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In the spring of 2016, I was hired by the Weinstein Company to tackle what was essentially a rewrite for a Chinese language animated film. Originally produced by Alibaba Pictures and released in China the previous year, Weinstein purchased the film’s remaining distribution rights, and then set out to re-release the movie in English-speaking regions.

Here is the original poster for the Chinese version of the film.

"Little Door Gods"

I’ve done a few of these no-credit rewrites/passes, which basically means that, even though my work on a project can sometimes be quite extensive, my contract stipulates that I won’t receive a writing credit on the project. In lieu of said credit, I get a nice check. It’s a fair deal.

Of course, not all rewrites require heavy lifting, but this project in particular was absolutely insane. Allow me to explain….

Originally released as Little Door Gods, this two-hour animated movie had already been produced and distributed throughout China when I was approached to tackle the English version rewrite. But just because the movie had already been made didn’t mean it had a viable working script. Not only was the script I received not properly formatted for screenplays, but most of its dialogue was little more than poorly translated English that had been used for the film’s subtitles.

Once I got the job, a handful of goals were presented to me. First, they wanted the new dialogue to be funny and relevant to an English-speaking audience. Next, they weren’t reanimating or re-editing the film, which meant that what was on the screen visually couldn’t be changed. (Although, in the end, they did cut entire scenes out of the original version to shave down the film’s runtime.) They also hoped to strip out as much of the story’s Chinese spirituality/mythology as possible. (Keep in mind this is a story about two Chinese brothers… who also happen to be gods, hence the title.) And finally, since they weren’t reanimating any of the scenes, they hoped the new English dialogue would match the characters’ Chinese-speaking lips.

The deadline for the entire project was two weeks.

In those two weeks, I wrote an entirely new script from scratch, as the script I had received and was supposed to use as a skeleton proved to be mostly useless. Over fourteen days, I watched the Chinese version of the film over and over again, all while writing an updated English version of the script. Scenes with little or no dialogue were great, as I could write whatever dialogue I wanted (so long as a character’s mouth was off-screen or turned away from the camera). However, each time a character visibly opened their mouth onscreen, I would have to write (and many times rewrite and rewrite and rewrite) a new line of dialogue that was appropriate, funny, and fit into the character’s already animated mouth. During this process, I bet I listened to each individual line of dialogue more than a dozen times as I attempted to get each one just right.

In the end, miraculously, I got it done on time. Honestly, I don’t know how that happened, but it did. I cashed my check and moved on to the next project, not thinking too much about it until just recently when a quick Google search for the working English title—The Guardian Brothers—pulled up this result.

The Guardian Brothers was released on Netflix in early September. I had no idea.

"The Guardian Brothers" not written by me.

I have to admit, in light of recent events involving Harvey Weinstein (and almost every other man in Hollywood, apparently), I held off on sharing this bit of news. And, at least to date, I have yet to watch the film. But regardless of how it turned out (or what’s currently happening in the news), it was still an awesome opportunity that—while admittedly exhausting and grueling—I am incredibly appreciative of having been given.

Of course, writing dialogue for talent like Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Edward Norton, Mel Brooks, Dan Fogler, Mike Birbiglia, and Bella Thorne is cool, too.

Not sure when I’ll get around to watching it, but if you’re interested and get the chance please let me know what you thought. I hope you enjoy it. And if not, eh… you won’t find my name anywhere on it, so what do I care?

Credits don’t pay no bills,

-Shady

Nine (The Weinstein Company)

1. “Nine” is based on Arthur Kopit’s book for the 1982 Tony Award-winning musical of the same name, which was derived from an Italian play by Mario Fratti inspired by Federico Fellini’s autobiographical film “8½.” You follow that? It started as a film, was then made into a play, was then turned into a musical, then became a book, and is now back to being a film. Further proof that no original ideas exist in Hollywood.

2. The music is awful. The people I saw the movie with said I was biased because I don’t like musicals. This simply isn’t true. (One of my top-ten favorite movies ever is a musical: “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”) I just don’t like bad musicals, and this is a bad musical. The lyrics are so bland, so literal that they felt as if they were written either by a middle schooler or Lenny Kravitz. There’s nothing catchy about the music, nothing interest… it just sits there like a loud, obnoxious family member yelling at a television. In musicals, the songs are supposed to move the story along, not explain what just happened, what is happening, or what is about to happen. If you’re looking for a really annoying comedy album, pick up the soundtrack for “Nine.”

3. Sophia Loren (who plays a ghost of the dead mother of Daniel Day-Lewis’ character, Guido Contini) has had so much plastic surgery done that she now looks like Merman.

I swear, every time she popped up on screen I was waiting for Beast Man and Trap-Jaw to follow behind her.

4. I love Daniel Day-Lewis and think he’s one of the best in the business, which is why it made me so sad to sit and watch him die slowly right before my eyes for two hours. I get it, Daniel, this one is for the ladies (and the gay guys), but what about your hetero male audience?!? Can you make, like, I don’t know… a sequel to “There Will Be Blood” to make up for this? “There Will Be More Blood” or something?

5. Through all my years, I’ve only walked out of a movie once: In 1994, about twenty minutes into the turdfest that is “The Flintstones,” I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore and left. Now, I didn’t leave during “Nine” (I couldn’t because I had come with three other people who were enjoying the movie), but let me say this: I would rather buy “The Flintstones” on DVD and watch it once a week for the rest of my life than watch “Nine” one more time. I know it’s in my nature to be over the top here on “The Blarg,” but believe me that it is without a hint of exaggeration when I say that this is easily the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Period.

So unbelievably awful,

-Shady

Old Poop!