Day 152: Or so I thought…

Writing a script is a fascinating process/journey. And what I’ve learned is: The script is NOT finished yet. I had to write a treatment of it, which I had done before writing it, but after doing about 20 versions of that, I decided we had enough to get going. I think that was a mistake. I think what I should have done is show people that treatment and get input on that FIRST. I think I’ve gone about this the wrong way.

At any rate, I’ve gotten feedback from a Writers Store coach on the treatment and she pointed out some things to me that I felt were spot-on (others weren’t). The treatment really needs to clearly delineate what happens in the script. I realized I was saying things in it that might’ve sounded good on paper or as a turn of phrase, but that they were not what was happening in the script. So, they were pointless. Each word has power, and it’s easy to forget that.

At any rate, since this is essentially my little blog to post my progress, I guess where I am at now is cluing in to the power of the treatment and how that will affect the script and/or dictate what should happen in the script. The treatment allows us to clearly see whether something makes sense or not. So, I got “clear” on that, and I will endeavor to finish that and to update changes in the script.

They I must write the synopsis and after that… if I get excellent notes from people, I will apply them. And I will send out whatever my best version is. And I will stop obsessing about it because I can do my best and that is all I can do.

And then I will move on. You know, there are THOUSANDS of books and blogs and posts and god-knows-what about how to write a screenplay. I don’t have time to read all of them, but I hope I can pick up something of value from whatever I do read.

And something caught my eye the other day: Don’t make the lead character “nice.” We actually do not have to “like” the lead character, but the lead character must be “engaging”; I liked this word. Like the word. That’s right; something about the lead character must be engaging in order for us to care about their fate. I think my problem or issue with my lead character is that she is too nice and that it takes her a while to actually come to terms with her hurt and anger. But that is who she is at this point in time and so, I have to work with what I’ve got.

I hope I will continue to receive valuable notes and that the script will reflect them. But… I do not want this year to be about rewriting this script. It’s time to write a new one, and I feel it.

More soon.


Day 127: At last

My script “MEND” is finished. It is as finished as it can be for now. 2012 is about getting it sold. This blog started out as something else, but after 127 days I am clear that I am not going to detail all the steps I am taking to achieve my goal. That is time I could be spending actually ACHIEVING my goal. But I will check in from time to time to post an update.

To anyone who might read this: If you’re working on a script, finish it. Do not toy with it forever. At some point you must release your “child” into the world. 2012 is the year for “Mend.”

To all creatives everywhere, I send you love & inspiration for 2012.

Day 104: Script, script, script

Yes, it’s been a while. I know. This is not the blog I intended, but that’s okay, because I’ve learned so much that had I just spent the time chronicling every precious step in this journey, I would have missed a lot of other important things.

I think I am now done with my coaching sessions from the Writers Store. I sensed that my coach was feeling that she had done pretty much all she could do and so, now I am on my own. I will miss her, because she was like a beacon of light (yes, a cliche, but in this case true), in my dark, lonely struggle to finish my screenplay.

Last week I spent 2.5 days poring over the script, making sure all of it made sense. There were a number of points that didn’t, but I caught them all, I think, and last week and yesterday and today, Blake and I are addressing those points and adjusting them.

At which point… I simply must put my precious baby on a boat and send her out onto the ocean with my strongest prayer that she will reach a safe shore and be welcomed by the loving arms of a respectful, knowledgeable entertainment business individual who can be instrumental in helping my child survive in Hollywood. We will see.

At any rate, today I am updating our tweaks from yesterday and I hope today we will have finished the last 10 pages of notes. There were a lot of notes and I know Blake shuddered when he saw them, but the reality is, and he knows, the script is better as a result.

So, time to get to it and while doing so, I acknowledge that the journey to creating this script (in its present state) is nearing an end, and I must accept that. Because I cannot sit and “potchky” with it till the end of time.

Hopefully will have more comments soon.

