By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act July 26, 2013 at 10:34AM
Recapping... I know that a significant chunk of S&A's audience comprises of actors, actresses, directors, DPs, editors, etc, etc, etc. Some are able to earn a paycheck utilizing their artistic and/or technical skills; others - and I'd say the majority - are what we've labeled the proverbial *starving artists*, working diligently, relentlessly, struggling to climb this incredibly steep hill, trying to reach some pinnacle of success - whether personal or professional. And still others exist somewhere between the former and the latter.
Where do you fall? And, as the title of this post states, what's YOUR story, and would you like to share it with the rest of the world?
Think of it as an extension of the successful S&A Filmmaker Diary series we launched almost 2 years ago. I'm looking for your individual stories of struggle and/or success, regardless of what rung on the ladder you are currently on, after all, not only is S&A just a source for news, its goal is also to become a community of cinema lovers where we can all share/debate/discuss/learn/teach/commiserate/etc.
Here's your chance. You might learn something; you might teach someone something.
What's YOUR story? You can email me (email@example.com). You can submit your story in any format - written, or even documented on video. I'll post as many of them as I can. Substance and presentation are key for consideration.
And be sure to attach a photo (large size) for me to include, and if you have samples of your work, include them as well.
It could be a story about a current situation you find yourself in; or it could cover several days, weeks, months, or years of your career. It could be that you just want to vent your frustrations; aspects of, or people in this business that piss you off; aspects of, or people in the industry that encourage you. It doesn't have to be all negative, nor all positive. We're complex people, and so I assume our stories are as well.
In today's post, writer/director Adam Scott Thompson shares his story:
I turned thirty this year. And it scared the hell out of me.
Not because I was getting older. Not because I needed surgery to repair a labral tear in my left hip. Not because the webseries I helped create last year, “Crumbs in the Bed,” had a mixed reception.
I feared that I had wasted my twenties. Drinking and partying and waking up next to… “Mary. Mandy. Mandibar. Huh?” Watching tons of TV, but not a lot of films. Talking about writing, more than I actually wrote. Playing around on the Internet – nothing to do with screenwriting. Bullshitting with friends. Daydreaming about success but never having a for-real plan.
As 2013 loomed, I went to bed night after night repeating a lyric from the The Lox’s Sheek Louch: “And plan for the future ‘cause you figure you gon’ be older, way longer than you gon’ be younger.”
So before my thirtieth birthday I sat down and asked myself, “What the fuck?!” The answer: “I’ve been screenwriting since I was seventeen, but I realize now that I’ve never taken this as seriously as I should. I thought I was owed the prize. I thought they’d simply discover me, discover my (supposed) hunger. I was a fool; I am a fool. If I want this to be my life then it should be my life.” But a life well lived requires a plan, and so…
[There’s a self-pity montage that followed, soundtracked by George Delerue’s “Theme de Camille” – the song at the end of “Casino” – but we can skip that.]
I made it my mission to compose two speculative screenplays by year’s end and then seek representation in the form of an agent and/or manager. I also made it my mission to know as much about “the Hollywood machine” and how it works as is possible from my perch outside Dallas, TX.
I read “Shadow and Act” as well as other Indiewire blogs on a regular basis. I subscribed to Spec Scout (.com) to find out what kinds of screenplays were gaining buzz, or a buy, in the industry and why – to examine the trends and find out what the buyers want and then give it to them. I visited Go Into The Story (.com), a site run by “K-9” co-writer and Black List affiliate Scott Myers that blew my mind wide open and face-palmed me with a simple “diet” for a screenwriter: Read scripts. Watch movies. Write pages.
And so I did – in spades. My DVR overflowed with classic films (TCM!!!), films I should have seen by now. I read not only produced or sold screenplays but those of my peers as well (and in both cases you can actually learn more from a script that doesn’t work than from one that does).
I created a private blog where I store my film concepts – just set ‘em and forget ‘em. Instead of chasing each concept down a rabbit hole, I remain aloof like the hot chick at the party until I discover a concept that turns me on. More to the point, it “bothers me,” like a vengeful ghost threatening to haunt me if I don’t write it. But it also has to scream, “This is a MOVIE!!!”
Such was “Consumption,” a story about the champion of a competitive eating futuresport who slips into madness. That’s all I had to start with, as ridiculous as it sounded to me… but it bothered me.
After (finally!) reading Robert McKee’s “Story” – a must-read if you’re serious – I learned that what separates a pro storyteller from that dude at the cocktail party is a willingness to reject the first ideas or even the lukewarm ideas, searching for the good to great ideas.
That takes time, which can hurt. It takes research, which can hurt. It takes, in my case, night after night at a coffee shop in front of a tablet or in a screenwriting book, sometimes doing nothing more than staring off and wondering if I’ve got what it takes to do this. But mostly gathering pieces of info and inspiration from all corners – committing to none until I could finally point in one direction and say, “Adam, it’s this way.”
I gave myself six months to complete a first, “exploratory” draft of “Consumption.” I hoped to finish it by my birthday, April 28. I spent three months in a wilderness of facts, insights, articles, sports movies, Wikipedia, listening to Philip Glass, etc. Month 4 was outlining and then a treatment (a step I had never before taken which turned my blindness to sight). I spent two weeks of Month 5 writing the actual script and the second half tweaking a scene or two but mostly cleaning up spelling, grammatical and formatting errors. I used Month 6 to step away and digest what I had just accomplished.
Taking my time with the pre-writing freed me to actually enjoy the entirety of the process. Some nights were long, but none were boring. While completing that piece I searched my concept blog for something else to bother me. I found it: an assassin hiding in Alaska, forced to defend herself from her former employer… while being eight months pregnant. That’s what the industry wants – same but different.
I’m currently sending “Consumption” out for peer review to those who I think could help me elevate the script from good to great (I count Tambay in that number). And I’m repeating the process I developed in service of my next screenplay. Not a hope nor a wish nor a “If it’s meant to be…” I intend to use my 2013 goal – to write two polished specs – to attain my 2014 goal: Representation! If either script sells I’d be over the moon, but even if not the representation means a chance at meetings, at writing assignments, at getting on the board with my game piece. Changing “I’m an amateur screenwriter” to “I’m a professional screenwriter.”
I’ve minimized outside distractions – excluding work, the gym and beauty sleep – and made more than a few sacrifices – Twitter, I hardly knew ye – to maintain screenwriting as the focus of my life – the food I eat, the air I breathe. I am not Wilder. Nor Goldman nor Tarantino nor Sorkin – not by a mile. But they all had to start sometime, somewhere. My somewhere is here. My sometime is now.
I almost cried when I turned twenty-nine, feeling that wasted time and energy in my gut like Taco Bell’s finest. I spent my thirtieth birthday talking “Consumption” with my mother – anticipating the future.
**If you’d like to read the first draft of “Consumption,” email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a download on attachment.**