Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Writing and Making Movies: A Child's Dream

I've always wanted to make movies ever since I was a little boy.  Ever since my dad took me and my siblings to see 'The Exorcist' at the drive-in,  I've always had a fascination with movies.  And even though I spent most of that night at the drive-in,  cowering in the floorboard of Dad's Mercury,  I will always think of that night as the night that got it all started.  

As a child,  I was exposed to lots of movies.  On a Friday or Saturday night,  my Dad would always take us kids to the drive-in. ( Mom didn't like movies much. )  

Back then,  we had two drive-ins that we would choose from,  depending on what was showing or just for a change of scenery.  Pretty much,  both drive-ins showed the same movies.  I remember seeing a lot of classic late-seventies movies,  like 'Day of the Animals' and 'The Car'.  Just a really fun time.  Cherished memories.  

But then,  for reasons I can't remember,  we started to progress to the 'walk-in' theater.  I was still a preteen,  but that didn't stop me from seeing 'Halloween',  a classic that really cemented my desire to become a film-maker.  I was hooked.  

Throughout the 80's,  along with my dad and my brother,  I witnessed a slew of some of the best and some of the worst movies ever made.  The genre didn't matter,  but I did lean more toward the horror genre. 

The movies had that style that came with the 80's.  A style that some have tried to duplicate,  but have failed.  That style is even appreciated now,  by the children of those who actually 'experienced' that decade.  It was pure magic.

We had a favorite walk-in theater of ours,  that we would frequent the most,  and that theater acted as my church.  Almost every Sunday,  my dad would take my brother and I to our 'favorite' theater,  and we would show up early--before the first showing--just to look at the posters outside.  Admiring the quality of artwork that went into them,  we would try and decide which one to see first and which one to see second.  It was something to look forward to in a time of adolescence and peer pressure at school.  I always felt good about myself at the movies.

As I got older,  and entered into high school,  I really began to gravitate toward the writing aspect of my English classes.  I found it to be a way of expressing myself and entertaining others.  I continued to frequent the movies on a weekly basis and would always be creating stories in my head.  Movie ideas, etc.  I realized,  after a few sloppy stories,  that I might actually have a knack for creating interesting characters and putting them in fantastic locations, etc.  

My love of movies was stronger than ever at that point in my life,  and the fact that I showed an interest in writing,  and a talent to go with it,  it just made it all the more clearer to me that I should really consider pursuing a career in film-making.  Writing movies,  making movies.  Entertaining people.  Being 'acknowledged' for something that I created. 

I decided that was something that I wanted to do with my life.

Well,  a child can dream but it doesn't always end like a fairy tale.  As I got older and progressed through high school,  my personal issues with stuff like anxiety and a problem with stuttering really began to get in my way of reaching my goal.  Of making my dreams come true.  I know this sounds like a cop-out,  but I'm stating facts.  It's part of the story and it's true.

I ended up wasting valuable years of my life,  by allowing my fears & anxieties and whatever else could be thrown into the mix,  bring me down and keep me from reaching my full potential.  And for the longest time,  I resented that.  And I let it keep me down.

Maybe 10 or so years ago,  I visited my favorite English teacher as he was teaching his class.  He was surprised to see me and showed much joy and enthusiasm.  I,  of course,  quietly took a spot in the far corner and waited until the class was over.  We had a lot to talk about.  And he wasn't pulling any punches.

He said that he was disappointed that I hadn't 'done anything' with my writing.  He was always encouraging me in class,  while I was a student,  and he felt that I had it in me to do great things with the writing talent that I had displayed.  Of course,  I shamefully nodded my head in agreement,  and carefully changed the subject.  

I told him that I was currently working on a movie idea and I shared that idea with him.  He seemed to perk up.  He liked my idea,  and I felt that it was original enough,  so we both had good feelings about it.  And most importantly,  I felt better about myself.

I left that visit with a hop in my step.  I went home and started working.  Unfortunately,  I didn't get too far.  I lost interest,  for reasons I wish not to mention,  and I fell right back into the same rut.  I continued working the '9 to 5' gig,  and just let life do it's thing.  Time went by,  and I made my efforts to write a screenplay and try to get into that whole mindset,  and for the most part I made strides but nothing major really transpired.  It just wasn't happening.

Then I came across a horror movie that went straight to DVD,  with almost the exact same concept of the story that I had previously shared with my English teacher,  and I just felt like I had been slapped upside the head.  A voice inside of my head said "Hey,  that sounds like your movie!" 

Part of me said "At least you know that you are on the right track."  And then another part of me said "What's the point!"  And then the thoughts started to get more and more frequent.

Thoughts of "maybe I'm just not good enough" or "maybe I'm just not cut out for this" or even "maybe I don't want it bad enough" began to corrupt my thinking.  Maybe I was not cut out for this.  Maybe I don't have the work ethic required to see something like this through.  I mean,  writing is hard work.  Anybody who writes novels or screenplays will tell you this.  It takes time and discipline, etc.  Talent only goes so far.

I put my dream aside for a little while,  and continued working away at temp jobs that just provided a paycheck and zero satisfaction.  A few more years went by and I started to really think hard about writing a screenplay.  Anything to get me out of the daily grind,  because it was really getting to me.  I only thought about movies,  about making movies.  I knew that I was wasting my life away.

I decided to try to write my first screenplay.  Just pretty much dive in.  I had a basic concept,  and I didn't want to waste time with the treatment or outline or anything like that.  I just wanted to write the screenplay.  So I did.  Every night,  after work,  after dinner...I wrote.  It took me a couple of weeks,  but I did it.  I completed the screenplay.

Of course,  I was excited.  This was it.  This was my ticket to the big time.  I sent it in to get it copyrighted,  and then I assembled a list of agencies, production companies and whatnot,  and then I bought a bunch of envelopes.  I wrote a query letter,  describing my movie and how great it was,  and I made copies.  I mailed those copies of my query letter to the names and addresses on the list,  and then I waited.  And waited.

Out of maybe 40 query letters mailed out,  I received 1 response.  One production company had written that Alicia Silverstone,  I'm guessing that it was her company,  was interested in reading a copy of my screenplay.  They sent a release form for me to sign,  and I did. Wow!!  I was planning the trip to Hollywood already,  and I hadn't even sent the script out yet.

So after calming down,  and sending a copy of my screenplay out to Alicia Silverstone's production company,  I began to wait again.  I quit my crappy job and waited.  And waited. I waited for almost a month before receiving a letter from Alicia Silverstone's production company,  stating that it wasn't something they would be interested in.

Ok.  Now what?  I didn't want to go back to work,  but I had to.  And so I did.  Later on,  I looked at my screenplay and read it all the way through.  It wasn't very good.  The format wasn't correct.  I learned a lot more about screenwriting after that.  Screenwriting is a hard gig.  You have to keep at it or else you'll lose it.  A writer writes,  always.

In my case,  I strongly believe that I have the talent and the creative juices to write movies.  I've always felt so.  I never had a good work ethic instilled in me as a child,  but I can't let that be an excuse for not trying.  Whatever issues I have personally or emotionally,  I need to get over them.  Climb over them,  as they are hurdles.  Hurdles in my way of reaching my dream of making movies.  It's been a childhood dream,  and it continues to be...

I need to just write.  This is one reason for starting a blog.  To try and instill a work ethic that will push me to write,  and to keep writing.  The kinks will work itself out the longer you keep at it.  I just need to keep at it.  I already feel like I'm a better writer.

I have the stories.  I just need to get them out there.  You might have stories too.

No comments:

Post a Comment