Notes from the Badlands

15 minutes, then whiskey...

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I’ve written screenplays, but never taken a seminar by a script guru like Robert McKee. I’ve used various tools: CDs, software, read books & articles, etc. My take is that the ideas help you soldier on and not quit. They give you fresh eyes. One script, Dirty Martini, was actually started with scriptwriting software in 1998. The script got close, contracts signed, but the money that was supposed to go to Cameron Diaz fell away. The deal evaporated. My reaction was to “adapt” the script into a 1,000 page fiction manuscript titled Sweet Ride. Four years later, I mailed off the large box of printed pages to a possible agent. This was a month before my first son was born. I had been writing seriously for twenty years. I was $30K in debt. I waited six months while the agency blew smoke up my ass, one agent gave me vague notes and made me promise to hang in there and wait and then he was replaced with another agent that told me he couldn’t rep me ‘cause the manuscript sucked. A nicer agent who was first in line to blow smoke up my ass before leaving the agency told me the book was War and Peace, but set in New York East Village bar scene, not an epic on the Napoleonic era and Tsarist aristocracy. She didn’t mean this as a compliment, but as an encouragement to somehow fix the mistake that had chewed up years of my time and help her help me make money. She was honest, funny and right. I carved away at the book for two more years. Now it is tight. Some things happen fast, some things take time. One script I co-wrote was an adaptation of my own novel Fast Sofa. The first words of that novel were typed on an actual typewriter in 1987 on the island of St. John, U.S.V.I. Eventually, a script followed the novel…and years later the movie was released in 2001. For me, nothing in writing has ever happened fast. Most writers blame the fact they are fucked up on the fact that writing is hard and selling writing is harder. The truth is most writers are just fucked up, which is why we write…and need the journey of writing to get us where we need to go in life. The screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, is a genius. Nicolas Cage playing “Charlie Kaufman” in an Academy-Award nominated role from a script written by Charlie Kaufman is also genius. In this scene, Brian Cox plays script guru, Robert McKee. This makes me ready to write another script.

Filed under Adaptation Robert McKee screenwriting writing literary agents

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