G-d, please just kill me now, don't make me a writer.

I like shooting, I like directing – come the shoot day, you shoot, day ends (eventually) you go home. Yeah, lots of pre-production, but the day comes, you shoot, you go home.

I write – I know people who write, it sucks. DON’T let anyone tell you different. Some of my friends that write, they have to get drunk to write. Me I don’t drink, sucks to be me. I feel like that guy in “Limitless” – stay in the room , stay in the room, stay in the room. Yeah it doesn’t help. CREATION that is hard, really hard, They say G-d created the world in six days – Well, he must be G-d to have done that, and as for resting for just a day after that effort- don’t you believe it, he might still be slumbering.

Sometimes, it comes like a flash, my fingers too slow to keep up – a team of typists too slow to keep up. Oh and it is good, it flows, it makes sense, it is lively and entertaining and holds all the promise of that first date. I might even get a chapter done – I’m in the middle of writing several novels – I see the flow, the whole story stretches ahead of me, like a beautiful paved road to the finish. Then I type, write, audio record it, and as I go forward, from the end it falls apart. Crumbling from the end to the beginning, faster than I can go forward. A race to get as much down before it all dissolves away in a fog. It is kind of like bad sex, rushing to get to the end, and not being able to enjoy the moment.I’m left spent, distraught, frustrated and unable to find now or tomorrow what was so clear just moments before.

So much frustration, agony, and that just doesn’t help the process. I see the movie in my mind, why can’t I just write down what I see in my head – ARGGGGHHHHH. Yep. Some people can do this sort of thing – Their scripts pretty much seem to end up as hi-concept, big budget movies, which actually suck because the script was written in two days, and no one bothered to do a re-write, because big blockbusters don’t seem to need character depth or a good story. Sorry, but blockbusters DO need that sort of thing, not just special effects. When I went to college, my instructors spoke reverently about Woody Allen – back when people spoke reverently about him – and that he could reportedly go away for a weekend and come back with a great script. So there is some idea attached to bashing out a script in two days. Look not everyone is Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Robert De Niro – and frankly don’t try to be. Go be your own talent, nice to be inspired by what these guys can do, but trying to be just like them, and value yourself by how you compare at doing what they can do will lead to frustration and stunt your growth as an artist and creative person, probably leave you somewhere in the gutter covered in mud, muttering to yourself, ’til Wild Bill Hickok comes by and tosses you two bits to get cleaned up. Craft your damned script, or whatever creative craft you do.

Let’s talk a little bit about concepts, and screenwriting. First off, ask any script reader, screenwriter, or soda jerker and they will all tell you the same thing. You better grab the reader in the first ten pages, or the reader is just going to toss the script aside and pick the next one off the pile next to them. It’s the way of the film biz, and has been that way for the longest time. That whole concept seems now to have spread into the release of movies – Go for the big weekend, it seems to be less important for a film to have a long theatrical run, just churn out the big film, get many people to see it, and get it out and shove another film down the throat of the audience. In and out of the theater quickly – hey why not maximize the number of people in the theater. Throw one disappointing film after another at the audience, hey there is going to be such a drop off after the first week or two, might as well bring out another film and get the audience to come back to watch the “new film” instead of giving people the possibility of seeing the same film again. Yes, it is a generalization, and all generalizations are flawed, and I’m ranting.

Hi Concept/low Concept – Concept Shmoncept. Look if you can’t sum up your movie/screenplay very simply – maybe you ought to rethink your story. I think what happens is this curse of over thinking it, and trying to get it ALL in at once. Start simple. Start with a log line. Write it first, before you start to write the movie in your head. I never did, and writing has been such a labor – see what I moaned about up top. But the log line, it’s like a mystery. No, No, No, I have the story, I see the movie – STOP. Make notes all you like, but write the LOG line first – “But I can’t” It’s a mystery, how can I squeeze all that the movie is, all the subtlety and nuance of a 90 to 120 page screenplay into a sentence or two. NO WAY, NOT GOING TO DO IT.

At some point, stamping feet just doesn’t cut it, and it isn’t like someone else can intervene – either you write it, good or bad (please never indifferent), or you don’t and it never gets finished. There is no one but you who can put the words down. So the log line baffles me, completely. What to do.

What to do.

ASK for HELP – that is what you do. I know, I know, I want my story to be mine, I want it to be original. No, don’t influence me, got to be me, mine, not anyone else’s. Stamping feet again aren’t we? Look ask musicians – what do they say? They point to their musical influences. ALWAYS. Mentors, musicians they admire. It’s accepted. I was watching “It Might Get Loud” and Jack White is talking about tricking¬† Jimmy Page into teaching him guitar secrets, and in the end they just play guitar and show each other what they are doing. Why – I don’t know, what am I psychic? But obviously, it isn’t about who is “better” or who can do this or who can do that, because in the end, they play the same notes, but the notes sound different. They each hear and play the music differently.

Hey Picasso is attributed to having said “Good artists borrow, great artists steal”, but it doesn’t matter, you may have a great idea, but if you can’t do anything with it, then what good is it?

I’ve started attending screenwriting meetings – At first because I wanted feedback on my screenplays, but reading someone else’s screenplay and having to critique it, give meaningful thoughtful commentary – that is just great training for actually writing. I’ve powered through writing a couple of feature length screenplays (bunches of short films), I find it easier to work with a co-writer – they get the movie started, I can see where it is weak, not reaching an audience, add scenes, change structure, make it better – It is a little easier, because there is less attachment to it, when it is somebody else’s idea. Very liberating, easy to get past yourself.
On my own work, powering through, it isn’t so efficient, but as I wrote – you ask for help. Blake Snyder – Save the cat – great book on screenwriting, distills the process down, but then again as Blake writes – START WITH A LOGLINE and get it right. So hard to start that way, why can’t i just surge ahead and then, no that leads to lots of start and stops and unfinished work. I found a great web page, that really helps get past the log line blockage, at least for me. Guess what, I’ll even share it here on my blog – The Construction of a Log Line. Thanks Christopher, this has been so very helpful. Just cut down on all the extraneous, and start with the story.

Forget everything else that gets in the way, write the log line, get it right, move forward start adding your elements, flesh it out, flesh it out, and suddenly the road that used to fall apart in front of me, now builds as I go forward.

Wish me luck, same to you.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment and or share.

 

 

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4 Responses to G-d, please just kill me now, don't make me a writer.

  1. michelle shyman August 30, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Yeah, writing is mostly torture.

  2. Reginald Beltran August 31, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Good post. After several tries, it’s better to get stuck on the logline/treatment page as opposed to page 63 of a feature.

  3. thinkinpix August 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Well said Steve, and can so relate. Even though I don’t write screenplays anymore, it feels the same when I’m working. Sometimes the words just don’t come, but when they do the cascade douses me. Reading this makes me miss production. Maybe it didn’t last that long, but while I did I thoroughly enjoyed the building process. Glad I had a chance to work with you while I did.

  4. JB September 3, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    I have several tools that help me write, and I love writing, and for me, when its good, its like reading a good book, you hate that the process is coming to an end. The first thing I ever wrote was a play, and now I’m working on two plays, the main one being something that I have almost all the components right there in my head, until I try to put them down. Dialogue is very big for me, and bigger in plays, and for all my clarity on plot, I just haven’t found a voice for my lead, so EVERYTHING he says sounds wrong and false to me right now, and that makes the beautiful idea in my head like seeing sheet music for a Mozart piece on a piano and then hearing a hack butcher it. Ugh. Thanks for the post, which puts into perspective and words what I’m thinking right now

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