5 Reasons It Sucks To Write A Screenplay in 2014

So you saw a few movies and you’re ready to write one of your own. Awesome! Here’s why you might want to rethink that one:

1. People have seen it all.

Not really, of course. As long as there are humans, or David Bowie, there will always be invention. Sure, there are plenty of porn-addicted psychopathic snot-faced delinquents out there that think there’s nothing new under the sun. They’d snort bath salts before they’d paint or pick flowers in a field, and that just ain’t healthy. (Unless you’re allergic to pollen or something, which is frankly just a little bit sad.)

Gonna be honest, this is not a cute look for you.

Gonna be honest, this is not a cute look for you.

This impressed-by-nothing mentality means that when something genuinely beautiful or inspired comes along, people will be too busy shitting on it to realize that they just missed another opportunity to salvage their humanity. That’s why so many movies are loud, graphic, and/or fast. In the Age of Now, there’s no room for subtext (unless the subtext is that everything and everyone is awful or untrustworthy). Which brings me to my next point:

2. Whimsy is out of style.

Remember the Wizard of OzMary PoppinsWilly Wonka? Even Amelie, just a little over a decade ago? These were colorful, quirky movies with a lot of heart and musical numbers and memorable characters. They didn’t rely on shock or nihilism or gore, they were windows into elaborate fantasy worlds, as delicate and otherworldly as they were hopeful and optimistic.

It makes sense that our culture evolved the way it did. Progress has made us more interconnected but less attached, passive viewers of an increasingly complex world. We consume media more frequently and when we revisit the stories that once delighted us, we do so with critical lenses. Trust me, I’ve got examples: 2013’s second look at Mary Poppins, Saving Mr. Banks, revealed its real-life creator to be an uppity control freak whose dad was a self-destructive alcoholic. Sam Raimi’s Oz prequel, Oz: The Great and Powerful, re-imagined The Wicked Witch as a heartbroken harlot who embraced her darkest, most hate-filled ambitions and devolved from a white-washed hottie to a green-faced nottie. Then you have Tim Burton sucking the blood out of classics like it’s his job. Which, yep… it is. Seriously, did this do it for anyone:

Just One Facelift Short of Joan Rivers.

Just one facelift short of Joan Rivers.

Even the world of animation is getting darker by the minute. The brilliant Pixar is a beacon for creativity in contemporary Hollywood, but the plot-lines of Wall-E and Up tread on decidedly sad territory. Meanwhile, Laika’s Coraline and ParaNorman fully embrace the macabre, while adult-geared gems like Mary & Max and Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist  are downright morose. These movies usually end well, but they’re not shy about showing audiences just how effed the world can be. I can’t fault them for their sincerity, but wouldn’t it be great to see a handful of well-crafted movies in 2014 that were just unabashedly naive? For the children?!!

So okay, cheery, smartly crafted stories would be nice. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s remember that:

3. Studios Don’t Want It Unless It’s Familiar. 

Harry Potter, The Avengers, Hunger Games, Man of Steel, Twilight, Dark Knight – these had surefire box office appeal, because every one of them already proved lucrative. So here you are, laboring over your quiet indie with multi-dimensional characters and relatable problems that’s a totally NEW take on the same old shit, but hang tight, what’s the backstory? If it ain’t 3-7 books’ worth of stuff, and hasn’t topped the New York Times’ Best Sellers List, then good luck!

Let’s say you somehow strike gold with an original idea. Chances are, it is not especially innovative or abstract. Some Corporate Lug-Head decided it was close enough to a story he’d already seen, with enough key differences to make it not-an-infringement-of-copyright and you got the green light. Let’s be real: do you think Tyler Perry became a multi-millionaire by having an uncompromising artistic vision? No, he became a household name because it’s scientifically proven that men in dresses are funny. No matter how good or bad they look, no matter how accurate or distant their impression of a woman may be. Whether you’re RuPaul or Wesley Snipes, it’s funny. Always. Perry knew this and went all in.

The face of a man who's got it all figured out.

The face of a man who’s got it all figured out.

The moral of his story: resign yourself to the fact that what fulfills you isn’t necessarily what makes you shit-faced rich, and you’re one step closer to success. But even so:

4. The Odds of Making It Are Way Against You.

Realistically consider the fact that there are maybe tens of thousands of people who pursue this path every year. How many make it? What did it take for them to get to that place?

I’ll give you a hint, raw talent alone didn’t land them the spot. It was writing. Rewriting. Writing. Editing. Rewriting. Networking. Finding Opportunity. Finding Feedback. Writing. Re– You get the picture. It’s a lot of work that demands a lot of time people don’t have. Especially people straight out of college with $100,000+ in debt; forget the disadvantage of not living in LA. Young dreamers such as myself just aren’t statistically in a very good place. Nor are we actually. I guess that’s why modern media is so cynical. Not that I can really knock it. Being perfectly honest, I didn’t watch Breaking Bad for its elaborate song-breaks (though I totally would have if Vince made that a real thing).

