Story of a Screenplay
I know I haven’t blogged in a while, mostly due to miserable working conditions and traveling to the Front Range every other weekend. I haven’t had the energy or heart to find my creativity. I’ve been at my job for almost 6 months now, and the more I’m exposed to paperwork and bureaucracy, the less I want to make Administrative Assisting my career.
I’m remembering why I went to the college I did. I’m feeling the need to make something out of that. So, 5 years after commencement, I’m finally starting another screenplay. My goal is to finish it by next summer.
I know. Like I need another project, right?
Ironically, my good friend Elly, who I’ve known for over 10 (wow) years, left this link on my previous post. Its about female characters on film, the rules of screenwriting, and the reality of Hollywood.
I’d like to share my own story of this dealing with this truth, but first read the article, so you know its not just me.
My Screenwriting Story:
My senior year of college, I lived, went to school and worked in Hollywood. It was the final step in a college curriculum based on a 90% job placement in the extremely competitive film industry. Up until this point, We had been groomed and molded until our minds and bodies were prepared to achieve Hollywood glory.
I’ve written more than once about the egoism and elitist attitude I was exposed to at my college, but it was understood that the boot camp of film school was only to prepare you for how things “really were” in Hollywood. If you didn’t like it, then obviously you were in the wrong place.
As much as I hated my experience at film school, I was excited to get to Hollywood. I had faith in my work ethic, my flexibility & my creativity. I was ecstatic to finally enroll in a real screenwriting class, since I had only been writing media criticism, film treatments and creative works of fiction up until that point.
The class was small, one teacher and 5 other students. I was the only female. We had to write 10 pages a week, bring copies of our script, distribute roles and read aloud in class every week. I had been in high school theatre, so I remembered enjoying sitting around a table, reading out loud from a script.
Unfortunately for yours truly, this class would be nothing like that.
My first screenplay was a highly personal, highly angst-ridden, highly-feminine work of bitter, angry prose. It was titled “Pills” and it starred a 17 year-old fat girl with anger management issues and an addiction to Ritalin.
Taking that into a room full 21-year-old boys who showed up every week with car chases, crime syndicates, rockstars, guns and hitmen was like walking into the gauntlet.
After week 2, I dreaded bringing my work to class. It was like the first day of school every time I handed out the pages of my script. All my characters were female. All the students in the room were male. Every week, the members of my class laughed and scoffed and spoke in high pitched voices when my characters talked. They rolled their eyes and bit their lips in disgust as my PMS-laden, tampon-driven, birth control-soaking dialogue spewed out of their mouths.
The professor of this class was also female. At about week 6, I desperately started to look to her for help. To save me from this humiliation. I though she might come to my rescue and tell these assholes to shut the fuck up and show some respect to me. She never said a word about the quality of my script. I started to think I was a horrible writer. That maybe I really didn’t have what it took to sell a script. If the 5 guys were any indication of a real audience, I was dead in the water.
The message I got was clear: No one wanted to watch a pimply, fat teenage girl whine about her life (even though Woody Allen has been doing the same thing and making highly successful movies for years).
By the final weeks of the class, I had given up on my story. I started writing the most outrageous things, just to spite my fellow classmates, to force them to recite the darkest, ugliest, most disturbing things about the female race possible. Things they never wanted to even think about.
Yeah, can you say “passive aggressive”? Ahem…Pisces.
After the class was over, my professor finally said to me “You are a natural writer. Your script had some very good moments in it.”
Well THANKS for keeping that little tidbit away from me in front of the boys. Thanks for gushing over Asshole #4′s amazing plot line, or Asshole #1′s strong character development. Thanks for NEVER giving me constructive criticism, or even acknowledging me once the entire time.
All I wanted was confirmation that I didn’t suck. That maybe someone wouldcare about the female anti-hero, but that’s not what the class was about. Perhaps my teacher was trying to prepare me for the real world of Hollywood, where my script would be shredded before it left the intern’s desk. Maybe she was trying to tell me that no one was going to hold my hand here, and that female screenwriters are few and far between for a reason. The ones that did survive played by the rules of the Bechdel Test.
I could have learned my lesson. I could used the harsh experience to my advantage. Instead, I dealt with my disillusionment like any cowardly Pisces. I packed my screenplay, snorted a percocet and headed home for Colorado.
It may be 5 years later, but I think I have it in me to write a better ending to this story.