Thursday, April 17, 2008

Speaking of the Nicholl Fellowship

Haven't obsessed over the Nicholl this year because with the 6,000 or so entries that will probably get dumped in Greg Beal's mailbox, I've kind of adopted a Tripper Harrison (Meatballs) attitude toward the whole thing:

And even if we win, if we win, HAH! Even if we win! Even if we play so far above our heads that our noses bleed for a week to ten days; even if God in Heaven above comes down and points his hand at our side of the field; even if every man woman and child held hands together and prayed for us to win, it just wouldn't matter because all the really good looking girls would still go out with the guys from Mohawk because they've got all the money! It just doesn't matter if we win or we lose. IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!
That's how the Nicholl works. You can't control the variables -- what desk your work lands on, what kind of experience your readers have, what genres they like, or whether they GET IT. There's only so much the Nicholl can do to level the field. And, honestly, maybe your poop DOES stink despite loud protestations to the contrary.

Yeah. I'm going to enter and I still want to win a Nicholl. Why? I dunno. Why does anyone set any kind of goal at all and then go after it. Don't tell me it's not the only gate to Hollywood. I know that and I don't care. It's not just about access. It's a goal. It's MY goal.

I enter the Nicholl for the same reason that I drag my sleepy butt to the gym every morning and torture my aging body on cardio and weight training equipment although I know full well that these sufferings may burn a few calories but will never make me a size six again. Never. I can't control all the variables. But it's a goal and working toward a goal -- ANY GOAL -- is, at the very least, moving me forward, getting me somewhere today that I wasn't yesterday.

Oh, and for the record, cottage cheese is nasty.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Writing the Wrong Story

I'm always fascinated with American Idol contestants who defend their poor song choices by citing its message, sentimental value, or use of their song as a gift for a dear ol' family member. Idiots. You're a finalist in the mega-ball singing lotto and you choose a ditty Grandad played on the banjo beneath Granny's window instead of a song you genuinely kick butt singing? That's like giving Jerry Bruckheimer a cutsie homage to my kid instead of a script that will merit investing millions of dollars. I'm not giving an icon my most sentimental story to read. I'm giving him the best one.

I frequently talk to writers who admit to submitting: (1) tribute stories (2) partially fleshed out ideas (3) genres they're uncomfortable writing. All three are mistakes. They think it's an even trade off if the idea is commercial or high concept. I disagree. A poorly executed good idea is not better than a well executed mediocre one. Okay, yes, commercial and high concept ideas are more likely to be produced but poor writing will get tossed in the can. Oh, and here's a tip. Producers don't care who your story memorializes if it's not a good one.

This screenwriting thing we do is, sadly, not for everyone who attempts it but those of us who do take a stab at it need to execute well and come up with ideas people want to see onscreen. It's not enough to do one or the other. It's just not. "People" doesn't mean a thumbs up from your wife either. You gotta sell more tickets than one.

Often I'm told "well when you're a produced screenwriter, then I'll take your advice". Okay, that's cool with me. I'm not handing out advice anyway. I'm just making observations.