Apparently, someone once asked John Lennon if fame and fortune had inspired him to write so much. “No,” he replied, “I was just bloody desperate.” (Although I’ve now just Googled the quote and can’t find it anywhere so I’m sorry if I’ve misquoted him but it suited my purpose... as does the line I’ve just heard in the Keane song I’m listening to: “When your back’s against the wall that’s when you show no fear at all.” Get ready for huge long passages inside parentheses by the way – it’s what I’m famous for).
Okay, so I’m not allowed to say, “I’m bloody desperate,” or my team of (unpaid) life coaches will give me a hard time for “projecting negativity,” but seriously, there does come a point where you say, “Something’s gotta give,” and that moment came for me at 8.30am this morning.
I think I’ve written in the region of 11 feature-length screenplays, 6 television pilots and 4 treatments. When I tell you none of them have sold, you’ll probably assume that none of them are any good, but even I (my harshest critic) think there are a couple of diamonds in the rough. And most of them are at least better than some of the stuff that’s out there. But just because something’s good, it doesn’t necessarily sell.
So – long story short – I had a pitch meeting scheduled for 11am this morning with a Big Hollywood Production Company. If I tell you they’ve scooped hundreds of Oscar nominations but haven’t quite bagged the Best Picture Award yet, those of you in the know might guess who they are, but that’s all I’m saying because I’m not a name-dropper (unless I think it’ll definitely get me a job). And in any case, what I’m going to say might show them in a bad light and actually they really are Good People – rare to find in this town. So the meeting was scheduled for 11am. I’d been up until 1am reworking the pitch and practicing it and rewriting all my little cue cards, and I’d had a few hours sleep and had woken myself up early to ensure I got some exercise in and (and this was the bit that made me so mad because I’ve only got 11 pairs left) I’d put in a pair of my daily contacts that I save for special occasions, when I got the email saying they had to reschedule at the last minute.
This sort of thing happens all the time. In Hollywood there is a pecking order, and if you’re low down in the food chain and are trying to meet with people who are near the top, you will continually get bumped. I was once bumped for 6 months waiting to get in for a meeting with the head of a Major Television Network. But I’d been kind of out of the game for a little while, working with people who respected my time, so I’d forgotten to be all jaded and cynical and got floored that they’d messed me about like that.
And then I had to have a little chat with myself; to stop myself from running around the house (not actually my house) breaking things. I had to get super honest with myself.
When did I start writing screenplays and why? Well, when I was working as a talent agent, and was a frustrated actress (because I hadn’t had the guts to pursue an acting career at that point) a script came across my desk that had sold for a ridiculous sum of money. (Ironically, it was the above-mentioned producer who had bought said script.) Now I’d never before considered the possibility of making “shit loads of money,” apart from an ill-fated flirtation with a pyramid selling scheme I’d been brain-washed into participating in when I was 19, but I looked at this script – at the 125 pages of plain ink on plain paper (not a gold leaf in sight) – and I thought to myself, I think I could do this.
And so I started writing. I completed my first script within a matter of months and was surprised by how much good feedback I got. Immediately the compliments went to my head... and my imagination. This, I decided, would be my salvation. I would sell a screenplay for a million dollars, start my own theater company, and star in all my own plays. Yes, folks, this was my “avoid auditioning and the pain of rejection” master brainwave. It was almost as masterful as my, “I’ll become an agent so I can meet lots of people in the business, make them fall in love with me and have them cast me in lots of fabulous roles,” but the unpleasant moral of that tale is another story for another day.
I wrote more, and the more I wrote, the more compliments I got and suddenly I got scared. What if I actually became a writer and no one let me act because they needed me to write? So I dialed it all back and went to drama school, and finally tried an acting career, and got into lots of debt, and started to write again so I might sell something and get out of debt.
And there I was again – writing for all the wrong reasons.
These days I help other people write, and I help myself by writing. Writing poetry, writing journals, writing on facebook – all help me express what’s in my head and understand my joy and pain. I live to write like this, without censorship, without it being a job, and because my heart and head overflow with words on a daily basis. If I didn’t have somewhere to put it down I think I might burst.
Almost exactly a year ago, an author friend of mine, after reading some of my journal, suggested I write a book. It’s not something I’d really considered before. Mostly because I’d had friends who’d published books and had made less money than their annual car insurance cost. I also didn’t think I had a “real” story to tell. Making up stories about other people, other characters, in my screenplays, was one (scary) level of exposure, but telling my story, warts and all? Could I really do that? I couldn’t... until I had a story to tell.
What I’ve gone through this past year is one hell of a story – according to the people I’ve shared it with. I’m half way through the book and have started this blog because these days, That’s What You Do.
So now I’m writing for all the right reasons, not to make money or bypass the audition process, but in order simply to share a story with those who want to read it.
How much do you want to bet the Nice People at the Big Hollywood Production Company buy the film rights?