Browsing all 4 posts in Screenwriting.

Status Update, November 2012

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Status Update, November 2012

Ho there, Classical Geek Thespians! Remember when these beer-stained internet pages were a music blog? Yeah, me either. Remember when they were to be the homebase central for my burgeoning screenwriting career? Oh, the best laid plans of Mice and Men!

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My current creative process

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My current creative process

If you want to write for television, which I do, there are two kinds of scripts you should write: a spec (an episode of an existing show) or an original pilot. You need a spec or three to enter the studio fellowship programs. The current trend in management firms and agencies, though, is to take-on clients based on their original pilot.

So it follows that my last six months have been spent writing adaptations of known pulp sword-and-sorcery properties that I don’t own the rights to. Yep. Perfectly useless scripts, except maybe as a second writing sample. Here’s why I have chosen this foolish path:

  1. I have these scripts “in me”. (Kinky!) Every original idea I get ends up being exposed as a way to write these adaptations without actually writing them. So I decided to write them anyway. It gets them out of my system.
  2. I’m passionate about these stories, which means I don’t procrastinate. When in doubt, take the path that keeps you writing every day.
  3. Related: the most important thing for me, at this stage of my “career,” is to write every day.
  4. Sword and Sorcery is “my genre,” I’ve discovered, so I should write that.
  5. I enjoy adaptation, and I feel like “Go-to Guy for Adapting Fanboy Stuff to TeeVee” is a good, marketable angle for me as a writer.
  6. Fuck the rules.

GOOD INTERNETS: Writers on Process

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GOOD INTERNETS: Writers on Process

Benjamin Opipari is an English PhD., in-house writing instructor for an international law firm, and a freelance music writer for The Washington Post. He recently found this humble little blog and sent me a very kind, complimentary email. I think his site, Writers on Process, would be of interest to you.

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On Screenwriting: In the beginning…

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For months I’ve promised to chronicle my journey through screenwriting and my thoughts regarding the craft on this blog. Here’s the first post: a bunch of autoblogigraphical nonsense, if you like that sort of thing. (Worry not, music blogging will continue simultaneously.)

My short term career goals are to continue to learn new things about the entertainment industry; to meet people that can help me and whom I want to help.

My mid-term goal is to get an agent.

My long-term career goal is to sell some screenplays and / or obtain a staff position writing for television. That’s hard. Thousands of hours with slim chances of a return on the investment. It requires some luck. It’s not pie-in-the-sky though. Every week, it happens to someone. Someones like me, often.

A brief retrospective of my career aspirations:

  • In second grade I wanted be to a scientist and discover the cure for AIDS (seriously)
  • By sixth grade I wanted to be a novelist like Stephen King
  • By seventh grade I wanted to be playwright (At age twelve I wrote a play about a young epileptic boy who has to come to terms with the fact that he can never be an astronaut. I was such a normal kid.)
  • Sophomore year of high school, actor
  • Freshman year of college, radio host
  • Sophomore year of college, professional improvisation comedian / SNL cast member
  • Junior year of college, television director
  • Senior year of college, film writer / director / producer
  • Year Three in Los Angeles, music video / sketch / commercial writer / director / producer
  • Year Four in Los Angeles, film writer / producer
  • Year Five in Los Angeles, professional magazine / blog writer
  • Year Six in Los Angeles, screenwriter (August ’10 will mark six years in LA for me)

Excepting a couple outliers, there are some obvious thru-lines there. Almost everything is creative. Most involve the invention of characters. A lot of them are performance oriented.

I spent the first half of college immersed in the world of improvisational comedy. I believed I’d found my calling. Unlike stage acting or film acting, improvisational comedy is pure philosophy. It felt like an intellectual pursuit to me. I won’t bore you with the details of my tragic fall from the kingdom of Absolunacy. I’ll say that when you’re 20, you think you know everything. One thing I did not know was how to work well with others. I’m still learning.

I was a minor on-campus celebrity at Ball State because of the comedy troupe and my weekly newspaper column. When I quit the troupe my junior year (maybe a couple months before I would have been kicked out) I became immensely depressed. Someone who is now one of my best friends in the world invited me to hold shotgun mic on his student film. I fell in love with filmmaking.

After graduation I moved to LA dreaming of being the next Robert Rodriguez. When you are 22, you think you know everything. There were a couple detours (sketch production, blog writing) but in general my career aim since coming to LA has been a through line, if still a process of elimination.

My excuse for Year One was that I didn’t have a camera. Then I bought $6,000 worth of gear. During Year Three, my friends and I made a lot of comedy shorts. I still think we mined some nuggets of genius. (My finest achievement.) Sometime in Year Three or Four I shot a music video produced by an acquaintance. It didn’t go as I wanted. I tried segueing this blog into video production, too. I felt inadequate.

What I came to realize was 1) painting with light did not come naturally to me and 2) there were way more guys with way more talent who wanted it way more than I did. That my efforts found no audience beyond my friends didn’t help.

That cut me down to writer / producer. My last “real” job helped me eliminate the producer aspect. I don’t have the alpha male gene for it. I’m a collaborator and an inventor, not a schmoozer of agency folks.

What it came down to, for me, is that I’ve written my entire life. I didn’t run around with a photo camera taking pictures. I did dabble in making movies as a little kid, but only for amusement.

No, I spent all day making-up new stories for my Ninja Turtle figures. (NO MIXING OF TOYS. Continuity was king. Splinter could never fight Lion-O.) I loved the essay assignments in school. I took every creative writing course I could. I wrote short stories. Stories where government agents that flew on the backs of baby dragons would execute citizens who took photographs. Stories where right-wing terrorists waged war on mass transit in a Utopian future. Even my student filmmaking in college was, ultimately, just a different expression of my desire not to tell stories, but to create stories.

But I’m also a product of the 80’s and 90’s; my brain was programmed with visual stimuli. Teevee, movies, and video games. I still work on short stories from time to time, but writing for the screen, writing with images, suits me.

I dabbled in music writing, but I can’t hang with the true music aficionados. Amongst my music-loving peers, I often feel like the poseur. I’m comfortable with that now.

So that’s how I got to this point. A little less than a year ago, I “got serious” about screenwriting. Since college I’ve had a gajillion ideas for scripts. Many of them made it to about page seven or seventeen. Last year, I grew-up enough to discipline myself. It’s been immensely rewarding already. Back in December I made it to the final page of a draft for the first time.

The hardest thing is the format and the structure. Poets have no such concerns, really. Magazine writers have some leeway. Novelists are free to tinker with format and structure. Blogging is whatever you want it to be.

But in writing for the screen, the proven structures are religion and the format is law. No one who can help you wants you to be “creative” about the format. Hollywood readers worship the tried-and-true beats. It takes near-meditative mental discipline to teach yourself to love that. For me, forcing myself into the box is a zen exercise. The reward comes from flourishing in a box. You can fill the same box with an infinite number of different things.

Something I learned this year: the first step towards knowledge is to humbly admit there is something you do not understand. It would be a dream to have a writing career. But I write for myself. It makes for the best personal journey, the best stories.