin brother movie? I’m gonna see if I can throw it on my que list.

  5. Selling a script and getting it made are two different things. There are writers who make a fine living without ever having a thing put on film.

  6. On the other hand, if you go by imdb, the guy’s sold 4 things in ten years. He might not feel so lucky….

    I myself prefer the tortoise’s method to the hare’s.

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