Garry Marshall is an entertainer, storyteller, but first and foremost a writer. I didn’t realize the extent of his talents until the day I listened to his Director’s Commentary on The Princess Diaries DVD.
Afterward, I immediately ran out and bought his first book, Wake Me When It’s Funny. A delight, with its real-world insider info on what it takes to be a successful writer … in any biz. It’s all about story … whether it’s a screenplay, a novel, or a comedy skit. [image: Wikipedia]
A few weeks ago I saw a Twitter post about Garry Marshall’s new book, My Happy Days In Hollywood. I immediately went online and ordered it, except this time I opted for the unabridged audio book version that is read by Garry Marshall himself. A real treat. It’s like sitting in a living room with Garry, while he personally tells you his story.
Garry Marshall was one of the sickly kids ever, because he was (and still is) allergic to almost everything. As a boy, his main goal was to get out of bed. But all that time in bed forced him to develop his talent for crafting stories. While all the other kids were outside playing, he’d lay in bed and made up stories to entertain himself. Scary stories made him scared, and depressing stories just made him depressed. So he quickly learned that amusing stories worked the best. He looked at life as comedy, and it stuck with him.
Garry Marshall started as a professional writer for stand-up comedians on the New York City nightclub circuit. From there he went to Hollywood, first writing for Bing Crosby, and then for television shows such as The Danny Thomas Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, The Odd Couple, Gomer Pyle, I Spy, and Love American Style. His time in the writing trenches eventually lead to producing and directing, fist television and later movies.
The Producer, Director, & Actor
Garry Marshall was the creator and producer of some of the most popular television shows from the 1970’s, including The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Mork and Mindy and Laverne & Shirley.
Today, most people know Garry Marshall for his more recent work as a director (the The Princess Diaries movies, 1 & 2) and actor. What you might not realize, is that his writing skills helped shape (and in some instances make) successes through the rewrites he contributed to a script. One of his script-transformation successes was Pretty Woman (1990).
The original screenplay was named Three Thousand, and was a dark story about a thirty-something hooker who falls in love with a wealthy businessman who leaves her, and then she kills herself. Disney execs didn’t think that story would do too well at the box office (duh), so they hired Garry Marshall to direct and “lighten the story up.” The rest is history.
I could go on and on about his other successes as a director, producer and actor, but I don’t want to ruin your experience of reading, or listening to, Garry Marshall’s My Happy Days In Hollywood. Instead, I’ll cut to the chase, with the practical lessons I learned from his autobiography. These are lessons that any writer/actor/artist can use to set their career on the success track. Because as one person so aptly stated…
Garry is allergic to everything but success.
Ten Valuable Lessons
Garry Marshall’s books offer a wealth of life experiences that writers, actors, and artists of all kinds can apply to their careers. Here are ten of my favorite:
- Go to school (take classes and seminars), learn and improve your craft.
- To succeed in Hollywood (or as a writer) you must be prepared for failure and rejection. You have to feel it’s noble to fail and learn to rationalize, because you are going to get rejected.
- Allow yourself 30 minutes a day for self-pity. Then get back to your writing.
- You’ve got to try different things (write different types of stories), hit or miss.
- Developing friendships in the industry is important. It’s not always who you know, but you never know when it will help. Besides, it makes everything so much more fun.
- Pain + time = humor
- The key to directing (or writing) is don’t take it too seriously.
- Life is more important than show business (writing).
- Spend your money going to film festivals (writing conferences). You might meet someone who will further your career.
- The real power in Hollywood (publishing industry) is to have passion for your project. That passion radiates and convinces others to believe in it (and you!) too.
The Purpose of Our Craft
Garry Marshall said he wants to be remembered
“for making films that make you feel good … even if you don’t want to.”
How about you?
How do you want to be remembered as a writer?