Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Close, But No Cigar

Ever feel like a poser? Easy for an unproduced screenwriter. My grandmother used to say "fake it 'til you make it". Her theory was that if you pretend you know how to do something and you do it anyway long enough, you'll eventually learn how to do it. I often imagine her little voice in my head giving me advice. It's either her, my dear Abuelita, or Sal, my imaginary voice of doubt who disguises himself as a voice of reason. He's a liar. She's not. Sometimes the voice says "fake it 'til you make it". That would be my grandmother. Other times, it just says "you're a faker". That would be Sal.

And then there's this.

First, there was Steve Perry. Then Steve Augeri and next up was Jeff Scott Soto. Neither of the substitutes could fill Perry's vocal niche. But Journey's newest frontman is a 40-year-old Filipino singer named Arnel Pineda who was discovered on YouTube and is widely considered a dead ringer for Steve Perry's unique voice. Pause the James Horner music playing on the right column and then have a listen to this poser --

What do you think?

Perhaps it's hyper-emotional misplaced loyalty to Steve-o or maybe it's the experienced ear of music lover, I dunno, but I hear the difference. Of course, I also hear the neighbor's phone a half acre away and the bunnies rustling in the grass outside my window. Either way, it doesn't matter. Posing is working for this guy. He faked it 'til he made it. And, in his case, faking it IS making it.

Maybe that works in screenwriting, too. Terry Rossio said that when he was starting out, he noticed that anybody who did anything for ten years became an expert at it. I don't know about you, but that sounds a little like "fake it 'til you make it" to me.


Morgan McKinnon said...

What do I think?

I have no "hyper-emotional misplaced loyalty to Steve-o", however, I do consider myself a music lover...and I agree, just close enough to fake it.

MORE AT what I think?

I think I like the following statements:

"Stuch and Bruch is the idea that every fencing technique has a counter and every counter has a technique. Technique and counter are two major components of German swordsmanship and my screenwriting adventure. More often than not, my screenwriting technique and counters amount to little more than fencing with the fog. I suppose the important thing is to keep writing, even if it's in a random babble on a blog."

The "random babble" could soon reach the ears of someone who has just tied a knot...and is desperately holding on to his/her rope.

I'm gonna make it!

Thank You,


MaryAn Batchellor said...

Best of luck hanging on to that rope, Morgan. I don't really believe in luck but "best wishes on the results of your honed skills from hard work and relentless practice" just doesn't sound as good.

Unk said...

Your Grandmother was right... For many, it's a simple matter of selling a script because their work is up to par in most cases.

To me... Faking it in this business simply means holding on to what you believe when it comes to STORY. Do not be easily persuaded by somebody else EVEN IF THEY ARE A PRODUCED writer UNLESS what they are telling you TRULY MAKES SENSE and your gut tells you that this knowledge or information will make you a better writer.

The last thing you want to do when holding a meeting with IDIOTS who know nothing about STORY is to sit there and nod up and down and say, YEAH, THAT SOUNDS GOOD!

They subconsciously WANT you to argue your point so that they can sleep easy.


MaryAn Batchellor said...

So, Unk, you're saying that we are the experts (or should be) when it comes to our own stories? Agreed.

Unk said...

I am saying EXACTLY that.

You should be able to take a meeting and argue every point about your screenplay but in a way that's not IN THEIR FACE.

You of course want to use tact, respect, yada yada yada and use what THEY say against them but do it in a way that makes them smile and almost seem as if it's their idea.

That way it's WIN-WIN and you walk out of the meeting with everyone nodding at each other about having made a decision to give you your head because YOU KNOW YOUR ah... Craft.

And we should know our craft and of course our screenplay/story better than anyone, right? I know YOU know that -- I just say that here because to be honest, many many writers who submit scripts that are fairly decent but do not quite hit the mark, can get that call when they least expect it... From a producer. And the producer asks them to tell them about their story.

And you know what happens most of the time, right?



Anonymous said...

