Monday, February 13, 2006

Stereotypical Screenwriters

"I'm not the stereotypical screenwriter."

I am exposing my Hollywood ignorance in public, but just what does that mean? What are the screenwriter stereotypes? That a screenwriter is a white male? Well, that doesn't work because everyone who has ever said to me, "I am not the stereotypical screenwriter" has been a white male.

The first time I heard it was from a writer I met at the Austin Film Festival two years ago. I was working the round table registration and he plopped himself down next to me and started telling me his net worth. I hung my head in shame and admitted that I had not seen any of his films to which he replied, "well, I'm not the stereotypical screenwriter." He then invited me to have a drink with him where he'd tell me all about it. So, by his definition, "stereotypical" does not mean "self important blowhard using his resume to pick up women".

My next encounter with this phrase was from a screenwriter who had one very successful film and an Emmy in his closet, which he pulled out now and then late at night in case he needed to bludgeon would-be burglars. He's a sharp guy with sound screenwriting advice. "Don't write screenplays," he told me in his best Father Knows Best voice, "You have four strikes against you. You are not male. You are not young. You live outside of Hollywood. You are not sleeping with a producer." Okay, so by his definition, "stereotypical" is a writer who doesn't "suck on sour grapes and spit the seeds at wannabes". Got it.

Another "not your stereotypical screenwriter" comment came from a guy I met in an online screenwriter's forum. He knew enough people to convince me that he was who he claimed and could speak intelligently about projects he'd worked on. Naturally, I checked him out with the few industry professionals I actually know. He's for real. Oddly, this writer asked very little about me. He didn't ask what genre I write, whether I have any industry connections, or whether I went to film school. He only wanted to know my age, measurements, and what I was wearing. Ah, so to him "stereotypical" is a writer who doesn't "pimp himself online and type with one hand".

This is a sincere question. Besides being a white male, what are screenwriter stereotypes? Are there any? Is this just an empty pickup line?

Are screenwriters dark and brooding? Met some that aren't. Are they fast talking caffeine addicts? Met some that aren't. Are they witty? Some. Boring? Some. Bookworms? Party animals? What mental image am I supposed to conjure up when somebody tells me "I am not the stereotypical screenwriter"?

The only common denominator I see among these three men is that each is not enjoying the degree of success he thinks he's due. If that makes them atypical, then the big deal, big name, big figure screenwriter is typical? Pffft.

Really. My newbie roots are showing. A little help here? Anyone?


Chris Soth said...

Yipe aren't we trying to NOT stereotype these days?

I think that last thing you mention IS the defining essence of the type...feeling under appreciated.


ps. What are you wearing?

Anonymous said...

I type with three hands...

Grubber said...

Just tell them, that's okay, I don't write stereotypical screenplays either (followed by withering death ray stare, or maybe a mocking stare if you don't want to obliterate them).