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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.


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.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

It Doesn't Suck!

Hey, how's that for a review? Make a great copy line for the poster someday, too, woudn't it?

Well, the good news is, for those of you who haven't been following, the script I just wrote in three weeks, which is a rough draft, really doesn't suck, which is kind of surprising! I've taken longer and come out with real disapointments. Other times I've taken even longer and after a very intensive brutalizing of myslef, have come out with pieces I've love. But the short race to the finish and a good product is unusual and amazing.

So now I'm polishing, and trying to stay at a good clip as well, for it's easy to fall into detail re-write loop hell easily, and stay there for the rest of the year. But I find myself getting pulled into too many details - and literally have to detach.

You know the saying "analysis is paralysis"? There's something to that in artistic work - you have to trust your gut on a lot of this, and not work your story to death in the details. This, alas, is exactly what Hollywood Development does. They kill flow. You have to try and resuscitate your draft with the electric paddles every time you get notes.

But when you're writing an original, we all have to ride that very difficult line of being oh too precious about our work, while also not being so stupid as to cut the good stuff to keep the page count down. Stay with the flow, stay with the energy, trim the excess.

So, how does one ride that edge?

Unfortunately, for those of you who haven't done it enough to know, there is no formula for that one. That's why re-write and polish people at the top levels really get top dollars. Because they can bring an element of effortless poetry to a rushed and sometimes heavy handed industry of story telling.

What I've learned, after all this time, is two things:

1) After months (years for some?) of intensive work, when you really do polish a cut diamond from a mound of clay you've blasted out, it's a tremendous feeling. It's easy to also own the process, in the sense of establishing yourself in your own mind as a genius. Until you start writing the next piece and discover you're back at square one, clay level zero, and how the hell do you write again? It's dispiriting, and depressing, doubt generating and awful. And what's amazing is, it's non-time dependent. You can write for one year, or twenty, and still feel this way every time you start a project. (A friend of mine, an academy award winner, was sharing with me the suffering he was going through on a project over the summer) The saving grace of time, is that if you've done it a few times, you just know that you can do it.

2) If you have taken into your own identity your brilliance, you have to take in your dimness as well, that is when you're a solid block of cement and consider yourself a failure on those days. That's a real drag - and if the bad days stretch for months, they can become years - it's a self fulfilling prophecy for some.

But if you realize that you have fashioned yourself into a lens, one that lets through the brilliance of the creative source from somewhere other than you, then it becomes your job to fashion what comes through. You don't take in the judgement of being in flow, or lack of flow. You just sit in your chair as long as it takes to get the job done, try to get out of the way as much as possible, and let the brilliance come through. Then you can know it will get done, as that inspirational source that comes from beyond is always there, always brilliant, timeless and unending.


I sit, and apply my lens to the work, and try to let the inspiration flow through me and tighten, polish, tighten, hone.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Finished the Rough First

Been absent from blogging as I dove head first into this first draft. Just finished my first rough first pass and wrote THE END. It was quite a rush, and unbelievably difficult to pull off. I went with imperfect scenes, unpolished narrative, some flat dialogue (and some really good) but kept the flow going, and structurally feels like everything is in the right place. Haven't written a script this quickly in a very long time, probably 15 years.

Now I have to get some sleep and when I wake up, see if the durned thing makes any sense.

Wouldn't it be cool if it did?