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ScreenwriterBones

Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.

Name:

I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Fix

Part of the job of the screenwriter on assignment, whether it be the re-write, the adaptation, or the production re-write, is THE FIX.

In terms of the adaptation, it's pulling out the essence of the original, while making it screen worthy. This usually implies a different version of the story with possibly different characters than the original, yet at the same time completely independent and alive.

The re-write is usually addressing specific concerns of the studio/producers because something just isn't right about the current draft. It was good enough to sell, or even get to pre-production, but the feeling is it's somehow lacking and what can you do to fix it?

The production re-write addresses these concerns as well, but in an extremely condensed time frame - like time from the pitch of your "fix" to your completed draft that everyone is expecting to be the GO script, needs to be three to four weeks.

That's why all the books on writing, teachers of writing and working writers you run into will tell you the same thing. That writing, in the end, comes down to one thing. Writing. Sit in your room and write, every day. Build that muscle. So that when you need it, you don't have to be the skinny kid in the gym required to lift the 300 pound barbell and you won't be able to. You want to be the guy in great shape who doesn't have to worry if he CAN lift, he knows he can lift it, so his only concern will by the type of lifts and how many sets of repetitions.

You must create a mechanism within yourself that is used to writing, is in flow with writing and has stamina for writing so that you don't really have to THINK about the writing. You can then get out of the way and let the writing happen to you. Sure you may have to sit at your desk and slog away for six hours, but that seventh hour may deliver to you the grace you were waiting for and true inspiration channels through.

That's when you can place yourself in your story, be your characters and let them flow through you. That is how you bring inspiration to the page with no time available, how you bring light into the darkness when it seems like there is no time. Because you have opened within you a timeless space.

10 Comments:

Blogger The Moviequill said...

I will enjoy finally being able to write for a full uninterrupted day, hopefully on assignment or some sort of promise of monetary return. Right now I have the dreaded 'day job' to pay the bills but when I do sit down to write I am easily transported into the story and I flow like a river. I have the energy and the commitment, but just not the time. I am on the upswing of the curve but I can see myself on the other side doing this full time.

Thursday, July 14, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

That's very exciting just to have that flow. For years before my career started, I had to take a word processing job at a law firm, before I had my first big sales, and I wrote after hours, before hours, in the cracks. You do whatever you can do. On that job, over two years, I wound up writing two scripts both of which sold. And that was in LA, before that in NY I had similar jobs and wrote a script which didn't sell. As the Rollng Stone said, we rarely get the situations we want in life, but you get the ones you need - particularly if you bring the right attitude. What astounds me is when people use "imperfect" situations as an excuse not to do what they want in life. They feel that unless the situation is exactly what they want in their mind's eye, they just can't be expected to deliver. Formula for failure. Sounds like you're doing the job, and walking the walk!

Thursday, July 14, 2005  
Blogger The Moviequill said...

If I can get promising constructive feedback and an actual pay check for writing (contests included) than I can force myself to concentrate on it full time. I can smell it but not taste it yet

Thursday, July 14, 2005  
Blogger TN_Dreamer said...

Philip Morton said...

"What astounds me is when people use "imperfect" situations as an excuse not to do what they want in life."

I think that should be "...to do exactly what they're willing to do in life...nothing. If you don't write, you're not a writer. Period."

Friday, July 15, 2005  
Blogger The Awful Writer said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Friday, July 15, 2005  
Blogger The Awful Writer said...

"What astounds me is when people use "imperfect" situations as an excuse not to do what they want in life."

This exactly describes my ex-wife the perpetually aspiring writer who hasn't completed a single story she's ever started because she just can't find the time.

I have to admit that the *real* reasons I'm taking up screenwriting is not the challenge or the money or fame or chance to hang out with celebrity that success might bring nor is it an unquenchable need to write. It's so I can thumb my nose at her when I complete my first screenplay and say "nyah nyah". :-)

Friday, July 15, 2005  
Blogger John Donald Carlucci said...

"It's so I can thumb my nose at her when I complete my first screenplay and say "nyah nyah."

That is the exact reason I took up writing also! Small world.

JDC

Friday, July 15, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

"Write so you can say Nyah Nyah" really should be the next "how-to" write screenplays book.

Saturday, July 16, 2005  
Blogger Jessica said...

Have you ever read Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi? He tries to figure out what makes artists and others reach that "ecstatic state" where things just, well... flow.

This is what he comes up with:
* a sense of control and competence
* a challenge that requires an appropriate level of skill
* clear goals and feedback
* a focus on the immediate experience

Disclaimer: I haven't read the book firsthand, but I like to talk to about it. I ripped off the 4 qualities verbatim from Reading Don't Fix No Chevy's.

Saturday, July 16, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Jessica, interesting, no I haven't read either book, but of course the list from "Flow" could also define rock climbing, which also gets you into a zen blissful state as well. I'm guessing that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is an intellectual trying to understand a meditative process from the outside in, otherwise he wouldn't have had to make that list. Having been in it, I'll give you a much simpler answer. You sit in one place and work your ass off for a long time, until you are able to literally "get out of the way" of yourself, and let something else come through - it's still you - but it's also like you're channeling the universe down through you as well, onto the page. That "expanded" feeling is the ecstatic feeling he's talking about, because you feel a deep connectedness to all things, specifically every character and location in your story, as if you are the story. But you may also feel like you understand every person on the Earth, as you're inside your characters working out - and when you're done, returning to the real world is a little odd, and your friends and loved ones will notice you haven't quite "come back". And that experience is right here, for anyone, if they just keep doing their work. That's the beautiful thing.

Saturday, July 16, 2005  

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