Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Can You Drive My Car?

Perhaps it was the reports of the death of Mystery Man on Film, I don't really know, but whatever the reason, I got a bee in my bonnet and decided to start reading more screenplays from aspiring screenwriters. Zoetrope and Triggerstreet are places I don't frequent much but they're a good place to go read what other wannabes are writing. I usually take the time to read the screenplays people email me (heh, as if I know anything) but I thought I'd take it a step further. So, I looked at some scripts being "workshopped".

O. M. G.

About 99 % of my time and oxygen would have been better spent teaching my dog how to use a stick shift. He already believes he's the one driving the car anyway. He sits on the arm rest, looks over the windshield, observes passersby and barks at anything red: stop signs, cars, school uniforms. The only time he takes his eyes off the road is to lick himself.

But I digress.

There are, of course, a few gems worth reading and those exceptions are why the goal of the Nicholl Fellowship is to identify and nurture the screenwriting skills of talented writers. But most of us need a reality check. So here it is. Most wannabe screenwriters:

  • Cannot write a complete sentence
  • Have no storytelling skills
  • Don't understand screenplay structures
  • Wouldn't know a theme if it was tattooed on their butts
  • Have a better chance at winning American Idol than being produced
  • Don't have a decent command of the English language
  • Have no idea what's behind the door they're knocking on
  • Think all pronouns are possessive
  • Actually want fame instead of a writing career
  • Do not know the difference between "effect" and "affect"
  • Are under the mistaken impression that screenwriters get wealthy
  • Have never heard of a misplaced modifier or split infinitive
  • Believe that they are the exception to every bullet on this list

Here's the brutal truth. Most of us can't write. I'm sorry but it's true. If screenwriting is a hobby, have fun. But stop whining about not getting produced. Most of us have no business even attempting to write screenplays and quite frankly, the movie industry doesn't want us right now anyway. The only films being distributed right now are proven commodities, sequels, prequels, re-do's, CGI's and those distributions necessitated by nepotism.

We think because we can use screenwriting software or self publish, that makes us writers. It does not. It makes us people using screenwriting software and self publishing. We think because we go to film festivals and shake hands with produced screenwriters and film executives that they are now our friends. They are not. They are people who shook a few hands. We think because a few indie producers are polite to us or we advanced in an obscure screenwriting competition run out of somebody's garage that we have a shot at making real industry contacts. We do not. We are people that found a sympathetic ear or a hungry wallet.

Wake up, schmuck. You are not a writer.

If you are the exception to those bullets, good for you. If you are not -- and make no mistake about it, most of us are not -- stop throwing your money away on gurus, books, online gimmicks and contests. You may learn formatting and structure but nobody can teach you creativity. Nobody can make you something you are not naturally inclined to be.

I'm sorry. I really am. But this is the truth. You can't write. Have you already given five or ten years of genuine effort to screenwriting with no results? Then get out. Find something fun or meaningful and go after it.

Life is short. There is more to it than screenwriting UNLESS you know know know know know that you're the exception. But remember this: my dog knows he's the one driving my car.

P.S. -- about 53-ish days before Nicholl letters go out.


mernitman said...

God I love that paragraph you wrote about your dog driving the car.

THAT'S good writing. So there.

Anonymous said...

Then... Why do you write?

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Spoken like the dog lover you are, Billy. And clearly, anonymous, somebody missed the point of the post.

Christian H. said...

Well, I had much more respect for MM when I found out he regularly reviewed scripts at Trigger Street.

I read about four and the possibility of an aneurysm forced me to stop.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Well, CH, maybe that's what killed him. ...........no, no, no. Too soon.

Anonymous said...

“Nobody knows anything.” ~ William Golman

cmw said...

Wouldn't that theme information be easier to access if it was tattooed on a forearm?

Anonymous said...

Right. We should take writing advice from an accountant.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Who's an accountant?

Unk said...

Ahem... LOL.