I get paid to write. Writing, when you do it every day, for money, is a tricky little job. When you do it well, you change people's lives. When you do it poorly, you also change people's lives, by, say, bankrupting their studio or crushing their career. But I digress.
I'll be posting a bit later the first installment of dispatches from working writer-hood. Many people who don't write for a living have some romantic ideas about how it goes. Even those film school students who consider themselves savvy usually get beaten about the head and shoulders for the first year or so of their careers. These articles are not about following your bliss, or finding your vision, or whatever. There are countless, countless books on that side of the "creative process". These articles will be about about developing stories, finding act breaks, choosing viewpoint, and generally putting words, tens of thousands of words, on paper every year, year in and out.
Before we get into the ugly bits, I thought I'd start with a sort of overview of my role in Hollwyood.
It is very, very small.
In the five-ish years I've been in LA (not counting the three in New York working on Cosby) I have written three half-hour TV pilots, one one-hour TV pilot, three two-hour TV movies and multiple drafts of 18 different feature films. By the end of this year the count should be an even 20.
I don't say this so you can goggle at my resume. I point to this and remind you, that, despite what would seem to a young film student to be a prodigious amount of work, YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD OF ME. That's one of the first adjustments you have to make when coming out here. As a novelist, you ARE the process. As a stand-up comic, you ARE the process. As a screenwriter, you are PART of the process. What winds up on screen, what tiny percentage of what you do that winds up on screen (I'm considered to have a decent average at 16%, for God's sake ...) , after passing through the studio process and filming, is never -- never -- exactly what you wrote. Sometimes it's NOTHING like what you wrote. And the second, the millisecond you let that get to you and stop caring, stop fighting for the script you believe in -- you're a hack, and you don't even have your identity anymore.
Many, many writers would never do the work I do, or take the workload. That's cool for them. I LIKE writing too much. As much as I love working on my original material, I enjoy coming into broken projects and trying to fix them. Sometimes I intentionally take stuff that's been stuck for years just to see if I can be the guy to slog it out of the hole. (Sometimes, it should've stayed in the hole)
I am, in short, the Hollywood equivalent of a left-handed reliever.
To ease in, I'll start by excerpting the article I wrote for late lamented CHUD magazine MOVIE INSIDER about ...