Thursday, August 5, 2010

Day 119: Part-time love

Five or six Christmases ago, I was working for a friend at a seasonal warehouse sale, at which, many wholesalers gather on an annual basis to sell off end-of-line products and special items at knock-down prices. I was telling a friend on the phone at the time that it was a bit like Santa’s grotto and that I felt like one of Santa’s helpers. That friend has never been able to get the image of me, dressed as an elf out of her mind, if and when I ever tell the anecdote that I am about to tell here.

One day, toward the end of the five day sale, I was pricing some knives, methodically, almost metronomically with the warehouse sales assistant’s friend, the pricing gun. There were butter knives in one basket, paté knives in another, cheese knives, palette knives and so on. A woman approached wheeling one of the large supermarket trolleys that the customers were afforded, her trolley empty, save for a child who looked like the devil’s spawn, sat in that compartment set aside for children in shopping trolleys of that ilk. The offspring of Lucifer tried to stare me down - Roger the Elf - this four year-old, with a cold dark eye that looked ready for smoting innocent mortals like myself. His mother, a formidably large woman - squat and cement enough to be handy in a scrum - rifled, vaguely through the various knife baskets, eventually arriving at the last of the plastic receptacles, that was empty, save for one all-purpose, non-specific knife.

“Wossiss?” “It’s a knife” I replied. “Yeah but wossit for?” “I don’t know. It’s a dollar” I carried on with my price gun, beginning to wish, after five days of testy customers just like bungalow Betty here, that it were a real gun. “Issit a butta knife?” “No.” “Pattay?” “No.” “Issit for jeeez?” “No”. “Wossit do then?” “Any thing you want. It’s a dollar.” The woman, disgruntled, threw the knife back into basket and with a “Don’t wannit then, if I don’t know wottitdoz”, wheeled the Prince of Darkness away, him staring at me until they were at least fifty metres off into the distance, heading back over the River Styx to who-knows-what-Hades they came from?

Part of the daily doing of being a screenwriter, working my way up toward greatness and the deference due, is part-time work to put food on the table, a roof over my head and to pay the bills. I‘ve always maintained the policy of steering away from other writing jobs, for fear of them using up the daily writing petrol that I have available. Between this blog and the script writing, treatment writing, synopsis writing and applications for development money writing, I don’t have a word, paragraph or sentence to spare and worry that commercial writing will come at me, just like one of the Dementors in Potter-world and suck the literary marrow out of me, letter by letter.

Neither do I want to use up valuable thought credit on something that just gives me the lovely pleasure of filthy lucre if I’m only to sit staring at the keyboard with a bankrupt imagination, later on in the day or week. Let me count the ways and well-meaning friends who have suggested, prompted, urged and encouraged me to go out and seek freelance advertising copyrighting gigs; I just don’t seem to have the heart or mettle for it. Not that it’s as simple as falling off a log to get that work anyway, and neither am I that cocksure that I think I could do it or that work would be there for me, when there are many others to have hard-won careers doing that very thing.

If you can do the “other” writing thing and still write screenplays, then good for you, and if you’re earning a mozza at it, then even gooder for you. Maybe I’m the village idiot, I don’t know? Jerry Seinfeld said, in one episode of 'Seinfeld', to George Costanza or Kramer “If they had a village where all the village idiots lived, you’d be the village idiot in that village.” Maybe from a part-time job and financial perspective, that’s me?

Day #119 Tip: Do the work that works for you
Other work to sustain and provide for the screenwriter is a must, there’s no two ways about it. There are times that I’ve dabbled in the dark arts of the coporate writing world and, I must confess, it pays handsomely, but therein lies one the problem: earn too much of the nice folding stuff and the shiny coin and I’ll just spend it on things and want to earn more of the "precious". I have to sit at my desk, when everyone else has left school and write, a hundred times: I must not try on the golden handcuffs, I must not try on the golden handcuffs, I must not try on the golden handcuffs.

On the other side of my shiny coin theory though, is the ability to hone writing skills and generally earn very good money for only an inch of the time that I spend warehousing. Maybe one day I’ll wise-up, but then some of my best ideas have come to me with the repetitive, mindless action of putting stickers on watches, stickers on stickers and stickers on knives.

I have gratitude for my part-time work: when I return home from it, there is no wolf prowling at my door, only my cat, Chaplin, who wants to know if I’ve earnt enough to bring home the herring (not the bacon).

Tomorrow I will begin a series of articles on various story plot forms and their use in film, beginning with the Redemption (or Reformation) Plot. I am offf now to find a suitable knife to sharpen my pencil with, especially for the occasion...I think I bought one once and it cost just a dollar.

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