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On 'Edge'

July 25, 1987

Granted, a professor awarding a C+ to a first-rate script like Neal Jimenez's "River's Edge," and then advising him to consign it to a drawer, makes for a far sexier tale than what actually happened. And I know a little bit about what happened, as Neal wrote "River's Edge" in my UCLA class not too many years ago. And what actually happened is quite precisely the opposite of what Jack Mathews reported ("The Upstream Struggle for 'River's Edge,' " July 16).

As Neal has frequently and generously volunteered in articles and interviews, his first draft contained 20 great pages followed by perhaps 90 that were not-so-great. Scolding him for shortchanging his talent and his discipline, I ordered him to choose between, indeed, a C+ or a grade of Incomplete, the latter requiring him to improve and finish the screenplay in the subsequent academic quarter.

I can't imagine he'd mind if I violate our privileged relationship as student/teacher and reveal that the grade he ultimately received was not a C+ but A+. Moreover, instead of advising him to consign "River's Edge" (then called simply "The River") to a drawer, I phoned agents and producers all over town, as I commonly do when I read worthy material, recommending the script to anybody who'd listen.

Beyond that, I helped arrange a live, staged reading of the script here on campus by a company of professional actors--moderated by no less than Oliver Stone--before an audience of invited industry folk, among them Midge Sanford and Sarah Pillsbury, the film's eventual producers.

RICHARD WALTER

Screenwriting Faculty Chairman

UCLA

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