Writing On Spec

An award caliber procrastinator discovers a new and dangerous pursuit to keep him from actually writing another script. Why another Blog? I love to talk screenwriting. I love to talk story. I live in Richmond, VA. It's almost easier to get produced than find another screenwriter here. We are the anti-LA.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Life Support for Writers

I'd like to give a shout out to all my writer's group friends.  They've been a fantastic group for many years.  The Virginia Screenwriters Forum. I'm sure I'd be absolutely nowhere if not for Helene Wagner and this group.  Also, the great folks at the Virginia Film Office. Back in the days before it was such a hot item, they would allow me to check out scripts they had received. Man, what a perk. I worked about 5 floors down from their office. I was able to get a hold of Josh's script Dead Drop (which became the worse Chain Reaction), Crazy People (when the psychiatrist was being cast with Charles Grodin - who I think to this day would have been better than Dreyfus).

Helene came to town from Texas looking for a screenwriting group and there was absolutely nothing. Let's face it - we're talking about Richmond, Virginia circa 1990. Only the Film Office new about screenplays and nobody knew about them. It was a tough time for film and screenwriting in Richmond.

So, I'm out of college, got that fan-freakin'-tastic BA in English. I can still hear my counselors words, "it will prove that you have a solid grasp of all the basics and that they can train you to do whatever they need. Companies want somebody with a solid foundation."

So, I'm in word processing for a bank. I type everyday. Memos, letters, training documents, whatever. And, you know, the basics are completely lost on the majority of crap that's turned in to me. These folks making 2-3 times my salary just can't write at all. It was during this time that the film After Hours was released and I began to understand the bizarre duality of pain/pleasure.

So... I'm talking with a secretary at lunch one day and she's telling me about her acting classes and how great they are and I should go to one. I tell her about my screenwriting aspirations, but that I can't find any information on it outside of jumping on a plane to LA (which I can't do because I'm a total pussy at this point). She tells me to head on over to the film office - a few floors up. "The what?" I say.

It's nirvana. A small office/room, just packed with scripts from almost floor to ceiling. Un-fucking believable. So I go ask somebody what I have to do to check one out and she hands me a flier. Says, "maybe you'd be interested in this." It's a flier for the Virginia Screenwriters Forum. Just starting out. First meeting in a couple weeks.

Now, I'm here to tell you - I've had so many damn lucky opportunities I shudder every time I recall them. I mention this because if you're young (which I'm not), you HAVE to take advantage of them when they come along.

So there I am, early 20's, a film office a few floors up, enough scripts to keep me reading for months and a brand new group where I can learn how to write them. I had it all. In the first two years, I entered a contest and got a mixed bag of feedback - some really good, some okay and I tailspin from there.

I've been one of those writers that has suffered from re-writing the same 30 pages over and over. I've done it about 5 times.

Now, before you say, "poor ol' dave", I've learned so much over the years about what to do, what not to do, etc. Our group has consisted of folks who have sold, optioned, won contests, been agents, directed, etc. We've had a fantastic group and the experience I've gained has been invaluable. This is why I say, if you have a writer's group near you, get involved. Just the feedback alone is worth the price of admission. It's like regular coverage on whatever you're working on. Not to mention, if the group is on the smaller side, you can probably hit up any of the members when you have something new - so you can bounce ideas off without wasting your time.

Tomorrow I'll give an example of why you have to finish fast and not think too much about what you're writing so you can avoid the 30 page curse.

A big 'ol holla out to all you VSF folks!


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