Day 84: Light at the end of the tunnel

I have not done anything along the lines of what I thought I would do with this blog… but that’s okay. I have done something much better, which is focused my energies on completing my script. If I had done all I set out to do with this blog, I would have spent precious time tweaking it to make it “look good” for public consumption. I am not interested in that at this moment. I am only interested in finishing my script and having it ready to market.

Last week I had an intense session with my coach. I think we both realized we were getting to the end of this project — I hope that is the case. So, before I count my chickens before they hatch, I’ll just say that her notes, again, were superb, but I also had my own “epiphanies” (I put quotes around it because I don’t think it was as heavy as an epiphany, but I do feel more layers of the onion have been peeled back and I am “getting the message” about who my characters are), and my coach encouraged me to follow through on them.

So, that’s where I am at today. I started this project in November 2007, a few months after I lost my precious mother to cancer. I was in an emotional haze and just throwing words down on the page. But to paraphrase my favorite teacher and mentor, Ellen Sandler, one must give oneself the freedom to write badly. This is essential. One must spit it out and get it down and get it out… and then, when the fog has lifted and/or the emotions have calmed, then one can see the forest for the trees. That is what has been happening and ultimately I suppose I don’t care what anybody thinks of this script, because I myself am proud of its progress and am feeing a million more times confident about it and its chances at success in the market. Yes, a limited market; it’s not an action film, vampire film, retro/remake/old TV show film… but I don’t care. It’s a small family drama with intense overtones, and that’s just the way I like it.

So, now, it’s time for me to apply the notes I got from beautiful Kay, my coach, and to incorporate the notes I got from my beautiful co-writer Blake. These people are BRILLIANT to me and it is so exciting to just talk with them and hear their observations. I feel elevated being in their presence and I feel I am a better person because I know them and work with them.

So, with that… off I go to write, write, write… and write.

Day 72: Pushing forward

The more I do this, the more I understand how easy it is for myself to make excuses as to why I have not done something. Yes, I worked 8 nights in a row playing piano. Yes, I come home late, yes I am tired and lethargic in the morning. Yes, that eats into my day and makes it difficult for me to do much of anything else.

And yet… I must. Because, as I have been reminded by life so many, many times, if I don’t do it, who will? Who will care if I don’t? Who will shepherd my “children” through the creative process onto the world stage? No one, if not me.

So, I go through my struggles, my episodes, my denials, etc. ad nauseam, but I always come back to the same thing: Do you want to do this or not?

I think, although I might be wrong, that I am nearing the end of my struggle to get through what amounts to essentially a complete rewrite of my feature “Mend.” My lead character is not an action star; she is not a dynamic person… except in a few key moments. That is okay for me… although it may not be for Hollywood. I know, I know; I’m already judging.

I guess I want to say: Writing this script has been a journey. It is fascinating to me how every person who reads the script has a different opinion about certain elements of it, but they do all seem to relate to the mother-daughter struggle and to the oppressiveness that Joanne, my lead character, lives with. I guess this is my character: someone who is trying to survive without rocking the boat… until rocking the boat is the only thing that she can do if she does want to survive. This observation actually makes me happy, because I’ve worked so long on defining her and giving her a sense of purpose in her life.

Well, this week I will have more time to address the last 20 pages, which are crucial and which require intense focus. I am not a fast writer. But I believe that I can write, and I have to believe that in order to pick up the pen.

I will share one more thing: Yesterday I was at the Apple Store in Ginza having my 1-1 coaching session. I reconnected with one of my former coaches, who was handling a different project when I arrived. He was so excited to see me. He had published a book of poetry which he wanted me to read. He told me he admired me because I had written a book and made my films. His acknowledgment of my creative abilities was deeply touching and moving and uplifting to me. To think that someone admired me for doing the things that I have done was that little boost of encouragement I needed to get back to my tasks.

Sometimes I feel like I wandering around a maze, alone, hoping the next corner I turn will give me enlightenment or inspiration or encouragement or help or something. It’s lonely to write by oneself. Yes, I have a writing partner, but we only meet once a week at that. I do the heavy lifting, he does the brilliant one-liners and spot-on grammar checks. We make a good team, and I love him, but still, when it comes time to write, I am alone.

