This blog isn’t my first writing exercise by far. Aside from the ill-fated website I ran, I have library of fanfiction that ranges from “pretty good, actually” to “terrifying gay hobbit porn” and circles back around to “huh. I guess I don’t get fanfiction.”
I also have several files of short stories, writing assignments, journals and schoolwork. I’ve only actually written one screenplay, though. Which is funny, because I wanted to be a screenwriter/director for a long time. I still haven’t ruled it out entirely, but that’s neither here nor there. I know that Hollywood pretty much pisses on screenwriters, so if I ever did do it, it would all be independent. They say it’s all who you know, and they’re right. And I knew a guy who was dating a girl who was the secretary of someone who worked in project development at Dreamworks.
I would not have gotten my screenplay in if it weren’t for that chain of fuckery. I don’t know how anyone ever gets anything in to the damn building without someone getting laid. The material itself was almost irrelevant; it would have been at least looked at no matter what because it was a favor to someone. So I don’t feel all that smug about getting it submitted. Just dumb luck, that. And having it officially registered with the Writer’s Guild of America. The process was minimal enough that I don’t really remember it.
Don’t get me wrong; I like my little script. It was ahead of its time; it would have been better suited to the single-camera setup that The Office uses. At the time it was an awkward mocumentary, and it’s harder to make that work. I wouldn’t pursue it at this point, because most of the stuff that was good about it has already been used. If I were pitching it now, I would have to call it “Glee meets Waiting for Guffman meets Hamlet 2.”
My movie had Hamlet: The Musical instead of Hamlet 2. Because I am a Non-Musical Mook, I decided to approach Kevin Murphy from Mystery Science Theater 3000 to see if he’d write the songs. I thought it would be perfect. Based on what the screenplay looked like when he returned it, I think he made it about 2/3 through. Respectable!
After the script was submitted (through the guy I knew who was dating the girl), it took weeks before we heard back. Finally she sent an email (to him).
Thank you for submitting the script DRAMA by Abigail Stone. We found the writing to have a great deal of promise, and the complicated plot was presented in an intelligent manner. However, at this point, there are too many elements and not enough focus on the main character. While the writer is talented, the script may need a little more developing before we can take another look at it. Please keep up informed as to her progress; we wish you the best of luck with this.
Not bad. I decided to risk it and asked if she could provide any constructive feedback. I got two detailed pages of just that, along with a printed rejection note, on real letterhead. It was pretty merciless, but there was praise as well, and thorough commentary all the way through to the end. It really was read, and actually considered.
I am in the process of framing these rejection letters. I’m really proud that I tried and got that far. Not of the registration or the submission…but of those two pages of criticism. My work was worth critiquing, by professionals. And that I had the grapes to at least try. The worst that can happen if you try is that it doesn’t work. I got enough interest in my screenplay that I even met with a real actor, David Marciano, and gave him a pitch letter and a script. He sent me a letter of interest, saying if the movie was picked up by a studio, he would play the character of Tony.
I also bought Bob Goldthwait coffee and approached him about a role. He was not interested, although he did accept my pitch letter. He also asked about my progress on it once or twice behind the Jimmy Kimmel Show.
Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to rewrite the script. Part of it was getting stalled on the musical, since I didn’t have a second iron in the fire. Part of it was I was pretty sick of the script, which was difficult as hell for me to write in the first place. I may have seen a lot of movies, but screenwriting was a completely alien medium. I have taken a few classes on it since then and feel more comfortable with the style, but as I said, this script is already dead.
But the point is, I have this interesting story and these rejection letters because I gave it a shot. It may have taken knowing the right person, but I also had to ask that person. I had to give people –professionals!–my and know that it would be (and was) found lacking. I had to take the no’s and the negative response to my writing and the disinterest from others and the weeks of waiting for the inevitable no. And all of that experience taught me so much more, especially the parts where I found out what I was doing wrong. It’s scary to ask people for help, and its scarier to listen to their criticisms. But ultimately, it’s totally worth it.