(Original publication May 16, 2013)
I venture to say that most of you who are engaged in screenplay writing activities are more influenced by BAD movies than GOOD movies.
We all know what a really GOOD movie is. It’s a CLASSIC. We see it over and over and it remains fresh with each viewing. Even though the actors, the director and technical aspects are excellent, the screenplay for the most part seems as though it were written only yesterday. The year 1939 seems to exemplify a moment in film history when every film nominated for an Oscar as best picture that year resulted in a classic. The ten film are: Dark Victory, Gone With The Wind, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice And Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, and Wuthering Heights. Gone With The Wind won.
Each of the above listed films is shown over and over on TV, mainly via Turner Classic Movies, and many, many people own their own personal copies of them. Within the last few week I re-saw Goodbye Mr. Chips (my own copy) and The Wizard of Oz (TCM) and both were about as fresh at the current screenings as they were when I first saw them many years ago.
I doubt if any of these 1939 films caused you to enter the screenwriting business. They certainly DIDN’T in my case. I have always admired them as something for me to emulate in my writing once I managed to get my toe through the door in Hollywood.
Here’s what got YOU into writing screenplays. You saw some perfectly dreadful films and you said to yourself, “Hey, I can write something better than that with my hands tied behind my back.” So, your mind hatched out the idea that screenwriting couldn’t be all that difficult.
Here’s the unfortunate part behind such thinking. Those dreadful screenplays were made into films not because someone thought they were good. They came alive on the silver screen because of the author’s special relationship with a person we shall call a mentor, which is a highfalutin term these days meaning “sugar daddy.” As I said in the last blog—such miracles happen only because someone likes you better than your writing.
The only reason I’m putting together this particular blog is to try and convince you that “quality writing”, which is ballyhooed as the Holy Grail in the screenwriting business by most other bloggers, producers, directors and potentates, is just nothing more than malarkey—or toro poo poo as I like to call it. You did not join in on the screenwriting game because you wanted to write a classic people would view over and over. You merely wanted to see your words up there on the screen and you thought it was easy due to all the crap that hits the screen weekly.
It’s a tough game and, believe me, if you’re going to ever see your words being spoken on the screen, you’ll spend most of your time promoting yourself as a person instead of a writer. I personally know someone who attended Alcohol Anonymous in fashionable areas like Beverly Hills and Malibu until they found a Mr. Right who became captivated with them and later with their writing. That writer has had several of his projects produced.
I think once you realize that playing Pollyanna (altruistic) will get you nowhere with your writing, you might just start realizing some success. In certain socialistic countries in Europe, the government helps poor souls with not a sugar daddy to their name. But here in the USA, we practice the FREE MARKET via the Sugar Daddy route. It’s WHO YOU KNOW that counts in the USA when it comes to upward mobility—especially with your being a screenwriter.