The Story of a Screenwriter: Script 6

Perhaps this whole story business is a way to rebel against the “success” this blog has been having lately. I know that in reality, only like six people actually read this thing (if that, but, you know, trunk half empty sort of thing. I learned that from my mob buddy), but, I guess because of — well, I have no idea why — some key words people search for, this blog’s been getting a lot of redirects from spam sites. I know this because the same referrer had like 57 hits one day, and, when I clicked it, it linked me to one site, which then redirected me to some Middle Eastern guy posting his lectures about stuff that — well, let’s not speculate.

I’m ambivalent toward attention. I usually feel like either I want to stay as far away from the spotlight as possible, or else I want the spotlight focused solely on me. It depends which it is from situation to situation. In something like this, where I know I’m just being redirected from the same site that is probably controlled by a spam bot or whatever things they use that sends all those boring “increase your penis size”, “buy cheap prescription drugs” or “make $700 a day advertising from your computer!” emails and ads and shit. I assume since the actual site redirects like ten times it must be trying to keep people from the source, and is probably just sitting there, searching for shit and then scouring the internet like those sentinels in The Matrix. So it’s not like I’m actually getting 99 visitors a day, which I’d been getting for most of the past week (minus like three days where I was back to my usual totals of like 30). It felt cheap. So, in response, I started telling this whole long ass story, which brought my daily views back down to a reasonable 17, 23 — more rational numbers. Something probably more accurate to the truth. George Carlin did a bit where he talked about license plate mottos. How New Hampshire’s is “Live Free or Die” and Idaho’s is “Famous Potatoes.” “I have to imagine,” he said, “Somewhere between “Live Free or Die” and “Famous Potatoes,” the truth lies. Probably it’s a bit closer to “Famous Potatoes.””

This is a lot closer to “Famous Potatoes.”

Now where were we? I’m almost done with this story, by the way. I’ve achieved my two intended goals, which were, see how many blog views were spam redirects (most), and write this down for posterity’s sake like I said in the first one last week. Check. Today will probably be the last one. Maybe tomorrow. We’ll see where I get at the end of this entry.

So — junior year, I entered with the two scripts I’d written over the summer. I was amazed that I could have written so well. Mostly because I was still conscious of the fact that I was young and anything I’d written was probably not going to be that great to begin with. Granted, I wasn’t 100% there yet. The musical was 170 pages long and needed tweaking. Now I got it down to 138, which is about where the script should be to incorporate all the musical numbers I have but haven’t written out. But, I was still like 70% there. Which isn’t bad for someone who hadn’t turned 20 yet.

I did spend junior year mostly not writing, though. I had just began the film major (for real) and spent the semester on those classes. I took a Color in the Cinema class, which might have been the best film class I’d taken at Wesleyan, next to the Richard Slotkin Westerns class. And then I took the Kino class, which — oh boy, great story there. Maybe that will show up soon. It’ll probably be saved for one of those fill-in days when I have nothing to write, woke up late, was out drinking, and need something to post (really trying to keep this at least one legitimate post a day thing, that’s not a picture or the box office thing, going). So I was focusing on the classes, mostly. Not so much the work, but the classes. And I was revising those two scripts for most of that semester. And then spring semester I took a Screenwriting class. And I told myself I didn’t want to start writing anything while involved in the Screenwriting class. It was partially because I didn’t want to either give in to whatever they were going to “teach me” in the class — I was afraid that it was going to be one of those “these are three acts, these are the standard conventions, you use those,” classes. Or, I was afraid that, if it weren’t that class, when I did learn something, I was going to be too far involved and have to go back and change everything. So I said, “Let me not write, go through the class, and then see where I stand.” I mostly wanted my writing style to stay the same, and I wanted to actually learn more about the grammar involved with screenwriting — that is, it’s like me and grammar.

In the New York Public School System, they don’t teach grammar to students. I remember vaguely spending about a week on it in the 7th grade, but even that was a cursory type deal. We never officially sat down and learned sentence structure, subject/predicate, noun, adjective — any of that. At least, the nuances of it. Which — it’s not like I don’t know what any of it is. I certainly know how to use all of it. But, ask me what a predicate is, I still couldn’t tell you without looking it up. Which has probably both helped and hurt my writing. It helped it because I’m not constrained by the whole, “proper grammar” thing. I hate it. I’d rather write good than well. But also, if I did learn intricacies of grammar and such, imagine all the wordplay I could use then.

Anyway, the point of that was, going into the screenwriting, I wanted to mostly maintain my writing style, ignorant of certain things, but, I also wanted to learn them — but learn them my way — so I could pick and choose what I wanted to follow and not follow, but still have the basics down to at least adhere to a standard (to use a more tactile explanation — writing a paper. I wanted to at least know I had to use 8 1/2 x 11, double space it and use this size font. But what I put within the margins, was my choice).

