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Lights, camera, keyboard

Before he wrote the script for the James Bond movie GoldenEye in 1994, Michael France went to Russia, where he was escorted to mob-owned casinos, military airbases and the KGB headquarters.

“I basically became Bond,” France said. “I went to the real KGB headquarters, which is right next to a Moscow version of a department store, and I went all over that department store with a video camera,” France said.

For other screenplays, such as The Fantastic Four and The Hulk, France read nearly the entire comic book series.

France, who describes himself as a “huge comic geek,” was escorted by journalism professor Rick Wilber to the CIS building on Wednesday to answer questions about the trials and tribulations of screenwriting.

“Every word you see spoken in a movie, somebody like Michael France wrote those words that created that story,” Wilber said.

France attended the University of Florida, where he earned his degree in English. He then went to Columbia University to become a screenwriter; a few years later he dropped out and moved to Los Angeles.

After five years of working as a script reader, where he rooted through numerous scripts for a production company, France wrote the screenplay for the movie CliffHanger. France said he was surprised his movie sold so fast, especially since it was written for an extremely high-budget production.

“I sold that screenplay Labor Day of ’91, and it was in production within six weeks,” France said.But according to France, some movie deals can take much longer.

Some of them – such as his screenplay for The Fantastic Four – took nearly nine years to become a film. At one point, he said, a film producer dropped his story and went on to complete the movie Step Mom instead.

Approximately half of the scripts he sells to production companies will be made into a movie, France said.

To sell a script, France said he will spend 15 minutes pitching his movie script in front of film producers and executives. France said about 20 percent of his scripts sell.

“He helped to remove the glitter and took the allure out of the business of screenwriting to show us that it is a real business where people make their living and it has its own share of pros and cons,” mass communications major Matt Townsend said. “It was valuable to get advice from another Florida native about breaking into an industry that seems kind of far away.”

After France became an established screenwriter in 1994, he moved back to Florida, returning to L.A. roughly three times a year.

France also wrote The Punisher and said most of his business deals were worked out over the phone. France didn’t even attend the shooting when it was in Tampa, which he sarcastically said was about a bike ride away from his house.