I always thought this was a missed opportunity to break into song.

I always thought this was a missed opportunity to segue into a musical number. You can see it in his eyes.

Speaking of Vince and his brand of nothing-goes-right storytelling, let’s get to our 5th and final Reason that it Sucks to Write a Screenplay in 2014:

5. It’s Tough As Balls.

Just like that story you’re writing about the guy or gal who faces insurmountable odds, there’s nothing easy about this career. If you really REALLY want it, you’ll get beaten up and spit on and face a TON of rejection. If you believe in your ideas and you are determined to preserve them, it’s gonna take an even bigger dose of some Queen Bey fierceness. In that case, calling yourself a screenwriter might not be enough. You may have to band together with a group of likeminded merry men and take the reigns yourself as director. Auteurs may be rare, but the good ones are most certainly in fashion – creative giants like Guillermo Del Toro, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, and Alfonso Cuaron are just a few happy dissenters in a largely uncreative mainstream. They are all visionary, whether it be as storytellers, art directors, or tech-innovators. And above all, they have TREMENDOUS authority over the outcome of their work.

Ok, so maybe whimsy isn't dead.

Ok. So maybe whimsy isn’t dead.

Nobody said success would be a sure thing. But the reward for wholly devoting yourself to your passion must be indescribable. I’m only now making realistic steps toward my greater goal of becoming a successful storyteller, but it pays to remember: you have to start somewhere. Even if I’m only just now in the infant stage.

Here’s to hoping for some big leaps in 2014.

Enjoy it, my lovelies! Now’s the time.

5 Casting Calls That Could Have Changed the Classics

There were many reasons AJ and I enjoyed our most recent movie-going experience, not the least of which was the casting. So it came as some surprise to learn that it was only after several inopportune back-outs that our leading lady was ever able to land the role at all.

Which had me thinking – how would that movie have been different if they’d gone with one of their original choices? How much of an impact do the actors really have? In that spirit, here’s an ode to 5 casting decisions that almost were:

1. The Terminator as portrayed by O.J. Simpson

James Cameron really missed a golden opportunity with this one. But keep in mind that, in a pre-1994 world, O.J. was a good guy. Like, obnoxiously so. An American Sweetheart on the same tier as Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan and that lovable ‘Where’s the Beef’ Lady.

It makes you think: maybe if he’d channeled his aggression as an iconic homo-cidal robot, he wouldn’t have felt the need to do it for real. I mean, football players have, like, ridiculous testosterone overloads right? They just can’t help killing people. So without a controlled environment to manage his rage once he retired football in 1979, it was only a matter of time before heads would (literally) start rolling. Amiright?

2. Die Hard’s John McClane as portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger

I know, Arnold. I just took away the role that pretty much made you. But here’s the thing, I have an even better one: the All American Hero in Die Hard! Love you Bruce, but this is too good to pass up. Besides, how could the male lead of Moonlighting possibly cross-over as an action star? Nice try, buddy. You’ll never make it in this genre. Better stick to softcore porn and occasional weiner slips on low budget indies.

Spencer could use more of that for his “collection.” Ahem, sorry – collection. Because I’d watch that stuff for artistic value, not anything weird. I got the internet, what do I need this bald beefcake’s bodacious bod for other than to propel a provocative story? And what’s with the third degree, anyway? This is about Arnold.

That dude’s got the enthusiasm, humor, and misguided patriotism to make for a really great John McClane. Yippee ki-yay indeed.

3. X-Files’ Dana Scully as portrayed by Pam Anderson

Gillian, we love you. We do. But unfortunately, we’ve chosen to go with a far more boobs contender.

It could just be me, but I think if the series had paired a self-identified sex addict with a busty blonde bombshell, it would have been all the better for it. Because if there was anything the X-Files did wrong, it was exploring unusual subjects in an interesting way, when that airtime could have been devoted to cleavage.

What's that, Mulder? I'm sorry, I can't hear you over my luscious lady lumps. Tee-hee!

What’s that, Mulder? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over my luscious lady lumps. Tee-hee!

But as history would have it, the other Anderson made the cut. Sorry fans. Now you’re doomed to eternally rue the day when a red-haired blue-eyed beauty beat out a plastic barbie doll for a career-defining role. Really dropped the ball on that one, didn’t you Chris?

4. Labyrinth’s Goblin King as portrayed by Michael Jackson

In the final version, David Bowie perfectly blurs the line that divides family-friendly villain and child predator, but if Michael Jackson took the reigns? Well then, that line would be crossed.

Henson and crew made it a point to seek the three most sexually ambiguous pop-stars of the era to portray that character (Prince was also a contender). But whereas Bowie was a chameleon of prowess, MJ just kept quiet about his sexual exploits. Bear in mind that this was pre-allegations, but post-Feldman. So, deep down, we could buy into this version of the King of Pop: abducter of babies and dancer of magic dances in his weird little goblin-cave.

