February 26, 2024

Death of a Screenwriter; Part Two

Fade In, he types.

The origins of any screenplay can be found by the amount of times the writer types these two words. He sees the blank page and like Napoleon he sets about conquering it- his troops; cannons of research, a cavalry of dictionaries and thesauruses, and himself- the general. He stares at the page, willing words to appear, his mind floating, eyes flickering, and his room a mess- so he hesitates, realises he can not work in this filth. You can often tell if a writer is suffering writers block by simply taking a look at his room, if its immaculate, chances are he hasn’t been able to come up with so much as a predicate. Procrastination, the venereal disease of the writer; symptoms include- lapses in concentration, an inability to think, an uncontrollable urge to watch television, and of course- obsessive tidying.

The death of the screenwriter also begins with the above two words. They say anyone can write a film, and they are probably right. I’d be willing to bet that nearly everyone that has seen their fair share of film has thought to themselves “I’ve got a great idea for a movie”. So one day, in between watching television and tidying they sit down at their laptop, open up word and begin. See, they’ll start it, and yeah the format will be all over the place, the grammar probably okay, and the dialogue will be like exposition heaven. But as far as they are concerned, they have written a film. So when you introduce yourself as a screenwriter, they’ll say “Oh, I’ve done that already”. Either that or they’ll ask you for the latest Hollywood gossip.

Because of course, Hollywood is the metaphoric party we all long for; and writers are never on the guest-list, we’d just invite ourselves. Because who would want the writers walking around L.A, hands in their pockets, meandering through the talent like streams of piss, pitching half-hearted ideas about obscure stories and preaching about originality, meanwhile the producers and executives gather round the bonfire of first-drafts, they keep pretty warm. Meanwhile, its back to cold shackles of the writer’s room, the prison cell of the first page. You look around trying to find something that needs cleaning, but to your horror the room is immaculate, verging on obsessive compulsive. You are succumbed to write, so a day after you deleted your infamous first two words you write them again.

Fade In, he types.

Me, the scriptwriter, I pity me. I feel shame; I see the thousands of plundered blank pages before me, and wonder if it is worth it. This writing has lost its panache, it’s dull. Teenage vampires and wizards rein supreme in amongst the devil-may-care environment of Hollywood, and we the public lap it up, we buy the t-shirts and dress accordingly. There was a time when people wanted to tell stories, now we just want to get our next fix; we want to embrace 3D, to writhe around in a puddle of sequels and blockbusters- cinematic junkies.

Okay, I have never had anything published; I’ll consider it a pleasant surprise if I ever do. I will continue to wallow in my own words, scratching at possibilities and roaming around relationships. Sometimes I do wish that I chose a different career path- something regular with hours and wage brackets, something sustainable. If no-one likes my writing then I don’t get paid, but I don’t get paid anyway, so I’ll write, sure.

Are we authors? We screentellers, we band of creepy brothers. I think we think we are, but we are just the mechanics, dotted along the assembly line, we each throw in a word and a script is woven, it is like some Orwellian puppetry. But the shackles that bind us to this “creative” path were padlocked and cuffed by our own hands, and we have since swallowed the key. The choosiest choice of all, to write or not. I have rambled, and rambled, and rambled, on about this screenwriters death, half missing the point. Perhaps there is light at the end of this tunnel, perhaps this is a re-birth, the screenwriter, the phoenix who rises from the ashes of the first draft bonfire and takes his seat amongst the Hollywood elite. Dusting off his shoulders, he scrubs up well.

Fade out, he types.