Thursday, March 18, 2010

Naughty Notes

When you finish a script, it's like giving birth. You're exhausted, mentally and physically, but your mind is still racing. What could be improved? What could be tossed? And of course, like any proud parent, you want to show your kid off.

I've sent my newest spec off to some fellow writers for their thoughts and comments, and I was encouraged by the early feedback. That is, I was until someone whose opinion I value told me what he didn't like about this draft. I know it has some issues, but I really didn't think it was that bad, and I still don't.

Now in the old days, I would've been crushed. When my seventh grade teacher refused to be my writing sponsor in a contest because he wouldn't believe that I'd written the short story I wanted to enter without any help, I was so devastated that I didn't write for a couple of years afterwards.

As I matured and grew as a writer, I developed a thicker skin, honed my ability to self-edit, and learned to trust my instincts and creativity. But it still hurts to be rejected, and it hurts to be told your baby is butt ugly.

One of my early attempts at screenwriting was a very down and dirty thriller set in the Florida Everglades I wrote in a burst in a week. However, the people in the writing workshop I was in at the time didn't like it and savaged it. I really took their comments to heart; in hindsight, probably too much. But what did I know? I was a virgin. I began a furious rewrite according to their notes and wrote all the heart and passion out of it. I was never able to capture that passion, not for that script. But it's funny that I've since seen the same plotline that I used, or variations of it, in subsequent films. Either I was ahead of my time or there were a lot of clueless assholes in that workshop.

Flash forward a couple of years, and I had myself some managers. They had notes on my scripts. A year, a year and a half later, I'm still rewriting my scripts. One draft would please one manager, but not the other. I was becoming increasingly frustrated and unhappy with my writing. Worst of all, I began to doubt myself creatively. If I couldn't please myself, how could I please anyone else? I mean, how bad a writer could I be, the script that Showtime had bought was virtually a first draft! While I wrote it, I didn't have a manager or an agent or a workshop to tell me where I'd gone wrong. I relied on myself, my voice and my faith.

So now when it comes to notes, I'm much more laid back. I'll digest them, absorb them, discard what doesn't reasonate with me, absorb what does and reinterpret them in a way that speaks to me emotionally. I'm not interested in hearing how other people would do it. I'm not other people. The only thing I have that sets me apart is my voice, my style. If I lose my spark, my individuality, my faith, then I might as well stop writing because I'm just regurgitating what other people think or feel.

In other words, if I can't do it my way, I'll get off the highway and take the back road. It might take me longer, but I'll get there.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Yes, it's the return in more ways than one.

Since November I've been working on one script, and one script only, and this week I typed FADE OUT on the first draft. I wrote it through trauma, drama, the full time job, the holidays, you name it. A thousand times I wanted to chuck the whole fucking thing, but I persisted. This script, these characters, got into my blood as none before. I had to finish it, do or die.

When I wrote the final scene, I'm not ashamed to say I cried. First, because I was mentally and physically exhausted. Second, because of what I put through my characters through. I didn't shy away from doing "bad things to good people", my bugaboo from an earlier script that I had attempted and had to put aside after four different drafts because I couldn't pull the plug. This time, I went balls to the wall, and I did it with a grittiness and sense of purpose that I didn't know I had.

I've come to the point in my life and writing that I could easily just write the sweet stuff, and just coast by. In this script I decided to challenge myself and swing high, and those goals were met. Anything else would be gravy on top of mashed potatoes.

But of course, writing the first draft, it's just the beginning. Seconds after I typed the last scene, I began to think how it could be improved because no draft is ever perfect. Rewriting and all that jazz. I'm not going to show this script to any agent, manager, prodco until it is pitch perfect. I don't care how long it takes.

In the meantime, waiting on some other possible good things, looks like the script that is in at Hallmark is getting some juice due to the success of CRAZY HEART. I'm reminded once again that it's indeed, a wild and crazy world, and the longer we hang on for the ride, the sweeter it is.