Several years ago, a producer I had had some dealings with asked if I would pen a screenplay about Edgar Allan Poe. Since this producer actually had a line of produced films with his name on it, I saw a very good opportunity. He was also offering a halfway decent paycheck for my efforts. So I listened to his idea for this Poe script, which was about a very specific period in Poe's life. It definitely sounded interesting, but deep down it wasn’t exactly my subject of choice. I mean, I’m not really into stories about 19th century poets/short story writers. But hey, Poe was a troubled guy and he married his own cousin, so I figured it would probably be an interesting story to tell. In other words, I psyched myself up and tried to come up with story points that I could really sink my teeth into. So meetings were held, contracts were signed, I deposited a nice commencement check…and I went to work.
The next eight weeks were sheer drudgery. Yes, there was material I had fun with, material I found quite interesting, but this just wasn’t a story I was much interested in telling. But I slogged my way through, ultimately producing a 110-page, “first draft” screenplay. (The reason I put quotes around “first draft” is because a first submission draft is rarely ever the writer’s actual first draft; it’s more like a third or fourth draft.) I sent this draft to the producer and waited for notes. Deep down I knew he wouldn’t be thrilled with the script. What can I say—my heart just wasn’t in it.
Several days later the producer called and said he’s like to take me out for lunch. (This producer loved meeting at restaurants!) So I met the producer the following day, we had a nice lunch...and he told me how dissatisfied he was with my script. He said there was plenty of interesting moments, lots of good dialogue…but overall the script just wasn’t “heading in the right direction.” So I was off the project…but hey, no hard feelings. (Months later he hired me to do a rewrite on a contemporary thriller. Now that was a genre in my wheelhouse.)
I suppose what I’m saying here is: If you’re gonna write, write what you love. Write what you have a passion for. If you don’t, you’re fooling yourself and you’re kinda wasting your time. If you’re lucky enough to be getting paid for the work, you’re also kinda ripping off the guy who’s signing the check.
APRIL 2015 ANNOUNCEMENT: My debut novel, Luigi's Chinese Delicatessen, is now available in paperback from Amazon.com and Kindle e-book! (You're gonna love it cuz it's all about Hollywood and screenwriting!)
Come visit me on Facebook at Jim Vines Presents!