But for now, I’m going to embrace that and do the best I can. More soon.

Day 62: Better

I’ll be brief. Writing is something that gnaws at me. I ignore it by running around, doing chores, busy work, errands. And yet… if there’s a moment of silence, I can feel the “spirit” nipping at my heels, rumbling in my gut, knocking around in my brain. So, ultimately, I can’t ignore it.

I did stay away from the script for about a week, or maybe longer. But, wisely, I had my coaching session yesterday (and just think, instead, I could have spent three hours having my 1-1 session at Apple to talk about my iTunes library!)… and, again, it was so illuminating. Kay, my coach, is like a beacon of light and truth — yeah, yeah, cliches, who cares, that’s what she is. We’re in the nitty-gritty of the script now, and everything she suggested will make the script better.

I spent about 2.5 hours today applying what she said. But, that wasn’t until I let myself do another, unrelated task, that wasn’t necessary, that took three hours! (So, I suppose, I could¬†have gone to my Apple session yesterday!) The point: I was avoiding, again.

But… as I learn every single time, once I “submit” to the “spirit” and let my writer come out of hiding, I realize… oh, yeah, I can¬†write. And, now, I finally feel like I get what Ellen Sandler, one of my inspiring teachers, said to me three years ago when I brought her to Tokyo from Los Angeles. She asked me, “What do you want to do?” And I answered, almost like a child: “I want to write a great screenplay and sell it and have it produced.” And she waved her finger in front of my face, like any great teacher/mentor/parent would have done, and said, “No! What you want to do is write.”

I honestly did not get that until now. The task is to write. Now, when the writing is DONE, then I can reconfigure my brain to get the script into the right hands. But until that day is here, my job is to write. And, like Ellen also said, I must give myself the freedom to “write badly.” That is a great freedom to allow myself. The first task is to get words down on paper or on the screen. Today, I did that, and I am so happy with what I wrote and I can see the screenplay coming to life before my eyes. So, today was better and if I can keep these simple principles about writing in my head and not run away from them, perhaps I can avoid three-hour sessions where I do unrelated, unnecessary tasks. (Whether I can avoid eating chocolate chip cookies, raisins, and God-knows what else while I write is another story.)

Until next time…

Days 54-60: Push forward

I have to remind myself of those two words when I want to give up or forget this project, which is just about every other minute. I have to ease myself into the writing mode. I have to be “willing” to do it. I know, that is insane, but it seems to be the way I approach it.

I am having a coaching session in 30 minutes. The truth is I have done little on the script since I returned from Cardiff on Oct 13, or whenever it was (how quickly we forget), but it is also true that I have worked non-stop or enough that I didn’t feel I could wedge in an appropriate writing session.

But that, too, is an excuse. Because I could have, had I made an extra effort. So, I am making that effort now.

It is not enough to write a script. That really is only step one. I think part of my “problem” is that I have spent so much time with these characters that part of me is afraid to say goodbye to them, the other part worries about whether they will survive.

Both of those observations have value, but in the end, if I do not finish the script to some level of satisfaction and if I do not share it with the world and if I do not make every effort to take it as far as it can go, then I am not doing my job as a “parent.” Since I have no children, all my creative efforts become my children. I know that I must “release” them to the world. I know that. So, I guess part of me is “gearing up” to do that.

Anyway, enough chit-chat. Last night we watched “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.” I loved it. It was so shocking at the end, I cannot believe I didn’t see it coming. What I got out of seeing this film is that in a screenplay, one must be willing to go to the uncomfortable places, the places that make the heart stop or the throat tighten. The places that fill one with dread. I have avoided those emotions all my life, and in fact I wanted to turn off the movie several times. In fact, it took me two nights to get through it. I was filled with a sense of dread. What was the “reward” for forcing myself to watch it?

It’s a good question and I guess the answer is a shattering emotional experience. I don’t seek out those type of experiences, but that’s what I had. And I will never forget the film, which did not require A-list actors and tons of special effects. The screenplay was clear, powerful and did what it was supposed to do.

I hope I can do the same.