on the long game

I spent 7 odd years of my life and youth in Los Angeles, peddling spec scripts w/ minimal return. I moved to Portland over a decade ago with a handful of scripts most of which I've long considered dead and untenable since they found no takers. Recently, considering what to do after the black sea is finished, I went back through some more as a curiosity than anything - some of them are 15 years old -  and was surprised happily to discover that there were actually movies in them, a pulse laying under years of neglect, even if they were obscured by bad writing.

Said bad writing is both a hazard of youthful ambition and of being an aspirant screenwriter, wherein the goal is to get noticed -- find voice to get noticed, write prose to get noticed, write something compelling and memorable to get noticed - not to serve the film. Here is an excerpt of a screenplay I wrote, one I was proud of back in the day, but one which contains some bad prose, particularly parts noted in red.

tough loss
I can feel my own 25 year old desperation in that sentence,  flailing away frantically underneath, screaming to the world "I am different, pick me, pick me". Here's the truth though,  I don't even know what that sentence means in practical terms, much less how an actor would act it or a director would direct an actor through it. Here's another chestnut:

oops! some terror just oozed out.
I found many such bits throughout this screenplay and others, which reminds/bestows a lesson I've heard a million times from a variety of sources: simple is best. This is antithetical to the aspirant screenwriter, or at least it was to me. In Los Angeles, clogged with rising writers and hoping-to-rise writers and mountains of spec scripts, the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach feels more like taking a suicide pill than time-worn wisdom. Simple is plain, is anonymous, is replaceable. Instead you have to distinguish yourself, announce yourself, separate yourself.

I don't fault myself for trying so hard, it was an essential and formative component of the person and director I became - and it's a marker of the terrain I've travelled. My focus then lay not on the movie I was writing but the career I was pursuing, and the dark underbelly that was urging it forward: my adolescent need for the world to hear that plaintive 'pick me, pick me' wail and answer it.

Not much to do about it except laugh but I do so wish bad work didn't hang around like ghosts holding mirrors that reflect back the depths of my desperate ambition.

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