Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Like Sophie's Choice for Writers

A month or two ago, I think I mentioned that my blogging frequency was going to to decrease, and I promised to talk about why at a future date. That date has come!  This isn't the big topic of my post, but just to catch folks up-- in the past few months there have been big changes over at Amazon Studios. They now have a structure that is substantially different from their first incarnation, and most people who were distressed about the original deal for writers have now given Amazon Studios their blessings (i.e. John August and others). So if you're a writer, you might check out some of the opportunities they have now.  

How this applies to me is, that after my script, Children of Others, won one of the monthly best script awards in 2011, it was chosen for Amazon's Development Slate and a producer was attached. (They called and asked me first, if I would be open to that.  I said yes.)  They renewed the option, and graciously offered to give me a shot at rewriting the script. This, under their old boilerplate agreement, is something I think they could have had me do on spec--but at the first meeting they offered some money for the rewrite, making this my first paid screenwriting gig ever. 


And pretty intimidating.

I've been paid here and there to write other things-- like web-content or a brochure-- but it feels very different.  Somebody or some institution needs "content" to take up a certain amount of space on a page.  It's not hard to envision the final product: What I see on the published page looks a lot like the page I turn in, and thus I know in a direct way that I am providing a service for the money.  

A script is a very different thing--the final product is destined to be very different from whatever template I provide--and that different could be a dozen different directions of different.  Or there might not ever be a final product at all.  Even if I'm getting paid to write--the project as a whole is essentially a gamble for the company.  They might or might not like the script. The might or might not be able to find someone else who likes the script enough to share the costs of making a film.  Anyone might or might not like the film, or even go see the film for it to make the investment back. It makes me really sympathize with everyone involved: the producer, the creative execs and on up the ladder at the company.  You can see why people make "safe" choices (as if there are any), why they try to protect themselves, because the whole thing is really freakin' scary! 

And as the girl at the bottom of the big upside-down pyramid of investment, I feel an additional responsibility...Which brings me back to blogging less...

One of my film professors was (and probably still is) fond of saying--"Any word you type into a blog or email is a word you're not typing into your script."  

In theory-land  I am reflexively opposed to the idea of rationing my words like that--because emails and blogging are a very different form of communication, with a very different audience, i.e. often people I know and care about, and I also blog for myself--to remember my life as it passes by.  It seems mercenary to cast aside these real "relationships" for the hypothetical fame and fortune (mostly fortune). It's comparable to: "Every hour you spend drinking a cup of coffee with a friend, or visiting your mom or playing with kids, is an hour you aren't working on your script."

But in practice, I have certainly been giving short shrift to cups of coffee and other social activities.  I don't know if this is something I will regret when I'm living in an old folks home, or if I'll even remember.  The truth is that you can't know in advance how rewarding any single interaction will be.  I've had several cups of coffee where there was no discernible connection and at the end I thought--shit--I could have spent that hour writing. 
So I guess it only makes sense that I post less often.  

But I miss it when I don't blog.  Just so you know.

(I'm posting now because A) Work at my day-job is light today--yay, and B) Because I just turned in an outline this morning, so theoretically, I can stand "at ease" until I get notes on Thursday.  Most of the posts you have seen in the last month have occurred during this between-hand-in-and-notes window.)

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