This all sounds like me saying, “I write abstract scripts and they’re so far outside the norm that no one will ever read them.” Not true. I’ve had this habit for as long as I can remember. Any time I’d go to a professor with an idea and tried to explain it — especially the film classes — I’d explain the idea, and they’d be like, “But you’re not following the rules.” And I’d be like, “Yes, I am, I just want to do this,” and they’d have no idea what I was trying to say, and would be like, “Just follow the (whatever structure we had) and you’ll be fine.” Which basically was like, “Just do it this way, because your way will end up being fucked up.” And then I’d go and do it exactly my way anyway, and everything would turn out fine. It’s probably due to my inability to explain things. Or disinclination toward doing so. I’m more of the — “Just let me do it. You’ll see what I mean” — school. I remember when I was shooting my short film, I had to get up in front of the class and be like, “Here’s the script, here’s the idea, here’s how I’m shooting it, etc.” And they asked all these questions, meanwhile I’m like, “Have you seen a Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin film? Just like that. It will look just like that.” And somehow, they still didn’t understand. And then I made the film and they were like, “That’s cool,” and I was like, “Yeah, I know. That was the plan all along.” Somehow I have a way of doing things exactly the way I want to, meanwhile everyone else thinks I’m going to go way out of line in doing so because they don’t understand what I’m trying to do, even though it’s really pretty simple, and then in the end, they’re satisfied with the end result, and sometimes they even think, “He did follow directions.” It’s fucking weird. But I’m not complaining. It’s probably a useful skill to have.

So, took the screenwriting class, and during that semester wrote a 17-page short script. I remember specifically telling myself during that semester — “No matter what I write, tone down the dialogue. Make sure it’s structurally and narratively sound first.” Which meant that most of the dialogue I wrote was either stilted or just felt like a placeholder. Which, on the same hand, my usual dialogue is stylized to the extreme. So once again, the truth is probably closer to “Famous Potatoes.” The script was about a guy who is in an editing room — the whole script is essentially him, in this room, shows up, sits down, gets to work. He pulls out reels and reels of film and just starts cutting. And we see him turn on the footage, and we watch it as well. And about midway through or so, you realize that this dude is cutting all of the memories he has of his life. He’s making what is essentially a film of his life that he will take with him into the afterlife. And the editing room is like purgatory. I thought it was good work, overall. I don’t think I was skilled enough to pull it off, but I figured, when an actual screenwriter is your professor, shoot for the fences. At least the feedback will be legit. I did get an A in the class, which made me happy. Plus the professor was awesome. He was a real nice guy. Great professor, too. One of those, tell you the essentials, and then explain everything colloquially and by example. So you really understand shit from more than a memorization. We actually watched clips and read scripts and stuff, plus he told us stories of working on things, which really helped.

So now I’ve written nothing for almost a year, save the short script, which I’ll admit was a step in the right direction. At least I’d learned I could sustain some sort of narrative, and knew what I needed to sustain a longer one.

Over the summer I ended up not really doing anything. I forget why. I think I spent the summer spending 7 hours a night talking to my friend on Skype, playing poker. And we also played Gunbound, which is an online projectile game. I have no idea how it was discovered, but basically it consisted of picking a thing, going on a map, and shooting people. And you had to gauge angles and shit. It was like Raft Wars, which, if you’ve never played that, try it. It’s an easy way to kill an hour and a half. Fun game. We spent the summer doing that. And then by August, I was like, “Man, I haven’t written anything.” And, to keep you informed, my goal at one point was to have written one script for every semester I was in college. Mostly because, as it happened, I’d went through four semesters going into junior year and came out with four scripts. So I figured, “Seems a worthwhile endeavor.” Which, I suggest anyone trying to write do the same thing. They might not be good, but you get the bad ones out of the way quickly that way.

So, junior year I’d written nothing, and my goal was two. So I said, “I can write one over the summer, and that can count for fall semester, and the screenwriting class and the short can basically count as one.” Rationalization is key in anything you do.

What I decided, that August, was to try something I hadn’t done before — an adaptation. I picked a book I read sophomore year, in this one bullshit English class that I only took because we read Harry Potter and because the work was easy. It was one day a week, on Tuesdays, and we read one book a week, and wrote three papers for the entire semester, or two papers and a final exam. Either way — cake walk. And one of the books we read there I had never heard of before. But, it was so fucking funny, I ended up reading it twice after the class had already ended. So I said, “No one would ever think to turn this script into a movie, and it would be perfect!” Plus it was open to me putting my additional twist, since it’s filled with a lot of allusions to other works of literature and stuff, which I figured I could turn into movie references. Which, ended up not happening, but I did get to make the story much more cinematic and, more importantly, “me.” It’s a very funny script. And it’s the one I love giving to people because, it’s essentially like reading the book. And it’s a really fucking funny book. I got to keep everything that was funny about the book and then add my own well-placed zingers at the right moments. I love that script.

So that’s script #6. I’m not telling you what book it was. You’ll find out one day, dog willing.

And, you know what, that’ll do it for today. Tomorrow I get to tell my thesis story. And that will probably be the last day. It’ll be thesis and these last two. And the half a one. Mostly 1 1/2. One of the full two in there has its own wonderful, wonderful story that’s been hinted at since day one of this blog. I’ve been fourshadowing the foreloco. Because, trust me, it’s a good one. Anyone who has been speaking to me on a fairly consistent basis since the summer can attest to that.

But, tomorrow, four scripts. 7-10. And then we’re done.

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