By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"Weather-beaten cottage...?" Zimmerman couldn't have been describing Harry Preston's immaculately kept home. Did she miss the sculpted English garden that fills Preston's backyard, and the beautiful flower beds in front? The energy this trim, vigorous man in his 70s devotes to the upkeep of his home and garden, cooking for his dinner parties, physical fitness, his work, and his friends would exhaust a 30-year-old.
Admittedly, an accurate description of a modest, middle-class home would not make as vivid a read as Zimmerman's hyperbole-laced settings. Her use of words such as "dreary," "drab," and "ticky-tacky" to condemn the occupations and communities of hard-working individuals who challenge themselves to do more than sit in front of the tube after work probably won't dissuade them; but the judgmental, inaccurate descriptions she uses to write about beginning writers is unforgivably destructive.
Evidently, Zimmerman sprang from the womb possessing a wildly successful writing career and untold wealth, skipping over the usual dues-paying years of those she writes about. Or, maybe she's simply an ordinary writer without the journalistic skill and ethics to know the difference between fact and opinion.
John and Deborah Brown
I would like to point out just a few of the factual errors in the Observer article regarding Harry Preston ["Kiss and tell," June 6].
My quote, "Harry minces no words...he invites everyone and spares no one," was not in reference to his screenwriting seminars, but to his regular Friday-night sessions at his home. And if you take your writing seriously, you don't want to be spared. The quote was actually intended as a compliment to Harry's group, but certainly did not appear that way in the article.
I did not send out 80 screenplays to various agencies, but 80 query letters to determine who might actually want to review a copy of the screenplay in question.
The reason I told the "80 screenplays" anecdote to Zimmerman was not made clear. The point I was making to Zimmerman is that while Harry has never had a notable success, there are very few people trying to make it in the movie business who ever do--as my story demonstrates, it's tough to get anyone in the entertainment industry to even turn their head in your direction, much less turn your screenplay into a movie.
Finally, I restate my position, hopefully clear of Zimmerman's malicious interference: While he certainly may have his share of detractors, Harry's generosity continues to encourage many beginning screenwriters in one of the toughest industries to break into. Why didn't Zimmerman interview Eric Pruitt, a regular at Preston's Friday-night sessions, who was announced as the winner of a recent local screenwriting contest at the session she attended?
If Harry is a failure, then so are most of us.
Ann's a meanie
As I am mentioned in Ann Zimmerman's mean-spirited article on Harry Preston ["Kiss and tell," June 6], Harry sent me a copy. I read it with outraged disbelief.
I have known Harry personally and professionally for 26 years. We first met in Los Angeles when I was a reporter-critic at the Hollywood Reporter, and Harry was a writer at MGM. He has always been highly respected in the entertainment industry as a consummate professional. Harry is not the self-deluding wannabe your reporter sneeringly portrays, but has made a successful career in the film industry as a writer, director, and producer.
Your writer states that in five years as a literary agent, Harry "has yet to sell anything." This is incorrect. I am a screenwriter, and two years ago Harry represented (and advised and encouraged me) on my feminist western, "Bell And Her Boys," that he sold to Bob Banner Productions within three weeks of completion. This same script was honored just last Friday at the 1996 Hudson Valley Film Festival in New York.
I was shocked at the quotes from his students, especially Ed Brickell, whom I met when I flew in to speak at one of Harry's Friday-night workshops. It is sad that, after they have benefited from Harry's no-nonsense teaching, they now dismiss him as "a joke."
I don't think Zimmerman has any understanding of the reality of the film industry. Not everyone can be a star. It takes courage and dedication to hang on in this tough, demanding business--and a survivor like Harry is a lesson in himself.
Morna Murphy Martell
What about Ann?
I was happy to see your story about Harry Preston, who richly deserves recognition ["Kiss and tell," June 6]. I was a student two years ago. He knows his craft and knows how to inspire and help writers. I hope some day I can achieve as much as he has; he's a great guy and one of the kindest men I've ever known.