It occurs to me that in order to TRUE-ly honor and obey the creator (no…not God. No…not James T. Kirk. The Wheaton!), in order to emulate him, as we all (those of us in the blogshpere, at least) should, I should, from time to time, post some commentary about the screewriting craft and about my (mis)adventures in the screen trade. I should also try to, eek, out, a, few, more, commas, in my, senten,ces. Ah..! , , , , , There…
Now, some of you out there might be tempted to make some smart-assed comment like Hey! Bill’s recycling content in the form of a posting he made on a message board on another site. To these few, I would say, with all due respect, “Shut up!”
Seriously, I got done posting it and thought, Wow, it ain’t pretty, but it pretty much sums up where I am at right now with respect to my craft. WWWD? (“What Would Wil Do?)
Obvious. He’d post the thing. F*ck yeah!
Wil Wheaton sez*: Bill’s da bomb! His commentary on the film industry is profound, inspiring, and sexy!
Did he say “sexy”? Wheaton, you’re a married man. And I like chicks. Get a grip, man!
On May 16, Daniel Calvisi asked:
So, to throw out a question just in case you have a minute to discuss craft:
What’s one or two key things you learned from seeing your script produced that you know will strengthen your future writing?
During my recent hermit phase, I’ve had a lot of time to contemplate this question. I wanted to come up with something big and earth shattering. Mostly, though, my head was still so cloudy, and the mere thought of putting something down on “paper” churned my stomach. And though I’ve longed to plug back into the collective, all I could do (as I’ve done in many other compartments of my life in recent months) is to keep my damned plug to myself for awhile…get my self back.
Anyway…that’s not the important thing. What IS important is Daniel’s very good question, and I aim to FINALLY answer it. ‘Cause I realized that, though answering it “big and earth shattering” is fallacy, I have landed on something recently that may be of worth. …And I am interested in the opinions of others like Robert and Mark, et al., who’ve had–if not their BIG break–they’re first break (because there’s a difference).
So…what I learned, Daniel, is this: I learned that my life is not much different than it was before. I learned that it’s still hard–not just businesswise, but creativewise.
For years, in spite of honestly knowing better, I allowed myself to believe that my movie career would parallel that of Kermit and Fozzy. I’d show in in Orson Wells’s office, he’d see my obvious talent, and I’d put my John Hancock on the “Standard Rich and Famous Contract”. After that, there’d be a big musical number. We’d dance around and sing, and suddenly I’d be brilliant forevermore. And this whole writing thing would come a lot easier.
If anything, I find the opposite is true. Post-RUNAWAY, I find writing is harder. I find I must be far more diligent about it because there are more distractions than ever to keep me away from writing.
And the most insidious distraction to date? Worrying about my so-called “screenwriting career.” Worrying about getting an agent. Worrying about what am I going to sell next…not WRITE next, sell. And having that override what, in my heart-of-hearts, I know I SHOULD be writing.
Okay…now I am NOT trying to sound all whiny. AND I am thankful and FULLY aware how fortunate I am to have made it this far. My point is, however, that at least for me, my screenwriting career so far resembles that of Gonzo the Great (“We’re going to Bombay, India to make it big in the movies!” “You don’t go to Bombay, India to make it big in the movies. You go where we’re going…Hollywood!” “Sure…if you want to do it the EASY way.”) than Kermit and Fozzy. And I think most writing careers–most MOVIE careers–are like that.
It’s not movies, but I remember watching Shelby Lynne win her Grammy for best new artist a few years back. She mused about being an “overnight success” tem years in the making. I think that’s the way it works. And at this point–where I am right now–you’re still slugging away in AA or AAA ball. And you need to keep doing that every day because slugging away every day is what a career–not just a break–is made of.
That first sale doesn’t represent the end of the continuum. It represents the beginning. And once you truly begin, it requires a much greater investment in terms of patience and discipline than ever before. Because people ARE taking your calls, people ARE interested in you, but they’re not quite ready to sign on the dotted line just yet. And it’s then you realize that you need to KEEP dazzling people. But how?
Well, that’s the trick, isn’t it? Because the answer is, “with YOU.” You need to figure out how to bracket the business of screenwriting with that creative space–the artist in you. Because THAT’S what people are interested in…the product of your creative wanking and your ability to put it together in some cohesive manner as a result of your mastery of this screenwriting craft.
And you better figure out how to balance those two. And you REALLY better figure out how to protect your creative time and space.
And you better just keep the hell writing.
So…Daniel. Here’s what I’ve learned. I’ve learned that my first break isn’t my BIG break. That’s still (cross your fingers) coming. And on the business side, I gotta keep writing and I gotta keep wowing folks because, though they’re intrigued, they’re not ready to back the truck up to my bank yet.
I’ve learned that, as much fun as it is to be a produced screenwriter with a well-received movie, it doesn’t get that next screenplay written. AND neither does worrying about the next phase in my so-called career. Every time I do that, the ideas that fly out of my mouth are absolute shit. Pablum.
So…what I need to do is stop worrying about it. I need, just like I did when it all began, to put all that aside and just let myself flow. And then I need to write. Every day.
There’s plenty of time for hustle later.
The magic is there’s no magic. I still get up every day. I still need to get my kids off to school. I still fret about money. I still struggle to get my dishes done. And I still need to write like I always did.
THAT is what strengthens my writing. That and now that I’ve seen a movie made outta my own script, I see how to better structure the thing in a more “cinematic” sense. But I can’t write a lot about that ’cause it’s something you just get when you see it happen.
All that said…yes! It will be kick ass to be in Toronto with my movie, thankyouverymuch.
*Okay…Wheaton didn’t really say this. It’s all in fun, Wil. It’s all those damned monkeys tapping. Please don’t sue me.