Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 162: Pearls of wisdom

I am an inveterate note-maker/note-taker and always carry my Moleskin notebook with me. At one end of the desk where I write this, I have a pile of over 20 Moleskins, dating back to 1999, other shapes and sizes of notebooks are stashed here, there and everywhere.

I am also a voracious collector of quotes, you only need to say something that’s mildly interesting, colourful or sagacious and I’ll write it down and credit you. Like this, from a screenplay writer talking about how you might get your first break and get someone to turn one of your scripts into a film:

“Sleep with a producer”

That’s from Olivia Hetreed, who adapted Tracy Chevalier’s best selling book of Girl with a Pearl Earring, the story of the relationship between painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth) and a young, peasant maid working in his household (Scarlett Johansson); see where hopping into bed got that little minx?! It was no off-the-cuff, jokey comment to engage a room full of writers (of which I was one) as Olvia Hetreed is married to one of the producers of Girl with a Pearl Earring, Andy Patterson. Hetreed’s adaptation and pillow talk won her a BAFTA in 2004, amidst many other plaudits and accolades.

Now, let’s be honest here, I’m not counselling that, as a screenwriter, we have to be immoral, illegal, nefarious or unethical in our attempts to do whatever it is we have to do to get our scripts produced, nor I think, was Olivia Hetreed suggesting that either. It just happened that she knew it was a good line to throw out there in a masterclass, an amusing line which just happened to be her her truth too. Mind you, I’m working with four producers at the moment - three men and one woman - and I wouldn’t hesitate to jump into bed with any one one of them if I thought it would get me further towards my goal. Do I need to say that I’m just joking? Am I ?

A book of extended quotes from 50 Hollywood Screenwriters is my latest literary acquisition, ‘Tales from the Script’ (edited by Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman, Harper Collins) is a collection of pocket-size stories and thoughts from a bunch of notable film scribes, including Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Julie & Julia), Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) and many others who are regulars on this site, like William Goldman and Paul Schrader.

Yesterday I was reading the second chapter, entitled ‘Breaking In’. As a preface to this part of the story, the editors stress that the journey of the would-be (and practicing) screenwriter is a roller coaster of a ride and urge, at this point to “strap yourselves in because that roller coaster is about to hit the first big drop.” What follows are some very very very salutary tales from California. Thank God my bookmark is a postcard with a black & white photo of the beautiful Kim Novak on the set of Bell, Book And Candle (1958), to keep the flagging spirits up.

Here’s something else that I’ve come across from from Moleskin Vol IV (begun on 12.06.01). This is an ex-girlfriend of mine talking about her first job in Europe in a dance troupe:

“Whilst having a great time, I realised that I was the only one in the group who didn’t have a solo, so I called my mom, from wherever it was that we were, and I cried down the phone, and mom said: ‘Look, you chose the biz, don’t call me about this again’”.

Actually, I’m lying, it wasn’t an ex at all, but Jennifer Lopez. I have no idea what is was that I was watching or listening to that I should be nodding in agreement with and taking note of what J-Lo had to say, but it’s a goodie and it’s a mirror image of an idea that I’ve oft counseled for on this blog. I’m always encouraging, nay demanding, that a screenwriter-in-waiting, needs to get him or herself a support team for those emotional, financial, physical and spiritual moments when (not “if”) a night of crowning glory and adulation at LA’s Kodak Theatre seems further away from you than the Sombrero Galaxy. But, in support of Ms Lo, let me borrow words from another regular source of mine for today’s tip.......

Day #162 Tip: “Get a backbone not a wishbone”
I’m/we’re nearing the end of our six-month blogger-bloggee relationship together, and in theory or in practice, we should have/might have/might not have something resembling a script, treatment, synopsis or idea (if you’ve been writing along with me). Doesn’t really matter as I’ve enjoyed and been grateful your company along the trail. There’s still three weeks to go before we part company.

Tea and sympathy are not really my cup of tea, however I do need the occasional listening ear. At other times, as I’ve written here before, all I want is friends and family to shrug off my latest rejection for me, with a “keep going, you’ll be fine, you’ll make it, I believe in you”. But sometimes, I think that J-lo’s mother is bang on the money.

I/we choose to be doing this. I don’t know about you, but no one held a pistol to my head and said "become a screenwriter or I squeeze the trigger". It was me, all along, that came up with this one. That’s not to say that this is an invitation to those same friends and family of mine for open season on tough love, but you can use the Mrs J-Lo snr., quote every now and then if you want to. I can’t guarantee that I will be either polite, courteous or full of magnanimity in kind, in fact, you might want to get out of the way as I turn purple; just remind me of this blog if I look like I’m going to explode, implode, or both.

Let’s finish today with a little more erudition and eloquence from La Lopez:

"I stay grounded as the amounts roll in
I’m real, I thought I told you
I really been on Oprah
That’s just me
Nothin phony, don’t hate on me
What you get is what you see
Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got
I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block"

Sister, I hear you!

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