Tag Archives: screenwriting

Inspiration From the Big, Bad Wolf

if-you-want-to-know-what-god-thinks-of-money-just-look-at-the-people-he-gave-it-to-dorothy-parkerI intended to write more after the kids and I had dinner, but felt I needed to catch up on another of the Oscar nominated movies I had not seen.  The film I chose:  The Wolf of Wall Street.

I forget sometimes that I am trying to write something that feels like a movie.  Experiencing one from the audience point of view inspires and refreshes me.  The test is whether I forget where I am as I watch.  If I am conscious of performance, of the deliberate manner of angles, lighting, etc., then I’m not emotionally connected with the characters or the story.  Conversely, sometimes a story is so emotionally upsetting I pull back and resist the film’s “good” qualities.  I don’t want to be part of it, not even as an audience.

Secondly, I watch to glean an understanding of what sells and why.  I look for the catalyst, the “set pieces” — all the best moments used for the trailers and the movie posters that sell to the audience.  I look for the character and for the theme that resonates in the end.  “The Wolf” and its theme left a nasty taste in my mouth.

I thought I could watch it with my sons — but, uh, no.  Not the kind of movie a pre-teen boy wants to watch with his mother sitting nearby.  Shoot — I could barely take watching it alone.  Though the film’s presumed protagonist, Jordon Belfort, turned my stomach, I tried to look at it from a writer’s perspective.  Could I write something like this?  Maybe.  It was an adaptation, so, yeah — maybe I could.  If someone offered to pay me — then definitely, yes. ( I certainly would try).  But if it had not been an adaptation, could I create a story like this?  No.  I don’t think so.  I’d hate the characters too much.

The film bothered me.  Not because of the writing, directing, the performances — all those things were great, fine — whatever.  But the story of a horrible human being — is just so — ick.  I’m glad now that Leo DiCaprio didn’t win an Oscar for the role. (Though many of the scenes were fabulous — the “lemmon” quaaludes scene — hysterical, wonderful).

But if DiCaprio had won, it would have also been a reward for Jordon Belfort.  And for what?  For being the biggest drug and sex addicted,  greedy dick ever? Who would want to do that?   If he is an example of how the uber rich live and act — then I understand why Jesus said it would be so hard for them to get into heaven.  Even if you don’t believe in heaven and hell, this guy illustrated Christ’s point.

But here’s the part that really  bugged me about the film:  Halfway through it I found myself agreeing with Belfort as he revved up his room of salespeople.  I caught myself feeling pumped and inspired by his sales pitch.  That pissed me off.  Brilliant stuff. (Similar to Alec Baldwin’s speech in Glengary, Glenn Ross.)

If the film has truth to it, then I admire Belfort’s hutzpah, his drive, his will, his complete confidence.  Other than that — what a scumbag. (The film’s dialogue describes him as such, too.)  A scum sucking low life.  A total piece of shit for a human being.  I wanted to slap him.  I wanted to slap the women in his life, too.  (Women — why do we allow ourselves to be bought and sold? WHY?)

After I finished watching the 180 minute long film, I did a bit of research about Belfort.  He has sobered up and straightened up his life, that’s what his and other websites say; that’s what the movie said, too.  And no surprise, he is selling his brand new “ethical” self.   My father has a saying, “if you can’t grow vertically, grow horizontally.”  Belfort has switched directions and knows how to sell it.  I admire his ability to adapt. But would I trust this guy for advice?  Would I PAY this guy for advice?  No.

His message is the same new age message offered in  The Secret, Notes From the Universe, and by Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins, and countless other Gurus out there. There is no shortage of tips and platitudes.  Clean, straight and sober or drunk, wasted and filthy rich, it’s not necessary to pay some guy like Belfort. Besides, good advice is only good if practiced daily.  Transformation takes time and determination.  The time is shortened if cut in half by determination.  Speaking of one’s philosophy isn’t enough.  Accept the challenge of a dream or don’t.  Believe or don’t.  Sit or stand.  Walk or run. Faith or doubt.  The choices are daily.

