Promises were made. So let me talk a little bit about persona, writing and otherwise.
A little background: I’ve pretty much always been a writer. It runs in the family (my mother is a poet). My people are book-learning people. Book learning often leads to book writing.
I started out writing short stories, dabbled in some poetry, eventually found my way to playwriting. A lot of my early education in playwriting was self-directed, which means I read a lot of published plays.
If you’ve read a lot of published plays, particularly published plays of a certain vintage, you know that the stage directions you read are super-super-super-prescriptive. I learned much later that was because they’re the stage management notes for (in general) the Broadway production. They’re less stage directions and more a blueprint for an actual production. It’s a bit daunting.
I came of age as a playwright in the post-Mamet years. That’s when stage directions became stripped down. At that point, most acting (and directing and playwriting students for that matter) were instructed to ignore any stage directions entirely. So what was the point about being descriptive? Just do the basic (“She exits,” “She enters”), give a few clues about what’s going on and put anything else in the dialogue.
(All of this connects, trust me.)
In essence, I learned: don’t editorialize. Let the words and actions of the play stand on their own. Good lessons…to a point.
A few years back, I got deeply disenchanted with theatre. I got a great opportunity that, for reasons that seemed arbitrary and mysterious to me then, fizzled away into nothing. I had just started a new day job, I was crashing into my late thirties and had nothing to show for half a life lived in artistic pursuits. I walked away.
(Stick with me, this connects.)
After a few months, I realized I was going to the bar every night. Which is bad. I needed something, but I wasn’t ready to “be” a playwright again.
That’s when I discovered blogging. I started an anonymous theatre blog, 99 Seats. It started with this post right here. Back in the faraway days of 2008 (we didn’t know how good we had it).
I’d been reading a lot of blogs then, both theatre and political. I was a huge fan of Sadly, No! in those days. That was the high time for blogging, for firebagging, flamewarring, expletive-spewing righteous vitriol. I was a crusading playwright, so I took on that voice. Sometimes (I think) to great effect. Sometimes ill-advisedly. (YMMV on either of those points.)
At the time, as I found my way back to playwriting, I found that I kept the two voices separate. My plays never had the loose, shoot-from-the-hip quality of my prose. And both were separate from the person I am in real life. For all my strident hectoring, I’m pretty mild-mannered. For the studied neutrality of my stage directions, I’m actually quite opinionated. I couldn’t find the balance.
I eventually wandered away from blogging and have, to a great extent, wandered away from playwriting (or, really, stood on the platform and let the trains roll on by). But one thing that I’ve found is screenwriting. And in that, there’s a place to merge my voices.
There’s latitude in screenwriting for an authorial voice, I find. You don’t want to go overboard, but you can push the envelope. You can editorialize a little bit, let people know how this is meant to be taken. You can bring your tone to the work.
Since I’ve started doing that there, I’ve started doing that in the plays I write, too. And in my life in general. (Okay, I’m not an asshole at work, but you know what I mean.)
There’s a “being comfortable in your skin” quality that I’m looking for, that I’m aiming for. I hope I’m getting close.
Writing start time: 5:50 am
Writing end time: 10:49 am
I was like a kid on Christmas. The last couple of days, in the back of my head, I had a running countdown to this. I’ve been really looking forward to it. More than I even realized.
The last few months, I’ve spent in rewrite land. I had two scripts that I’d gotten good responses from. So I was working them to get great responses. Rewriting is hard, thirsty, dirty work. And rarely satisfying (at least for me). Oh, in the end, it’s always good, but there’s nothing like the thrill of starting something new, discovering new characters, new bits, putting fresh words on paper. I was going to start at least one new thing this fall at any rate, but the #SixWeekSpec thing gave me a goose. The month from when I found out about it, to when I didn’t get in (womp womp), was long. But fruitful. Because I did something I never really do.
I did a full treatment.
I’d had the idea for this script a while ago, had it bouncing around in my head. My normal process is like this:
Step 1: Get an idea.
Step 2: Think about this idea vaguely but obsessively for several weeks/months.
Step 3: Sketch out the plot for said idea in a paragraph or two.
Step 4: Write the motherfucker.
I usually don’t have more than a couple of paragraphs about the mechanics of the plot before I start actually writing. Maybe a long-ish (like ten paragraphs) synopsis.
This time, knowing 1) I had a bunch of time before I could even start writing (if I was going to follow the rules) and 2) I had a limited time to actually be writing, I decided I needed more.
