Screenwriter Sam “Batman” Hamm talks on genre writing
Screenwriter Sam Hamm during his speech in Coppola Theatre, located in the Fine Arts Building, Thursday, Feb. 20. Hamm is the second of three guest speakers featured in a screenwriting series hosted by Assistant Cinema Professor Julian Hoxter. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
Genre screenwriter Sam Hamm might not want to be a one-hit wonder with his films, but when given the other choice, he said he’ll take what he can get.
“I always resented being known as Sam ‘Batman’ Hamm, until I became known as Sam ‘Monkeybone’ Hamm,” the screenwriter and producer jokingly told students during his talk on genre screenwriting Thursday, Feb. 20, at Coppola Theater.
Hamm is best known for writing the screenplays for Tim Burton’s “Batman” and “Batman Returns.” Hamm has also produced films such as the 1994 sci-fi TV series “M.A.N.T.I.S.” and the 2001 comedy “Monkeybone,” starring Brendan Fraser.
Hamm was the second featured guest in the cinema department’s speaker series on screenwriting, hosted by Julian Hoxter, cinema assistant professor. Screenwriter Michael Grais, known for “Poltergeist,” first spoke at the theatre Feb. 13.
During his talk to the group of about 25 students, Hamm showcased his sarcastic and engaging humor by first saying, “I love to advise the little bastards who will be taking jobs away from me (in the future).” A Q&A with students followed Hamm’s talk.
Hamm discussed the beginnings of genre screenwriting by providing his account of its evolution, stating that Hollywood used to look down on the genre film. Now, Hamm said, it is much more prominent than a ‘straight’ film, otherwise known as a basic film without a set category.
“If there was a battle between genre and ‘straight’ pictures, genre has won,” he said.
Hamm told the audience that there are many benefits to writing a genre film, such as the ability to fuse tradition with new perspectives. He added that studios are now paying attention to these films because they realize that this is where the revenue is coming from.
The screenwriter also told humorous tales of his days working on films like “Never Cry Wolf,” which was his first film, “Batman” and “Monkeybone.” Hamm let it be known that “Batman” would have been a better film if it had included more of his original writing.
“My dog agrees with me when I explain it to him every night,” Hamm joked.
He warned students that accepting that changes will be made to their screenplays comes with the profession and that they should have fun while they can with their original work.
“When you’re writing the first draft, it’s the most pleasure you’re going to have,” Hamm said.
Ryan Cho, a sophomore and cinema major, said he found Hamm’s insight to be informative and inspiring.
“I came here to learn about screenwriting and the movie business and I got a lot out of it,” Cho said. “He’s really interesting and a good talker, I really enjoyed it.”
Hoxter ended the talk and Q&A session with a reminder to students of the final featured guest in the series, screenwriter Pamela Gray.
“It will be different, but equally interesting,” Hoxter said.
Gray will discuss the female-centered screenplay Thursday, Mar. 6 at Coppola Theatre from 5:10-7:55 p.m.