I haven’t blogged lately because, frankly, I haven’t had a great deal to say. I notice in reading other people’s blogs elsewhere than on Red Room, that there’s an awful lot of blogging about things such as What I Ate for Breakfast and What Band I like at the Moment. I suppose I could touch upon both, but they each can be summed up in a sentence: Trader Joe Maple Cereal and the quartet put together by Krzysztof Komeda, the late, great Polish jazz pianist and composer, best known, perhaps, for the “Rosemary’s Baby” score, among other soundtracks composed for Roman Polanksi. He was (and remains) a major name in European jazz. The fact that the cereal and the music go well together is beside the point. They’re compatible with pretty much anything.
I haven’t blogged because I’m waiting, which is the part about being a writer that writers don’t like to talk about, much as prisoners on Death Row try to avoid speaking of That Day. It’s not That Day that’s so painful, it’s the waiting. I’m waiting on a number of projects, but first and foremost is a script I’m developing with a company in L.A., a respected management and production firm with offices on both coasts and which, not that long ago, pitched me an idea already hinted at in my last entry.
It has been great dealing with these guys. They’re intelligent and insightful, they articulate their notes carefully, and are quick to respond to questions. And slowly but surely I think we’re all starting to see this as a potential feature film. We’re at the stage now where I’ve provided a nearly forty-page “beat sheet”, which essentially blocks out every scene and setpiece (though I always allow for others to grow organically out of the material), so that the producers can see if the story is strong enough, the protagonist compelling enough, and the ending satisfying enough for audiences the world over.
What, as a screenwriter, you have to be prepared for is shifting directions. So that in one draft your character may be a war veteran and a homicide cop, and the next a non-vet and a missing person’s detective. The fact that he’s separated from his wife and kids quickly changes in the next draft, so that he’s now a family man and loves his family more than life itself.
Is it easy to shift gears? As a novelist, no; as a screenwriter I’d say you’d better be prepared to do so. A screenwriter is a journeyman writer, a hired hand, someone paid to do the bidding of others. Yes, you’re allowed to use your imagination and make up stuff, but because making movies is also a business which at heart is about making money, all of your work is headed towards one end: being a great opener on a Friday night.
Two of the best movies about screenwriters were Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard” and Robert Altman’s “The Player”. They both touched upon the subservient position of the screenwriter in the Hollywood hierarchy and the sometimes desperate quality of the career. Note that in both cases screenwriters are either shot to death and left floating in a Beverly Hills pool, or beaten to a bloody pulp in a back alley. Either way it’s better than spending all that time on Death Row, waiting; at least the end comes as a surprise, something we all like when we go to the movies.
Causes J.P. Smith Supports