Sunday, November 05, 2006

Uplifting vs. Meaningful

It’s a bit of a melancholy time for me. I feel like everything I’m doing, I’ve done before. I'm back to the Temping World. I’ve temped before. I know what happens. Eventually, I’ll get funneled to some kind of acceptable day job that’ll hire me full time because I can pick up most computer programs in 20 minutes and can type 89 words a minute. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. The day job will pay my bills but it’ll have the most marginal relationship to my goal of Paid Screenwriterdom. I’ll start work on another script. I’ll put a good five months into writing and rewriting it. Nothing will come of it. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. I saw my favorite band the Twilight Singers two weeks ago, and even that carried the whiff of “been there, done that” (but the fact that the first half of the set list was exactly the same as the gig they did a few months ago had a lot to do with it.)

I could be wrong. I hope to GOD I am. I would be so stoked about being wrong on this, and that my newest script will be the one that finally pushes me into the realm of Paid Screenwriterdom. But you know that oft quoted definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? Yeah, that’s me right now.


I mean, I did my first ever Mission trip a month ago! Talk about trying to shake things up! But did anything new happen because of it? Do I feel re-energized, re-charged, closer to God, new perspectives, new anything? Nope. I got nothing.


So in an effort to shake things up, I started temping at a different Unnamed Movie Studio, because I figure if I can’t change the routine, maybe I can change the environment.

My first assignment was this past week. I was assigned to assist a VP in Network TV Post Production. It was ridiculously easy, and the best kind of first assignment to have, because I had plenty of time to learn the phones, the internal studio website, how to leave drive ons, where to order sympathy flower arrangements, la la la.

The VP was a ridiculously nice guy, not a screamer, not a stresser. He heard the 89 words a minute clacking on the keyboard and came out to ask me what in the world I wanted to do with those speedy fingers of mine. So I said it’s what happens when you’re an aspiring screenwriter like myself. We start talking about writing, one thing led to another, and the next thing I know, he’s handing me a TV treatment he wrote a long time ago, and wants to know what I think of it.

This makes the second boss I’ve had that’s handed me something they’ve written. Always a delicate dance. I find it highly amusing, because you, the assistant, aren’t really suppose to pester your boss to read what you’ve written unless they specifically ask for it, but it’s fair game for them to give YOU stuff.

The interesting thing about this one was that it was a faith-based TV treatment, about a youth pastor that quits his job to become a cop following the death of his cop brother. It explores a spiritual character who’s flummoxed about what God wants him to do with his life. Needless to say, I could relate. I couldn’t tell if it was the only thing he’s written, or whether he thought it was safe to give to me, since I mentioned that I had completed the Act One Christian Screenwriting Program this summer.

(And for all the talk I’ve heard through Act One and various church small groups about how hard it is to be a Christian in the film and TV industry, and how you get persecuted once people find out you are a Christian, I have to say I’ve never ever experienced that. More people I’ve worked for and alongside have been Christians than not, and if they do “persecute” me, it has less to do with my religious background, and more to do with the fact that their batshit crazy nature devours everything within a two mile radius of them.)

So I ask a couple of questions, give a couple of comments about stronger choices he could make, and you can tell that the VP thinks they’re good, as he lunges for a piece of paper and starts scribbling as I’m talking. When I ask him what inspired him to write this, he says “I wanted to write something uplifting. Because so much of what we do here (meaning shows the network produces) is just to pass the time.”

The comment has stayed with me for a few days. Write something uplifting. I suppose you could swap that with Write something meaningful and get the same thing. I’d prefer that, really. Because I dunno if I could write something that dripped of Up Up Up With PEOPLE, since most of the time, people bug the hell out of me (except you, Gentle Reader. Always, always except you.)

With my plays, I want to entertain. That’s it. If I can make someone laugh, I’ve done my job, because I’ve seen way too much L.A. theater that purports to be “meaningful” and comes across as pretentious yak puke. (Don’t even get me started on L.A. theater that purports to be “provocative.”)

If you start writing something with the intent of being Meaningful, you’re probably loading up the Heavy Handed Bat for a good whacking on the reader’s knuckles and not realizing it. But if you’re doing your job as a writer, and hitting all the right beats of storytelling, you’re more than likely going to end up with something meaningful anyway. Maybe. Or maybe not. My next script is a spoof of film noir. It’s Ace Ventura meets The Maltese Falcon. I don’t think there’s gonna be a lot that’s meaningful about it.

But hopefully it’ll make people laugh. More than “passing the time.” But not “Uplifting.” There’s gotta be a happy medium somewhere.


Midlife Virgin said...

Uplifting is in the eye of the beholder. I actually thought Big Ever After had some really lovely uplifting moments without being heavy-handed about it. As long as it's about something, you will find those moments without using a sledgehammer. I have faith in you. It's only a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

Yet another great story Amy. I think most of us can understand the been there done that feeling. But sometimes God surprises us with the unexpected. I wish you well.

RichardT said...

Gotta agree with MLV -- BEA was a comedy, sure, but at its heart it was a piece about people taking control of their lives (even though they were fictional). And THAT'S uplifting! The script you sent me recently I thought was uplifting in the way the chracters transformed themselves. So I gotta say that that's already a part of your character as a writer.

With your new boss: it's not utterly uncommon in my experience for Biz Bosses to show their assistants their work if they think the person has a brain on them. It seems to be a way for them to get feedback from people who they don't perceive as being professional critics (ie: paid script readers), so they are getting a new and possibly unjaded set of eyes on the stuff before they send it off to wherever. Actually sounds to me, Amy, like you might be in the right place at the right time for some good things to come your way.

Last: the only place where doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result actually makes some sense is in H'wood. So much of success in this town depends on relentlessly doing the thing you do until it gets noticed--and that's something that MOST of the time doesn't happen the first, second or third time out. The idea is to refine it as you go so that when that Big Cheese finally says "Now, that's odd - there's a woman over there flapping her arms wildly, script in hand" you have something sharp to show them.

Allison said...

It's encouraging to know someone who's plugging away, being faithful, and not falling into some sort of righteous depression. It's how I want to be. :)

Heck, even your BLOGS are uplifting!