You gotta be able to read producers or whoever else wants to argue a script. There are plenty of people in H'wood who may not like it in their face, but they respect you if you don't give a crap about "offending" them. I'll give you an example, though it's not quite hollywood. I have a friend who was a really nice guy, and an actor in NYC. He had been raised to say please, thank you and all this stuff. Same as I was, actually. And he is quite a good actor. He got calls from agents who attended shows quite often. He would go, and read some sides, or perform a monologue, and all that crap. Each time, I think ten times in a two year period, he would have a story about how the agent had been in some way rude to him, and he never heard from them afterward. Like the agent was late, or would rush him, or once didn't even show up. And my friend was without an agent for quite a long time. Then one day he got a call from a pretty big agency and he was kind of excited, because it's an agency that represents some A-listers. So he got all gussied up. Well, on the way there it started to rain big monsoon rain. People were commuting in canoes. Some subway stations were closed because of too much water. And as such he had to walk to the agency (because you don't have a car in NYC, especially if you're an actor, writer, etc.). He was an f-ing mess when he got there. And he was in a piss poor, foul mood. But he tried to be "civil". Well, first it took him 5 rings to get an answer at the door. Then when they let him in, the elevator wasn't working and he had to walk the stairs (oh, it was summer and very humid). In a word (which is a certain understatement) it was nightmare. But he'd waited for the meeting for about two months. Then he had to wait for an hour for the actual agent to not be busy. So when he finally gets inside, the agent is all nicey nice and asks some questions but doesn't listen, then asks for a monologue. Which my friend has prepared. So he stands up, across a desk from this guy and starts into the monologue. Well, the f-ing phone rings right away. The agent picks it up, my friend stops. The agent says "no, continue...(into the phone) oh, nothing." So, my friend just reflexively says "f you (with the whole word)..." and realizing what he just did and there's no going back, he walks out and tells the receptionist to f off too. He then walked back to his apartment crying, because he just f-ed up his career, in the pouring rain to find a phone message from that same agent saying that he'd like to represent him and he's ready to sign the papers now. My friend was so pissed he took three days to call them back. He signed and made the guy come to his apartment to do it. I've had similar experiences in meetings for scripts, though never that extreme, but I'm always ready to. Because it doesn't matter to me. It's so much work anyway, what do I care if I offend someone? If they want the script they'll still want it if I'm a pure a-hole. The fact is that I have yet to have a script produced by a major hollywood company but as you can see in anothe post I've had a French company produce a script (along with selling some shorts), and it doesn't matter. They all think of themselves as better than you, because you haven't been in the game as long as they have. The best actors are actually producers, by the way. They can make you think that anything is true, and you have to be the same or you're just breakfast for them. Another thing, I've actually posted a few times here, and I know that I've repeated a few things, but a writer really needs to be in LA to make it through faking it. It's a way to learn the whole game and the writing as well. Of course there are writers who don't live in LA, I'm not saying that. It's kind of similar in any field. I played minor league hockey 20 years ago and I faked it till I "made it". Yeah, I wasn't a goal-scorer, so I dropped the gloves and fought, and I lost teeth, etc. But I had to be willing to go where the work was. I was all over the place. But you know what, I skated in one NHL game. Now, that might seem like nothing, but for a guy who had my skills it was quite an accomplishment. So, the point is, you have to fake it where you can make it as well. And you almost have to fake everything. I hated fighting, but for four years I faked that I liked it (I actually didn't like hitting other people, because I can take a real beating...I even thought I was going to die once, floating through the air, after a stiff bodycheck). You may hate everything about h'wood, but you aren't going to make meetings from other states on a daily basis, and sometimes that's necessary. So after the hockey "career" I drove to LA in a little beat up car and lived in it. At first it was okay, I would drive around and find all these pretty decent places to sleep and I'd go to the beach in the morning and get a shower or swim. Then the car lost coolant on the h'wood freeway on my way to Westwood and started driving on 2 out of four cylinders. Eventually I was living in a car that wouldn't move, and had to take the bus everywhere. Then I lived with a model who liked me for my body. Within two months she had brutalized me, she smashed a fishbowl on my head when I was trying to pack to leave because she had tried running me over that day when I got out of the car to walk since I was sick of arguing. Blood gushing down my face I chased her to the bathroom. She had been an inch from killing me. The police came because neighbors called and they arrested me, until she came out and started beating on them and screaming. The point is, I still didn't leave the wonders of LA. I met other people. Slept in a garage...blablabla. But it's all part of what makes life life. Yes, doing all this has made me a bit of something, though I wouldn't say it's an expert.