5. Hook as portrayed by David Bowie

Being that Bowie’s a true visionary, I imagine the entire movie would have taken on a whole different attitude. First off, his Hook would don alien-drag. The “ship” would obviously be some sort of highly advanced space-craft a la 2001. The crew would consist of scary extraterrestrial arachnids or sad-looking space-mimes. And Klaus Nomi would be his Smee, triangular shoulder pads and all.

There wouldn’t be a cohesive story so much as vignettes of a thematically connected idea, but each one would totally rule. There’d be a highly dramatic ending in which we’re not quite sure what happens. And by the end, any shred of innocence would be aggressively taken away from us. I mean come on, this is the guy who wrote “Rock N’ Roll Suicide”, for cryin’ out loud! Wake up and smell the roses already, you naive man-child! It’s a cold hard world out there and we’re all ultimately alone.

Why don't you go read some Neitzsche you chunky little monkey junkies?

Why don’t you go read some Neitzsche you chunky little monkey junkies?

Which brings us to the essence of the Peter Pan story: in the end, everyone should get a job and hate the empty shell they’ve become.

See y’all in Neverland! Til next week, my lovelies.

Featured photo borrowed from WhatCulture.com

How To Not Be A Villain

Sometimes, we have bad days. AWFUL days. Unrealistically proposterously poopyfart stink-ass days. And on said days, it’s hard to self motivate. Why do it? Is the operative question. WHY DOES IT EVEN MATTER?

Really, why?! Nobody else is trying. Nobody cares! Everything you’re fighting so hard to do means zilch to the greater population. How could it possibly be worth the headache?!

As you may have guessed, this past week presented such a dilemma. I hated everyone and everything. This then turned inward and nothing I could do was right. I’m very disappointed in you, spoke my inner Bowie voice. You’ve let me down.

davidbowie

This all became soul-crushingly unmanageable until, after about 3 hours of self-coaching, I talked myself away from the ledge. So what did it? What was the proverbial vaudeville hook pulling me off-stage?

It was my inner Gilbert Gottfried shouting “GET OUT OF YOUR FUCKING HEAD!!!”

Alright, I thought. I’m being an asshole. Do I really think I’m the only person who may be having a bad day? And would I be forgiving if someone else acted out on every testy impulse they had? No! Those people are jerks!

What? Yeah yeah, I know – this is a movie and food blog. I need to tie that in somehow. Hm.. Uhhhhhh…

Ok! Got it. So Ozymandias, from Watchmen – total dick right? He orchestrated a major distaster that killed, like, MILLIONS of people. No one with any regard for human life would ever let that slide, right?

Wrong! Well, sort of. Ozymandias’ intention was actually to save humanity. He found a scapegoat that could unite the people. Something otherworldly and foreign that didn’t really exist. So in the end, despite the casualities, he was sowing the seeds of a brighter future for all. It was an investment.

His character represented the modern dichotomy of hero and villain. What defines each? And how different are they really? With a lot of time and a good dose of skewed morality, one could actually deem Ozymandias heroic.

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Another example! This one a bit more of-the-moment and familiar to my readers: Walter White. We love him. We hate him. We love to hate him. But we know how committed he is to providing for his family. His INTENT, from the start, makes him a hero. His actions do not. Because for all the millions he throws at Junior, Skyler, and Baby, he still can’t undo the fact that he watched a woman choke to death on her own vomit.

The point is, any one of us can skirt the line. You are not wholly good just because you want to be. Nor am I. And somewhere inside of you, there’s a festering little a-hole who wants to step on kids’ sandcastles and push old ladies in front of double-deckers.

But, with the exception of a few, you KNOW better. You can practice restraint, because you have at least a slight sense of human decency. And just like everybody else, you are not forgiving when some one who isn’t you allows their insecurities to get the best of them. We may not always notice or appreciate gestures of kindness, but those lapses of propriety sting. Because believing I hate you is much easier to accept than believing we’re besties.

One slip is all you need to ruin the way society sees you. Remember that the next time you want to stab a guy for not saying “Thank you.”

Realize, like me, that your anger is fleeting. Better yet, let it hurt you. Wrestle with that pain. Channel it. Convert it into positive energy. Think Superman. Think Wonder Woman. Think, I dunno, Tiny Tim. Because really, who doesn’t love that guy?

It sucks, man, I know. I’ve been there many times. We all have. Which is why no one really has an excuse. So don’t act up. Treat people the way you want them to treat you. Because with your luck, 10 years down the line, you’re gonna need that d-bag you told to suck an egg that one time. Or, if you’ve conditioned yourself properly, you’ll just feel really guilty about it. And that’s almost as bad.

In the meantime, relax. Enjoy yourself. Unwind.

We’ll see you Monday!

Featured Image by Barbara Kruger