18 February 2007

do or do not

If you've not seen it already, wing over to the LA Times site to see The Envelope, a roundtable interview from Jay Fernandez featuring the five nominated writers for this years Best Original Screenplay Oscars: Michael Arndt ("Little Miss Sunshine"), Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth"), Peter Morgan ("The Queen"), Guillermo Arriaga ("Babel"), and Iris Yamashita ("Letters From Iwo Jima").

I'll not waste time cribbing lines or thoughts from the piece, as there are too many worthwhile bits of insight and opinion. I found it amazingly uplifting and empowering to see that these guys, all operating at the very top of the game, have some points of clear agreement and other points of total disagreement. The reason I find this encouraging is that lately I've been in a brief introspective funk as I try to sort what it is I am most trying to do in this silly screenwriting chase.

Am I chasing some sort of ideal of quality? Am I chasing after any sort of initial sale to get over the wall and into Fortress Hollywood? Am I pursuing a career where what matters most is That next Deal, and where notions of quality and emotional value are secondary to getting paid by any means necessary?

Yeah, some of this is cart-before-horse time-wasting, but I'm now close enough to the game that I know working pros on the inside. I have friends who have made the leap into the game. I have friends who seem now being escorted into the game for the first time. Other buddies are very clearly on the cusp of Some Great Thing, and might at any moment become major players in the screenwriting game.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting here in my gym shorts, half a continent away, trying to decide which project I want to throw myself into right now. I have a huge expensive difficult to imagine historical epic which seems to claim more of my thoughts than seems safe and sane. I have a mostly outlined and partially written hybrid genre piece which might be the sort of concept project to most easily draw interest from strangers. And I have a third piece which seems the sort of low-budget easily filmable piece that would work great for specifically targeted leads.

(So of course, I work on none of those three but instead work on a blog post destined to be seen by maybe a dozen humans on this damned planet. Wooohooooo....)

The article made me like writing again as, when I read the comments of these five guys, I can actually hear myself saying any of these things they say. They all make perfect sense. There are no major surprises or issues where I go "that is such total bullshit." Note that I am not claiming to be a Del Toro or an Arriaga or a Yamashita. What I am saying, rather, is that none of this seems the tiniest bit alien or daunting. It All Makes Sense.

Which, from a certain twisted perspective, is among the more depressing notions to confront, as it suggests that my slow progress is not due to any innate shortage of ability or understanding, but rather stems from a disease called Laziness.

I hate these sorts of moments of clarity.

"In the end, we get the life we deserve."
navel-gazing waffle cone B


Ryan Rasmussen said...

Thanks for the link, Brett! Re: the introspection: since when have you been a safe and sane guy? Seems to me this stuff is way too demanding to do anything other than what we really want.


Thomas Crymes said...

I say do what drives you. If you can't get that silly historical epic out of your mind, then you might be wasting your time on anything else.

You can't predict the market and if you write for it, the fad will be past before you have time to sell.

Of course I say this with no authority, other than what seems to ring true with me.

If you write what you think others want you to write instead of what drives your imagination, then the resulting work will be uninspired.

Lippy said...

I agree with these sentiments...but I would add that you should probably look at the Historical Epic as something you can sell from the inside (i.e. after you've arrived). Thomas says you can't predict what sells but I would argue that the higher the concept and the lower the budget (before actors) the better your chances are of getting a sale.

Day Al-Mohamed / Day in Washington said...

Just a quick note from a stranger popping in to your blog.

Good luck and a great big "ditto" regarding your comments on introspection.