I confess I do have a favorite Belfort quote: “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”   He is absolutely right.  But other than that,  integrity matters more than money.  I’m glad the Academy voters felt the same way.

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wear it proudly.

Each Wednesday I look forward to reading Steven Pressfield’s:  Writing Wednesdays.  I share his post today, My First Three Novels, because it helps (sometimes) to know I am not alone in this strange little world I’ve chosen.  Maybe, regardless of your preferred art form, it will help you, too. Discouragement and growth seem to go hand-in-hand. I was a proud member of the Loser’s Club yesterday.  I am a proud member of the Other 99% Club today.

http://www.stevenpressfield.com/2014/02/my-first-three-novels/

Secondly, since I borrowed my blog post title from one of my favorite songs written and performed by Elvis Costello, I felt it necessary to include it here:


Strong Morning … Coffee

belcuore-flight-controllerJust like magic.  I woke up this morning with new vigor.  I did something new:  I did not tune in to listen to the news.

Today, went to http://www.withoutabox.com and found festival contests I need to enter.  Deadlines set.

Registered at http://www.producertoproducer.com and am checking out the free budgeting templates. I have had the book for a while now, this time I will finish it.

I’ve done this stuff before and usually about now is when it gets dicey.  I get excited and then prematurely make phone calls, spreading my excitement around before it becomes real on my end.

This time: vowing to shut my mouth and get the job (one at a time) done.

I said my prayers and declarations out loud and “wrote” to my imaginary friend(s) for muse support.  It couldn’t hurt.

Other good news: I stepped on the scale and I’ve lost 3 pounds — Whew!  Seven more to go!


Pull the Plug

I wrote an email to my husband and my oldest daughter-child explaining that I need to unplug.   I sent it in an email that included a link to a video featuring Steven Pressfield and his conversation with the cult of personality, Oprah.  I did my redundant best to explain why I must unplug from social networking, from TV, from News, from the phone calls when they ask ( or I ask) “how are you?” It is the obligatory question one must ask before embarking on a litany of one’s own complaints.  I do not want to talk on the phone at all unless they have good news or important news to share.  I cannot chit-chat or commiserate. I need to unplug from guilt.  I wrote that I cannot engage in long conversations that further drain me from the ONE thing I need to do.

An excerpt: “… There is no time left for me to get anything done.  I am exhausted and cranky and sad. Period.  The ONLY thing that will lift me out of that is to finish my scripts and SELL a script or win a contest — etc. Get it? That’s it.   That’s the only thing that’s going to make me feel better.”

This morning, I checked my email — no response from either of them.  I suspect they are trying to respect my point.  I checked my Facebook, just to see if they wrote a status update or something that showed as evidence that they read my email and that it had an affect. Nothing.  I noticed that already I was not heeding my own new rule: No more Facebook.  I logged out.

I promised Jon that I would not forward one more email, inspirational website or information about filmmaking.  I acknowledged he can do his own research and he will find what matters to him.  But for me, sending out the emails is just another lie I tell myself.  The lie is that I am working.  I am not.  My lack of finished, polished, winning scripts is proof that I’ve been lying to myself.

I turned on the TV and let my youngest turn to the channel of her choice.  Right now, the three youngest are watching a cute animal show.  I am not watching.  I am writing this.  It is not art.  It is not a script, but at least it is typing some words.  I am aware, that if I am not careful, writing and posting here will be yet another method to distract from my goal.  I can’t allow it to win.

Reminding myself what I said to my dears who live too far away from me:

I wrote: “…I love you both.  But I have to get to work. YOU have to get to work, too. Don’t make me feel guilty for not “being there” for you.  It is my opinion, that I have sacrificed plenty as both a wife and a mother. Guilt on top of the fact I am still using Food stamps is just a bit too hurtful.”

I am suffering the dark effects of what happens to a person when she doesn’t get her creative work done.