So…a full treatment. The whole story, practically scene-by-scene, with a little bit of dialogue thrown in. I had to work out the plot holes and kinks, the basic structure and themes. It was super-useful. All of those people who tell you to do those things, they ain’t lying.
But it also meant I’d pretty much made this movie in my head. I’d see it all. Which just made more and more eager to write it down, to get it out of my head.
The last couple of days, it crowded away most other thoughts. I was barely present, really. In the back of my head, I was sitting in a theatre of the mind, gobbling popcorn, watching the same movie over and over.
Today, I got to let it out. And that felt GOOD.
I’m a pretty quick writer. Especially with a deadline. I set aside a chunk of time this morning, got up extra early and got to work. I feel pretty good about my start.
Day one page count: 36 pages.
About 70 to go.
And man, it really has been. This blog started out as my L.A. diary and turned into some kind of photo blog, then it just went silent.
What the hell happened? And why the hell am I back?
First things first. My last two years look something like this:
NYC -> LA -> NYC -> LA -> NYC -> Hackensack
I did about a year in L.A. And I freaking loved it. I loved the sunshine, the space, the more laid-back pace, the tacos, the burger joints, the beaches and mountains all side-by-jowl, the whole kit-and-caboodle. I dipped my feet in the moving pictures business and loved that, too. It was a grand ol’ time.
I also didn’t have steady employment or income, went tremendously in debt and ran out of places to crash. Sigh. It wasn’t all skittles and beer.
In the end, though, it was the oldest story that turned the tide: I had to go and see about a girl. A girl in New York City.
So I did. I moved back east (“moved,” in this context, is a grand word for packing up two suitcases worth of jeans and t-shirts). I moved in with my gal and all was good and right in the world.
Except for the whole living in New York part. I’d had the scales drop my eyes and saw the city fresh. And I didn’t really like what I saw. I started agitating, wishing, hoping, working for a return to L.A. That somehow translated into a move to New Jersey. Hackensack, New Jersey. Compromise?
Either way, it’s pretty good here, surprise, surprise. I work in the city, we go to the mall, we have more space. Life has reached a kind of equilibrium. Yay!
And when there’s equilibrium, there’s blogging! There is also writing for me.
I’m still plugging away at my nascent career as a screenwriter (and slowly backing away from my stalled career as a playwright). I just have to work a bit harder, be a bit more creative, jump on opportunities when I can.
Which brings us to #therebloggening.
A couple of weeks ago, I came across this: a challenge to write a full-length spec script in six weeks. I like challenges. I like stunts. I like pressure. Obviously, I was all about this. I dashed off a one-page plea to Geoff LaTulippe, the challenge-issuer, and I waited. I was not selected. Sigh.
I’m planning a blog about writing and public personas that will delve into this more, but, for now, if you know me and you know my blogging, you know that I tend towards the…cheeky? Bombastic? Maybe even outright obnoxious? That’s not really “me,” but it’s what comes out when I write. Maybe I’m suppressing shit in life (ha…”maybe,” he says). So, in my one-pager for the #SixWeekSpec, I brazenly declared that, if not selected, not only would I write along, but I would do it quicker and be better than everyone else. Yeah. I probably wouldn’t have selected me, too.
I may be a loudmouth braggart in writing, but at least I’m an honorable one. So I’m going to try this crazy thing. A full-length screenplay in 4-5 weeks. FYI: A screenplay runs, roughly, 95-110 pages long. So that’s, roughly, 25-30 pages a week. Which is a lot. Especially if you work a full-time day job (which I do). I expect that this might drive me mad (which it might). So I figured I’d share it with you, my closest friend, the internet. Lucky you.
So. This blog is back in effect. You can also follow me on the Twitters, using the #SixWeekSpec hashtag. Along the way, I’ll share some thoughts about being a zygote writer, the differences between writing for the stage and writing for the screen, writing personas (I promised you…and I keep my promises) and whatever else pops into this head. Again, lucky you.
Tomorrow, we start. Enjoy the ride.
tl;dr I moved to LA, moved back to NY, moved to Jersey and now I’m going to write a script really quickly.
Watch it closely.
How I spent my Sunday: on set in LA for my short FAVORED NATIONS. Good times. #wemakemovies #shortfilm #pacifictime
Horrible advertising…or THE. WORST. ADVERTISING? This was tucked in our door tonight. Bad form, Ingrid. Bad form.
Just finished a big rewrite and sent it off for a contest. Celebrating @MysteryExec style: Chivas & Usual Suspects.