Boxes of scripts
November 30, 2008
Naomi and I have been discussing how writing is sort of like dating, but only in the sense that you have an idea, get totally infatuated, think things like “HOW AM I SO AWESOME?!? THIS SCRIPT IS GOING TO BE THE BEST!” and then you actually sit down and try to outline it and you realize that you don’t have a plot, you just have two cool action sequences and half a page of dialog. So you go into a deep decline, what is my problem, why am I such a fool, why did I ever think I could do this, I AM MOVING TO MONTANA TO LIVE IN A SHACK. And then eventually with a lot of hard work you dig yourself out of that hole and come up with some kind of functional draft and then it’s rewrites and at some point you forget that you ever even LIKED this idea and you end up feeling surly and resentful and you hate everything and then slowly you start to think that maybe it’s okay, you’re not sure… wait a minute, what if it’s AWESOME? Actually, hold on, I don’t even care anymore! Because I have this other idea, see, it’s totally fantastic–
(…Dating is probably not like this for everyone.)
I just read THIS headline:
Watchdog group names 10 games bad for kids
Only I read it as “Watchdog group names 10 bad names for kids”. Which is an idea I kind of love.
I recently farmed out a box of scripts I was hired to read to a friend of mine and it was with some glee that I watched her go from “Wow! Maybe I’ll find someone TOTALLY AMAZING in this box of scripts!” to “…fuck, man.”
My friend Julie once told me that she thinks that writers can learn more from reading a whole bunch of awful scripts than from reading a whole bunch of great scripts, and at the time I was kind of “…” but then I thought back to my own box-of-scripts experiences, and you know, she’s totally right.
I recommend it to anyone. It will make you appropriately jaded and cynical and really prime you for a career in film.
One thing I have noticed to be pretty common in Boxes Of Scripts is that… okay, this isn’t FRANCE. Nobody owes you an arts grant. People buy scripts because they think maybe they can turn the script into a movie that will make a lot of money. Movies are EXPENSIVE. You need many millions of dollars to make them and millions more to market them, right? And many of them lose money. It’s a gamble. So… knowing all of that, would you buy your script? (I personally feel that I have only recently, with my current script, written something that maybe someone could buy and make some money off of. I’m not claiming to be particularly glorious in this respect, etc.)
I theorize that a lot of writers maybe don’t ask themselves this fairly important question and so end up with 120 pages of noodling on about their inner lives but think that the market will totally support said noodling. (“The zeitgeist is so ripe for a movie about me and my friends sitting around watching DVDs!”)
…or maybe not. Maybe the boxes of bad scripts are just because film (and TV) is sort of the dominant paradigm of our entertainment culture right now, so instead of thinking “I will write a bad novel about my characters noodling on about their inner lives!” as people might have done in the past, people these days think “A movie about me and my friends would be so totally great and everyone would want to buy tickets to see it!”
I can sort of understand this. After all, novels are long. Movies are 120 pages. Even lazy people such as myself can often manage to keep it together long enough to get to FADE OUT. But even so, I sort of think that asking yourself honestly if you would really invest a lot of money in your idea is a reasonable litmus test. (Again, I am not extra-glorious: I am often required to reject ideas I find totally awesome because the market for agricultural thrillers is extremely limited.)
(Now, if you lived in FRANCE-!)
I re-watched Casino Royale today, because I so very much enjoyed Quantum of Solace last weekend.
You know what struck me? HERE IT IS, and it’s important, so pay attention: if you have sex with James Bond, YOU WILL DIE. So I don’t care how charming you find him, ladies, swaggering in with his oddly-tan British self and his bon mots and his sociopathic violence, DON’T DO IT! Girls who sleep with James Bond die in HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE WAYS, often after being tortured! (Which would suck.)
You must be strong! Tell him to take his smirk and the Glock he somehow got through airport security and just keep on keeping on, because you’re not that kind of girl! Yes, it’ll be hard, and yes, you may regret it for years to come, but I always say that it’s better to regret the superspy you didn’t Do It with than to be found dead in a hammock.