Sunday, January 20, 2013

Today's Secret Word is Rewrite

Pee-wee: You all remember what to do whenever anybody says the secret word right? 
All: Scream! 
Pee-wee: That's right. For the rest of the day, whenever anybody says the secret word, scream real loud. Ready? Let's try it. 


I spent the majority of last week cranking out a hefty stack of pages for the new script I'm working on. Loglines, premises, in-depth character bios, and a lengthy treatment. These are all things we're taught to do before the screenplay itself is even started, with the idea being that once you figure out the plot, what you're personal stance is on the topic, and who the characters are, writing the screenplay is just a matter of letting these carefully planned out ideas come together in the most interesting and entertaining way possible.

 I'm proud to say that I went to town on these bad boys. I was expecting it to be a chore, but was pleasantly surprised that in some mysterious way not only had I met the weekly page requirement, I had doubled it.

Working deep into the night all week was totally satisfying. I honestly didn't mind finally tucking into bed at 4:30am because I had just brain vomited out a long first draft of my treatment. It might not have been good, but the mere act of getting it done felt like much needed mental therapy.

I know, I should have expected it. It was almost too easy. It was a lesson I had already learned, but was the farthest thing from my mind after running the gauntlet... Ben, these characters are fantastic and totally work, but this treatment is no good -- throw it out. Rewrite.


I'm not mad, really. This word of the day, whether I like it or not, will prove to be the word of my life. It's a lesson I am thankful to be reminded of over and over because it is simply an undeniable truth. I really love those...

To rewrite (AHHHHHH!) is to improve. I used to take it personally and get pissed when I first started out doing this and the professor would tell me that something wasn't working, try again. Even if I don't like to admit it, this took a while to sink in. You don't just sit down, flip the on switch, and let pure gold flow from your fingertips.

I know that now. This time around it's no longer a hard pill to swallow. I have no beef with throwing out a stack of pages. In fact I'm confident they will soon be joined by even more work that I poured my heart into and lost sleep over. It's nothing personal and doing it will make me better.

It's okay. The earth still spins, and even twenty, thirty years from now, I will still rewrite.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Better late than never

I now talk out loud to myself more than I ever have in my entire life. Am I going crazy? Am I simply beginning to like the sound of my own voice? Why has this only now started happening as I bid farewell to my 21st year?

Well, yes Ben, you just might be a little crazy, but go with it. It's a good market. As for the sound of your voice... Naaah, you kind of missed the mark on that one.

I remember being consistently frustrated as a kid in school when confronted with a writing assignment. Even now in college I hear teachers chanting the same advice we've all been told for years. "You must develop your own voice," they say. Oh yeah, let me just do that! I never understood where I could get one of those, or if there was some instruction manual that I could go pick up. I guess I just didn't care much to find out then. "It will come with time" is the only guidance we were given for this. Maybe I wasn't listening hard enough, or more likely I didn't want to accept the truth.

The truth.

It's no secret that the key is simply writing more and more -- forever. There's only one rule and that's it. An obvious concept, but my laziness kept prodding me away from it.

Well, here I am. The hesitancy and perhaps repulsion towards writing that I have maintained in all of my glorious years as a generic white kid in the suburbs of Napa California is slowly dissolving out of my brain. I don't know why it took so long, but I feel it beginning to happen. I feel a desire to have an opinion, personal taste, to participate in a dialogue, and to fucking argue like my life depends on it. I guess that's what they try to condition you to do in college, but only now is it really starting to stick and sink in. Better late than never.

A piece of wisdom that is becoming more self-evident as the days pass: nothing comes out, unless something goes in.

About 20 minutes ago I finished Breakfast of Champions and it kind of just rocked my world in a good way. I desperately needed it. Vonnegut's writing style applies directly to the type of dramatic thinking I am trying to do myself. It really does go hand in hand with developing a screenplay and I learned a lot from him. Thank you kind sir.

And with that, I hope each new book or screenplay or movie that I slip into my noggin will somehow make something click. With more stuff going in, something has to come out, right? It's quite sad really, I don't actually accomplish much unless I physically write it down as a task to be checked off on a certain day. I've literally scheduled myself two screenplays to read every week to make sure enough is going in without making excuses of being too busy or well, lazy.

I think I'm crazy, but I also want to be good. Maybe these two truths have more in common than I suspected. I'll have to talk it over with... myself.