Sunday, September 10, 2006

Two Topics That Have Nothing To Do With Each Other

I got my dink letter from the Austin Film Festival last week, so that officially makes me 0 – 3 on the writing fellowship front. I wasn’t pinning my hopes on winning the thing, but to place in a Semi-Finalist or Finalist capacity would’ve been awesome.

I thought I had the best chance with Austin, since it’s not Los Angeles (duh), but for some reason, it doesn’t matter to me anymore. Maybe because I’ve already been dinked by two other fellowships, and that should tell you something. Maybe because I just went through my writer’s group on Wednesday where they were discussing the script I had submitted to Austin, and pointing out the issues with it reinforced to me that it’s not a perfect script. And it feels like it has to be a perfect script to make it to the bottom levels of these fellowships. You could argue that there’s no such thing as a perfect script, and the stuff I’ve written that’s been optioned has had issues, the plays I’ve written and produced that won audience awards and LA Weekly’s Pick Of The Week have issues. So no, there is no such thing as a perfect script. But there are scripts that have less issues than my scripts. Oh, to be able to write a clear story. Oh, to dream the impossible dream. But I felt okay with anticipating the “Sorry” letter. It’s just easier to live life expecting the worst. Because you’re never disappointed, and sometimes, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. That’s probably not sanctioned by the Bible, by the way.

Regardless, I get the letter on Friday. And the letter said what I’d thought it’d say, which is that I did advance to the Second Round, but not the semifinals. “reaching the second round is a tremendous accomplishment and you should be very proud of your entry.” They also say that just below 15% made it to the Second Round, with over 4,000 writers submitting. So that basically means I’m part of 600 scripts that made the Second Round cut. Yeah, that sounds about like me. I need to write a script that’s 300 and fewer people good.

But there’s something else in the envelope with the Sorry Letter, and it’s a buckslip from the Screenplay Competition Coordinator. Handwritten, it says “Amy – Please know your script was very well received! All the best.”

Well. Part of me says then why didn’t it advance!?!? But the other part of me recognizes that she didn’t have to do that, and it’s really nice that she did. Maybe I was the poor slob that just missed the cut off. Like if 200 scripts made it to the Semi Finals, I was probably script 201, ‘cause that TOTALLY sounds like my current luck these past two months. But it’s certainly validation. Validation in a tiny tiny form.

And in a segueway that has nothing to do with anything and I can’t think of a wittier way to change subjects, I’ve decided to go on a mission trip with 11:00 church the first week of October. We’re going down to New Orleans to help with Katrina stuff.

I’ve never really been a missions kind of gal. I have no problem helping out within the city I live in, because God knows there’s plenty of places around here that need help (Homeless Karaoke on Wednesday!), but I’ve never boarded a plane, a bus, a 15 person van, with the intention of going somewhere SOLELY for the purpose of a mission trip. But I’m doing it now.

And if you wanna say it’s the Call Of God, it went somewhat like this: I’m sitting in 11:00 church, listening to the people who just got back from the two week mission trip to Kenya and thinking to myself, “It takes a certain kind of person to want to go to Kenya and work with orphans and in the slums and stuff. I am not that kind of person. Thank God there are people who aren’t selfish brats like me.” And then they announce they’re doing a trip to New Orleans. This would be New Orleans proper, as opposed to the first group they sent to Biloxi in February.

And this small nagging thought in my stomach showed up. You have to do this, because you don’t have a valid reason not to. Yep, yep, I think it came from my stomach. Wonder what’s up with that. Like if maybe I had had waffles and bacon first, I wouldn’t have thought it?

You have to do this, because you don’t have a valid reason not to. I’m not working, I’ve got severance money in the bank account. The first wave of responders for Katrina Help has subsided, but there’s still plenty of work to be done. And that’s usually when I come in. I’m never with the First Wave, I’m always part of the Clean Up Crew. I’m the one that takes the trash out at church. I’m the one that takes care of the widow’s dog when everyone’s focused on her and the baby. I’m the one that zeroes in on the things that people have either moved on from, or never thought about in the first place. Don’t know why.

There is the Neurotic Part Of Me that likes to point out that every time I embark on a God Approved Venture – an Alpha course, a church retreat, an Act One class – I come out the other side much worse off, like teetering on the edge of breakdown time. But hey! That should fulfill the Masochistic Part Of me very nicely! So I HAVE to do it.

And hell, even my mother, the Phone Harpy Who I Love Very Much, has already been down to that area on her church’s mission trip. I can’t have the Phone Harpy show ME up. No WAY!

So I’m now part of a seven person group going the first week in October. I was hoping I’d get to swing a hammer or saw some stuff, but it appears from the initial info we’ve gotten that we’re gonna most likely be doing debris removal. So I’m taking out the trash! In New Orleans! Whoo HOO! As long as I’m not serving food to other workers, I’m cool. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I wanted to be literally hands on. Hands on the trash. Maybe I’ll get to wield a sledgehammer. Maybe they’ll let me drive a bulldozer. Nah, it’s probably gonna be stinky Hefty bag time. But someone’s gotta do it. Might as well be me.


Midlife Virgin said...

Good for you for going on the mission. You never know what you're going to take away from it. And don't feel bad, my latest short has now been turned down by four film festivals. But I'm going to keep on submitting it because, well, that's what we do. Treasure the little note the reader sent back because your script reached someone.

We should coffee again soon!

kathy said...

congrats on the handwritten note! as i have never even entered a fellowship competition, i would consider that a success! (it all depends on your definition, doesn't it?)
and on the missions trip--it will be an awesome experience, i'm positive!! every one i've ever been on was amazing...including biloxi.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

They may have nothing to do with each other, but those are two topics that have been very close to my own heart. Good for you on both counts.

RichardT said...

Seems to me, Amy, with the note, here's what I bet happened:
There's a committee. They read your script. Most of them LOVED it, some of them didn't get it, and one person hated it, which lead to it not getting passed along. I suspect that one of the readers who loved it felt you wuz being robbed and wanted to let you know you had fans.

This means it wasn't the smell-right screenplay of the week, nor the topic-du-jour script, nor the so-in-the-middle-eveyone-agrees script.

Your voice has always been unique. People get you or they don't. Someday someone with some cash will read your stuff and go WOW, because they will have some freakin' taste and vision. Remember: you keep getting rejected from places run by COMMITTEE. Art has never been made by committee. Not even smart, quirky, commercial viable stuff like yours. It's all vision and timing, and it will happen.

And New careful. Have a beignet for me.

Lonnie said...

"It’s just easier to live life expecting the worst. Because you’re never disappointed, and sometimes, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. That’s probably not sanctioned by the Bible, by the way." might be surprised:

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him."
~Psalm 126:5-6 (Also on p189 of "Journey of Desire"...where I read it this morning.)

BTW, I'm a "Second Wave-er" too. Don't know why. I think it may be because I like being close to the limelight (I've never realized how goofy that word is before), but not IN the limelight (still goofy). If it means anything, Billy Graham was actually the SECOND speaker called to do the crusade in California that started his "career." He has been heard to say that he was God's second choice. Much better to be the second choice that responded than the first one that didn't.