Write Badly

Billy Mernitt, you have just knocked my favorite crutch away. My best excuse for procrastination. The reason I end up spinning in circles and efficiently avoiding forward progress on my screenplays (or any writing, really.) I don't have to get it "perfect."

According to Mr. Mernitt, who has every reason to know, it's not only OK to break the "rules" of screenwriting, sometimes it helps you achieve the one goal that is paramount for any screenwriter: make them empathize with the protagonist. Get them to feel. If it takes parentheticals, unfilmable asides about the character's internal thoughts and intentions, or lots of ellipses, then so be it.

Thinking about it, I am reminded of something I learned when studying poetry in college. It struck me while reading Sonnet: On the Sonnet by Keats. The Sonnet is a very structured form. Not the most difficult, but still fairly rigorous. (I laugh when people complain about screenplay form being too limiting.) In this sonnet, Keats breaks the rhythm in one line - and does so with the explicit intention of making the reader pause, of drawing attention to the one line.

I learned two things from that poem: 1) Let structure serve a meaningful function. The actual rhythm contributes to and/or echoes the content. 2) Drama and meaning can be derived from breaking the form - but there has to be a form there to break for that to work.

So I think my feeling about using such things as internal unfilmables, is that they should be used consciously. They should be placed in essential spots, to break the form a little, change the pace, make the reader stop and think. But to achieve that effect, the rest of the writing has to be fairly clean and straightforward.

I know the examples on Mr. Mernitt's blog include a script that seems to go beyond the selective use idea... but I also found it a difficult passage to read. Maybe it reads differently in context.

Have I come full circle? Have I just proposed something even more difficult than perfection - perfection with intentional flaws? Shhh. I don't care. I need to go write.

Reminder to Self: How to Sell a Script

You pass it on to your connections. A screenwriter without connections very rarely makes a sale. Hollywood is the most incestuous industry aside from the mafia. Even porn is more open to outsiders.

So how do you get connections? I hate that phrase: "get connections." Connections are made and maintained, they are something dynamic and living - not a purchasable product.

You start by talking to people, getting to know others who are interested in the business - sites like Triggerstreet help for those of us not in Hollywood. Read blogs by those devoted to the craft and participate in the dialogue in the comments.

If there are local film/screenwriting groups or organizations like a local Screenwriters Association or Women in Film, participate. (There are both in Dallas. I need to join them.) Go to film festivals. And talk to people (a tough one for many writers), get their contact info, follow up a couple of weeks later to say it was good to meet them, and only hit them up after that when you have something relevant to them, such as updating them on what you are doing (provided you are actually doing something worth updating them on).

Otherwise: look up the production companies for films you like that are similar to what you write. (use the Hollywood Creative Directory) Mail them (e-mail or snail mail) query letters asking if they would be interested in reading your script.

Look up the screenwriters for those films, and find out who represents them, and get the contact info for those agents or agencies at least - and contact them

Don't expect to sell your script, so much as to offer it as a writing sample. You should have 3-4 solid scripts (as in ready to produce,) and if told that one is not what they are looking for, you can offer the others. This also shows you're not a one-shotter, and may have the stuff to be a professional writer - so you might get considered for assignments. Most produced screenplays are assignments (and adaptations at that) rather than specs.