My house is a mess.  My yard is a mess. My mind is a mess. My soul is weak from begging me to move from this place.

Inside and outside, everything is cluttered with meaningless piles of paper, clothes, knick-knacks, boxes and boxes of things I’ve started, notes and research.  I’ve got nothing to show for my angst except dust on my shelves, half-written scripts and wrinkles on my worried face.

I’ve got to fight my fears, my laziness.  I cannot let fear win.  Not one more day.


What Can I Say? #1

1045036_388824927896458_1821886275_nI am forcing myself to sit here again.  I’ve intended on writing for months and weeks but —  just haven’t been able to sit down and do it.  There is always something more important that needs to be done.  (To clarify, something more important to other people in my life).   Now that I am here,  I can’t think of anything to write.  Two days ago I had an idea — poof — gone.

I often think of things I’d like to write about while in the middle of other things — searching for my purse, my wallet, or my favorite tube of lip gloss.  Sometimes while driving my kids to soccer or football practice, or while vacuuming, while folding clothes, or cleaning out the kitty litter —  an opening sentence will come to mind, a memory, or an opinion will surface.  I’ll think something like, “Yes, I should write about that time I thought I was a witch and could fly or maybe I should write about Oliver…” (Oliver was my childhood  Golden Retriever that I had for all of 5 months — hit and killed by a car at 11 months.)

I’ve been taking online writing classes — but I’m behind.  I’m not in love with the classes, but I’ve paid for them.  I must complete the class or admit yet another half-assed attempt to become a real writer.  I’m not in love with the scenes I’ve written.  I’m not in love with the concept.   What I’ve written so far is based on various exercises and techniques, but none have resulted in my becoming excited for my character, her goal or the story. They are just exercises.  About as exciting as a treadmill.  It doesn’t feel like writing. It doesn’t feel like I am creating anything.

Creating.  Creation.  My husband and I created five babies.  That’s creating.  Passion ignites creation.  My writing needs something to get me moving again. I need writing Viagra.  But for a girl.  Then I (my character) could ride motorcycles and fix engines and save the world from mass destruction.

I’ve got two barely there novels shoved I don’t know where in my book shelf. I wrote them as an exercise for NANOWRIMO and like everything else, I have done nothing with them.  Schlock.  A few years back, while in the middle of the contest, a friend of mine  — a friend who is no longer a friend — but the real writer of what was once our friendship, perused the few pages I was stupid enough to post on Nano’s website.  With silence, she made it very clear that what I wrote was crap.  And it was.  Banal, mournful, crap. Those pages are on the shelf, too.

I have three unfinished scripts that are nothing but close-but-no-cigar, hot messes of frustration.  Two of them were finished, but I’m stuck in the rewrite.  It’s like I don’t feel worthy or capable of bringing them to a level that meets the concept. ( I like my concepts). I’m scared that I don’t have it in me.  The third — is strictly concept, a mish-mash pile of scenes, all created from technique-based prompts. I have a couple other scripts, too.  They are on the shelf.  I entered them in contests. A few of them placed, but there they are, collecting dust on the shelf.

And I am here. Today.  Ten minutes before I have to pick up my youngest from school.  I am writing here knowing full well it is a meaningless, pointless post. It is for no one.  I am not posting this as a status update or a Tweet.  I have no desire for anyone to read this ever.  I just need to write something, dammit, before I go out of my mind with the realization that my whole life sucks and there is no friggin’ way that I can ever do a rewrite.  Ever.

Pouting?  Yes, I am.

On top of it, I feel a cold coming on.  Sore throat.  The one bright side, since I’ve been unemployed FOR FECKING EVER, I have not been officially labeled “Non-essential” due to the government shut down.

As I type here — I am listening to a podcast, Writing Excuses Episode 17: This Sucks and I’m a Horrible Writer. It’s about how to overcome the fear of being talentless.

The final points from the podcast:

Keep writing.

Keep your hands on the keyboard, finish something.