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Hollywood & Swine pokes fun at its writers' industry

Hollywood & Swine, a satirical news website about the film industry, is the product of two screenwriters. It's writing they prefer to do uncredited.

September 09, 2012|By John Horn, Los Angeles Times
  • Two screenwriters send up stars and studio chiefs on their satirical website Hollywood & Swine.
Two screenwriters send up stars and studio chiefs on their satirical website… (hollywoodandswine.com )

Making fun of Steven Spielberg, Ben Stiller, Tom Cruise, Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal and the president of the Writers Guild of America in mass Hollywood emails might not be the safest strategy for two screenwriters trying to get ahead in show business.

But the duo behind the recently launched blog Hollywood & Swine is giving it a shot.

Like the satirical news site the Onion, Hollywood & Swine grabs show business headlines and gives them a droll overhaul, lacing its pretend stories with made-up quotes from real industry figures.

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Among the site's recent headlines: "Paralyzed Woman Regains Use of Her Legs After 25 Years in a Wheelchair; Walks Out of 'Battleship'"; "After Seeing 'The Watch,' Make-A-Wish Kid Wishes for Ben Stiller to Stop Making Movies"; "Reese Witherspoon Offers Her Acting Services Through Groupon in Attempt to Revive Her Career"; and "MPAA Releases New Report: Nobody Has Ever Pirated an Eddie Murphy Movie."

Just 8 months old, Hollywood & Swine is quickly gaining a following among studio executives, agents, managers and publicists, who circulate the posts the way your mother-in-law distributes cute cat photos. Part of the appeal is that the stories are written with enough journalistic flourish that some readers have been fooled into thinking the articles are real.

Filmmaker and actor Edward Burns, who was recently tagged in the post "Edward Burns Reveals He's Been Secretly Writing and Directing Movies for the Past 10 Years," said several friends forwarded the article to him and he laughed.

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"It was mean-spirited, but I got a good chuckle out of it. It was very funny," said Burns, best known for directing "The Brothers McMullen" and costarring in "Saving Private Ryan." "Look, after doing this for 17 years, you better have a sense of humor about yourself and about your career."

The site burst into the town's collective consciousness this spring with a story headlined "Starbucks Bans Screenwriters From All 19,435 Locations Worldwide; Writers Guild of America Vows to Fight the Decision."

The article said the coffee company believed latte-swilling screenwriters had "a depressing and desperate air about them that spoils everyone else's experience," and said that Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz "couldn't find evidence of a good script ever having actually been written by anyone sitting in a Starbucks."

WGA West President Chris Keyser was "quoted" in the Hollywood & Swine article that he was advising his members to apply to become baristas: "Given that most screenwriters are out of work, we feel this is a win-win situation."

The article has more than 43,000 Facebook shares and was tweeted more than 4,100 times. But not every reader understood it was satire, proof that any good spoof contains more than a hint of truth.

"I feel for the writers. I am boycotting Starbucks effective immediately," said one commentator. Said another: "If they were smart business people, they would embrace the fact that they have identified such a specific niche and find ways to capitalize on it."

In an industry in which people rarely laugh at their or their company's failures and shortcomings, the two screenwriters behind the site are potentially biting the hands that feed them. In fact, they have several projects in development with executives or studios they have mocked. After multiple requests, the duo finally agreed to an in-person interview on the condition that they not be publicly identified, lest they jeopardize their business relationships.

The duo have been writing partners for several years, specializing in comedy, and have sold a number of scripts (none of which has yet to be turned into a movie). The idea for Hollywood & Swine, whose motto is "So Many Pigs … So Little Time," was hatched more out of ennui than vision.

"We were playing a lot of Words With Friends and wasting a lot of time," recalled one writer we'll call Mr. A. When he and Mr. B started joking that Sony Pictures was so in love with Adam Sandler that the studio would buy a script from the comedian's dog, their first post was born. The piece cited studio honcho Pascal as saying, "I'll buy anything from anybody who even remotely has anything to do with Adam. Later today, I'm listening to a pitch from his gardener."

At first, the screenwriters weren't sure how they would get anyone to notice what they were doing. "We had no mailing list," said Mr. A. "I just started sending it to some contacts. We had no idea if anyone was reading it. And I didn't want to tell anyone we were doing it. We didn't really have much of a plan."

The Hollywood & Swine team typically spends about three hours a day on their posts. They work on their blog in the morning, while doing their regular screenwriting in the afternoon. Ideas are rarely hard to come by. "All you have to do is turn on the 'Today' show," Mr. A said.

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