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Screenwriter’s propaganda part 2

I should qualify that I want to tell a damn story well. I left the ‘well’ out in last post, but it’s important to acknowledge that it’s an on-going process that must include an audience.

Some declarations before I continue: The increased amount of scripts, screenwriters and films was a natural consequence of Modernization. One major offense of modernization was that the demand for quantity overtook the confidence in and the desire for quality. These are self perpetuating problems and we cannot rely on the Machinery of films (studios, distributors, agencies, etc) or audiences to do anything to correct.

When I think about these things, it seems pretty overwhelming. If I begin loathing my audience it’s going to come through in the writing and will only damage the story. Who the fuck needs that static? All I can really do is to turn it around and let it drive the desire to improve my own writing. But maybe I can channel it to improve all fellow screenwriters. Improve every damn script. Improve the machinery. Improve the audience. Otherwise my stories may eventually have nowhere to go.

That’s why I’m hung up on this idea of the Revolution– because I feel so small against all of it. I don’t even know if I am improving myself, how can I possibly do anything else? Got no agent. Don’t live in LA. I have no names to drop or major studio pitch horror stories. I can’t get past the first round of Nicholl. I feel completely without means sometimes. But I’m not alone. I’ve got the blogs, the Scribosphere. I’m lucky to have an online workshop with some incredibly smart and brilliant writers. And I’ve got the great writing that does make it to theaters and into my head and makes my skull just explode. Those things are a big enough part of me that I can’t just cut them loose. So nevertheless, I’m in it. I fight.

Little fish that I am, I can’t get the image of a Guerrilla war out of my head. Small groups of revolutionaries fighting a larger, less mobile, formal establishment. (Maybe I’ve just been reading too much Strike coverage.) The establishment here being the dumbing down, the decay, the quantity over quality. But the Internet, my single greatest resource, is pooled intelligence, communication and comradery. What other resources does a guerrilla need?

Web-savy writers are already starting to use this stuff. Anybody who wants to be a writer *needs* to be using it. There are a ton of forums. Communities like Zoetrope and Triggerstreet give fledgling scribes somewhere to start looking for feedback. The Scribomatic is aggregating all kinds of insightful blogs now. Who knows how many little private workshop groups are online? It’s the perfect staging ground and the knowledge and information is getting out there.

So what’s missing? From my own experience I feel like there’s a shitload of stuff available with which to educate yourself. You don’t have to drop ungodly hordes of money for school or coverage or script services. The dumbing down is more than an absence of information, it’s also a lack of work ethic- the lack of craftsmanship. There is a thought that revolutions demand bloodshed and I think that’s what writing demands- blood on the page. Effort is going back and drafting the spec again and again and again. You sweat. Killing your babies, cutting a great line of dialogue or whole characters, making it perfect– That’s blood. And it’s the only way to get the story to the next level. And you gotta do this over and over and over again.

Writing well is difficult and the word ‘work’ doesn’t cut it. Everyone who sits down to write a story *thinks* they’re putting work into it. You gotta call it blood. My scripts need blood. Maybe I need to put a little more blood in my blog.

4 Comments

  • nicolle on Feb 02, 2008

    Thanks much! The blog is a reflection of my traitorous attention span as I’m always trying to DO something, though often off-topic and distracted, but the idea of more readers helps me think of it as time management gauge.

  • Ryan R. on Feb 02, 2008

    Thanks for cutting through the idea that work is the writer’s skin, mere layers covering our surface, and drawing attention to what gives a writer’s heartbeat purpose; ultimate sacrifice.

    I don’t know wtf I just said, but as writers we draw out bad blood, as sweet as it is, in order to present the heart with clarity.

    I don’t know wtf I just meant by THAT either but, yeah, sacrifice those darlings as if they were petty nymphs promising cheap tricks to our audiences standing outside the churches of our story.

    WTF! Anyway, I’m glad I stumbled upon yet another screenwriting blog. I was hungry. This post was easy to stomach. It was moist, yummy, went down well, and according to the packaging, was chock full of vital nutrients.

    Alright, I’m flushing the anal(pun)ogies.

    Though the posting appears sporadic, I’ve bookmarked.

    Fo’ shizzle.

  • nicolle on Jan 31, 2008

    That’s all too familiar… and I think may be a sort of defense mechanism. Sadly, I probably owe some folks apologies and/or beers but I hope that I can keep from retreating to it in the future.

    Maturity & mastery are concepts that never occur to scribe-lings. Just cannot understand that the n00b mindset is essentially: ‘Hey, I took art in high school- I’m completely qualified to paint the Sistine Chapel. Fuck you haters.’ It’s like being a teenager- you don’t even have the emotional context to realize 1) you’re an asshole and 2) you’re wasting your own resources & handicapping yourself with that attitude.

    Even if you explain it people don’t listen. I wouldn’t have listened. Brutal & savage is the only way to go. You’re doing them a solid and they’ll realize it eventually or they won’t.

    I actually kinda hate when I feel good about a story or a script b/c it’s a build up for me realizing I’m totally wrong. Then the rug comes out from under and you have to pick yourself back up. Struggling and questioning is a much more comfortable place to be.

    Randomness: I was looking at your 36 Dramatic Situation posts from 2006 today and I swear to god I’ve read those 36 guys a million times, on Wordplay, wherever else and wtf reading today it just gelled a little more usefully than I was handling them before. So again, thanks.

  • Unk on Jan 30, 2008

    Okay, now we’re getting somewhere…

    I’ve had a handful of readers finesse me into reading their scripts even though I tell them UP FRONT that I am a brutal motherfucker.

    I pull no punches when it comes to reading somebody’s draft. I qualify that up front so that should they decide to go forward, they are forewarned.

    So it comes.

    And I read.

    Then I rip it to shreds and send those shreds back to said writer.

    And I never read a tweak, a rewrite, NOTHING.

    And THAT’s either because:

    1)They have yet to rewrite or tweak the script.

    2)I scared the shit out of them so they quit.

    *NOTE: To be honest, I don’t think either 1 or 2 is what happened.

    3)They think I’m full of shit.

    *NOTE: I’ve had two regular readers of the site tell me I was full of shit. Fine. I sure as shit don’t have the final say. I only get $350K to $650K to fix screenplays… LOL. So… 6 months later, they show back up on the radar and tell me they tweaked or have rewritten the script according to my shreds and want me to reread the new stuff. Of course they are sorry for not believing me before – yada yada yada. Unfortunately, Unk don’t play dat. In fact, I told them up front that if they decide my notes are worthless to them — so be it. Just don’t come back for more.

    Yet they do.

    4)They think their writing is too good for a rewrite or tweaks and they like it the way it is.

    *NOTE: This could go under “They think I’m full of shit.” –but they say they understand what I’m saying about their script. They say they actually agree with everything I wrote but they just want to try and market it as is.

    Uh… Okay. So I guess this is where we get into DUMBED DOWN territory?

    When I write these people back and tell them to be prepared to spend as much as two fucking years to get their screenplay up to snuff, that’s when they bail.

    I have yet to meet ONE PERSON who’s been willing to admit to themselves that they would be willing to bust their ass on their script for the next two years.

    Nobody wants to do that from where I sit.

    Even IF that’s what it takes. And with a lot of newbie scripts, that IS what it would take.

    The good news is that every script following that first professionally written draft should never take as long.

    But again, nobody seems willing to pay their dues yet — two years later, they might have another couple of scripts ready (they think) for the market and when nobody wants it — everybody passes — it’s GOT to be the SYSTEM. LOL.

    It ain’t.

    Unk