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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.

Friday, February 17, 2006


I remember watching a documentary on Picasso. It was done late in his life and an aspect was watching him work. The filmaker showed him working on his ceramics and canvases. I'm not sure how they got the effect, but you got to see his canvas come to life stroke by stroke, evolve and change - without him painting over it. What stays with me to this day is his creation of a horse. You watched (in a sped up fashion) how this brilliant painting of a horse came together. It was stunning, incredibly life like. And then when you thought it was done a huge brown streak covered up the center, then the left, then a smear of red came down over that and a new block shaped eye appeared, then a new crooked nose painted over the first, and you realized the first picture was just an aspect of his process, something he needed to get out so he could then deconstruct it and paint the REAL horse. The finished horse was of course, a Picasso. stunning, disturbing, powerful, and very unlike the original.

My first reaction of course - "he ruined that beautiful horse!" But the horse that came after was bolder, more powerful, unique, amazing. Believe me, you forgot the first one.

To be that fearless in your work is crucial. It doesn't matter if you work in paint, clay or print. Build your house, then tear it down now that you've discovered exactly how your house should look, as opposed to the way it does look.

Writing is a living process. As much as you outline and plan ahead, your work comes to life under your fingers. And like any living thing it will beging to form its own energy and make its own demands. And it's crucial that you listen to it as much as it needs to listen to you. I call it wrestling the bear. Because hopefully your work will feel that full of life.

I have just discovered, after months of work on my script, that my villain is the wrong guy. He's a good character, but he's actually not the villain because this other guy in the story should be. It was an epiphany. One that improves the script greatly, and I now have to attend to that immediately and follow that energy.

But rather than kick myself, or cry out into the night in agony at the thought of another climb up the writing mountain, like Syssyphus, I merely think of Picasso and that paint brush stroke defiantly drawn straight down his canvas burying his first picture, driven to do it, happy to do it, as the true picture had just been revealed to him and now he merely had to paint it.


Blogger DDog said...

I'm with you on this one, Phillip. I wrote the "perfect" script over a year back. At the time, and much to my naivety, this was THE SCRIPT -- great characters, eye-popping, engaging set pieces, and the regular twists and turns you would expect from the genre.

Of course, last month, I discovered that the road previously traveled culminated to a complete and utter shite experience.

So far, my new take on the concept (i.e., giving the villain a more prominent role) helped expand upon the story as a whole, thus raising the stakes for the protag.

Hey, diggin' the Picasso analogy.

Best of luck with your script!

Saturday, February 18, 2006  
Blogger Eleanor said...

"Wrestling the bear". What a great image.
Feels right, too.

Inspiring post.
I need to get back to my rewrite. :-)

Saturday, February 18, 2006  
Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

Brilliant analogy, especially for those of us who still paint by number. Reminds me of a woman who said a real seamstress is the one who frequently rips out her own stitches!

Saturday, February 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really fantastic. Thank you.

Saturday, February 18, 2006  
Blogger Bill Cunningham said...

I am going through something similar myself. I, being my harshest critic, always slap the forehead and go, "Why didn't I think of that before?! It's so obvious!"

Saturday, February 18, 2006  
Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

I retired from teaching playwriting over ten years ago, but I wish I been able to refer my students to something like this blog at the time. Nice work, discovery is what it's all about.

Monday, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

three score: thanks so much, high praise indeed.

Monday, February 20, 2006  

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