THE OBSERVATION: I get the feeling screenwriting has become one of the great participation sports of the 21st Century. Go into virtually any coffee house here in L.A., especially on the west side of town, and you’ll find at least three or four screenwriters toiling away on their laptops. Yes, these guys and gals are everywhere. Very recently, at one coffee house I regularly frequent, I counted seven 20-somethings hunched over scripts. There have been days I’ve counted more. This is one of the things – one of the few things – I truly love about Los Angeles: it’s the creative vibe that permeates so much of the town. Yes, the creative vibe – you won’t find it in Omaha, Nebraska, you won’t find it in Tempe, Arizona, and you certainly won’t find it in Dillsboro, Indiana. Nope, I think L.A. pretty much has a lock on high doses of artistic energy and creative output. To wit…
My friend and I were on a “writing excursion” in the lounge of a hotel in Beverly Hills not too terribly long ago. Our waiter noticed we were both working on scripts and promptly informed us that – surprise, surprise – he too has been working on a screenplay.
I went into a Starbucks last weekend and took a seat beside a young lady working on something that looked suspiciously like a movie script. Innocently I asked, “So, you workin’ on a script?” She told me, rather enthusiastically, that she was, and went on to explain that she was an actress and was “taking control” of her career by writing something she could star in.
A few nights ago I was in a downtown L.A. restaurant/bar with a friend. Our 20-something bartender got to talking about how he came here from Tennessee with a burning desire of becoming an actor and director. He told us he had written a couple of short film scripts, which he intended to direct himself.
I was killing some time at another Starbucks a couple days ago, and the 40-something guy sitting next to me was working on a script for actor/comedian Mike Myers. Apparently, Mr. Myers is attached to this particular project. Or so I’m told.
A while back, at yet another Starbucks (I should own stock in the place!), a guy saw me working on a script, sat himself down and started talking to me about movies and the movie business. He told me he worked in special make-up effects, but had recently been working on a couple scripts of his own. Since then, we’ve actually become pretty good friends.
But as much as I appreciate the creative vibe L.A. has, sometimes I just need to get out of town…see some different scenery…go somewhere where the film business isn’t the topic of every conversation. For example…
Last May my buddy and I took a fantastic 8-day road trip through the southwest (Arizona, Utah, and Nevada). Our first overnight stop was Sedona, Arizona. So we’re sitting in this restaurant/bar one night, and we get to talking to this older guy sitting next to us. He looks like…well, a cowboy. You know the type: rugged, face like leather. Anyway, he eventually asked me what I did for a living. I told him, “Screenwriter.” I halfway expected him not to know what that meant. But no, he perked up and said, “No kiddin’? I’ve been working on one of them myself!”
A few days later we’re in Mexican Hat, Utah. I had been there a few years before and wanted my buddy to see what a truly dreadful (yet interesting) place it was. Anyway, we’re sitting in this hole-in-the-wall restaurant on the edge of town…I’m diligently working on this rewrite, and the guy sitting near us said, “Script?” I looked at him, “Uh, yeah.” He sort of smiled. Well, it turned out he was a WGA writer repped by CAA, on a cross-country motorcycle trip with some of his friends. C’mon, a WGA writer, repped by CAA…in Mexican Hat, Utah?? I still chuckle about that one.
MISCELLANY 1: This past Monday I turned in a draft of a thriller I’ve been writing. Now I’m awaiting notes from the producer. During this waiting period, I’ll get back to work on another thriller I’ve been working on. I’ve already completed the outline, but I still want to tweak it a bit. I’ll probably start on the script this weekend.
MISCELLANY 2: In a couple weeks, House at the End of the Drive (a creepy little ghost story I was hired to write) will have a private screening at a theater here in Westwood. Most of the attendees will be from film distribution companies, though I’m told invitations will also be extended to members of the general public. We had a similar screening at the Director’s Guild Theater a while back, but that was the “director’s cut." This new version is the “producer’s cut.” Anyway, let’s hope the movie can get picked up for distribution!
MISCELLANY 3: Remember that critique I did for a friend of a friend a couple weeks ago? Well, my friend sent me a “Thanks…appreciate what you did” e-mail, but I never did hear anything from the guy whose script I critiqued. I’m told my somewhat scathing evaluation crushed him. He apparently thought his script was perfect as it was and not a single word needed to be changed. Well, what can I say? I feel bad for the guy. It’s not easy having your “baby” ripped apart. But he’s wrong about his script. It’s in no shape to be seen by anyone. Until he’s able to accept some constructive criticism, learn from it, and make the necessary adjustments, he’ll never progress as a screenwriter.
MISCELLANY 4: And oh yeah…I’m doing a screenwriter’s chat and book signing at 6:00PM, Tuesday, April 17th at JP’s Coffee House, located at 7310 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood (east of La Brea, next to Trader Joe’s). During the chat, I’ll discuss how writers can improve their chances of becoming a working screenwriter. Needless to say, I’ll have copies of my book Q & A: The Working Screenwriter available for purchase. If anyone actually shows up, it should be fun. So, if you live in L.A., please drop by!