Screenwriting is troubling. It always has been for me. It has slaughtered entire evenings and spread their ashes deep into the early hours of the morning. It has made me irritable at times while feeding my stubbornness to no end. There is no justification for this. Other than my wife and a few friends, barely anybody in the "industry" has read anything I've written. The fault is mine and mine alone, a tattoo I carved into my own arm only to continuously oppose, as time went on, the ink's overall design and meaning. I've been writing screenplays for years and in that time have only sent a handful to producers who for a brief moment showed what kind of resembled interest. I've been rejected by agencies who refuse to accept unsolicited material, a widely known policy, or simply received no response at all. And this is how it should be.
I'm not promoting my brand here effectively, I know, and for any would be director reading this, I can't imagine it would inspire a great amount of confidence in the product at hand. But that's where it starts, confidence tucked away, waiting to be exhumed by that one great idea and nurtured nightly by vehemence and a little bit of madness. But for what? That's one of the many struggles screenwriters face, especially unestablished ones such as myself. We're often writing for a reward that has yet to manifest itself. We see the castle but not the bridge. And before we can begin, we have to face the desolate landscape known as the blank page, where guts are spilled on the coffee table and scabs picked at by the red pens of loved ones. This shouldn't suggest that the ideas aren't there. They just take time.
What follows are the first two pages of a screenplay I've been developing. It's comprised of years of wrong approaches, structure experimentation, the occasional idol rip-off and an absurd amount of frustration, all leading to countless hours of rewriting, where the fog of doubt can turn your ideas into mush. When you rewrite a screenplay, you create the wounds yourself. You rip the bandages away, review the progress just to pry them open all over again. But even with the stress that naturally comes, it can be enormously fulfilling. When you complete something you feel you've inserted so much of yourself into, you can't help but crown the process with a certain level of pride, all the while arousing your fear that it's really all for nothing. The screenplay that these two pages precede have bounced me back and forth within that very place.
This is a screenplay that has seen many changes in its lifetime, although changes I felt were necessary. But it's an original work, not one based on a novel or comic. With today's focus seemingly targeted at franchises, reboots, and sequels, it frightens me to think that the hunt for original material is slowly being laid to rest. Some recent releases based on original concepts which sadly resulted in lackluster performances at the box office have led some to believe that the oil the Hollywood machine runs on now only appears to flow through the veins of the typical blockbuster, leaving the smaller ideas out in the cold. The meat of the cash cow is certainly warranted, but the bones that provide the foundation are what, artistically speaking, can often appear brittle when profit begins to outweighs content.
I'm still a firm believer that smaller films need to exist, and can be largely successful on their own. Quentin Tarantino's widely revered Pulp Fiction, a huge influence for me, was budgeted at just over $8 million and reportedly took in over $200 million worldwide, an astonishing number. Many other smaller films followed suit with similar successes. Those were ideas that were worth the tightrope, and still are. I'm just not sure how many people share that same belief in today's industry. The optimist in me still has trust in that idea, that there are agents, directors, and even actors that still aim to take risks on unknown writers.
Some nights, if I fall victim to a bout of writer's block, I imagine punching the screen in a fit of rage, watching as the shards of glass slowly turn into small serrated teeth that bite down on my hands if I try to quit. But these moments I feel are what define an artist, no matter what the medium. It's a struggle I will always cherish. I don't know if a screenplay I've written will ever get sold or, better yet, committed to screen; I just know that it's a passion that doesn't seem to harbor a desire to go anywhere just yet, except on a computer screen at 2am while my wife and kids are asleep, where violence, romance and comedy can try to bleed from the same heart.