Thursday, 8 April 2010

THE TRENCHES


Hello, my name is Anthea Anka, and I am a screenwriter. The first step, as we all know is admitting it. I'm starting to think that after ten years it's an affliction, rather than a prudent career choice - and one despite my better judgment, I clearly can't shake. Such addict behavior.

You see, I'm a gal that needs things to make sense. If I understand how something works, and I can see what has to be done to tackle it, then hey, I'm all about the work. But the industry of filmmaking does not make sense. Never has, never will. From the top down to the bottom, it's the blind leading the blind, and not a day goes by that someone does not get left in the middle of the road to get whacked by a truck.

For those of you that don't live in L.A (I wisely opted out after years of doing so), if you were to visit, and troll the local coffee houses, you'd see a group of individuals chained to laptops with hollowed out eyes and the look of sheer aching bewilderment on their faces. In short, a look that says, why o why did I think it was a good idea to be become a writer?

The problem - in my humble opinion - with Hollywood is that it's a town of desperation. People desperate for work, executives desperate to hold onto their jobs, CEO's desperate to avoid being burned at the stake by their stockholders. This of course means that decisions are made from a desperate, ‘please don't axe’ me place. And no good decision can come from this. So what do they do? They play it safe. More than safe, they beat an idea within an inch of its life and hope the audience does not notice (oh, we notice). They pony out the remake; the hybrid of the remake; the remake of the adaptation of the remake hybrid. Hell, they are pretty much putting out the same movie time and time again, they just switch the title and put in someone younger and pray for the best. Cause the commonly accepted secret is, no one knows what they're doing. If they did, every movie would be a hit. It's all just one big crapshoot, and when they hit it, they take the credit (“I knew a movie about a dyslexic hermaphrodite that joins the circus was the way to go!”) and when they don't, it's another man's problem - "he's finished in this town, who the hell wants to see a dyslexic hermaphrodite on a trapeze?!" 

The quickest way to realize that you are swimming upstream with lead weights on is to go through the development process (if you're lucky to get to this stage, thank whomever you pray to). It is here that you discover that whatever you have written that got you in the door is going to be dismantled until it’s a shadow of its former self. Which always made me think, 'if you're determined to give this script a deep barium enema, what did you like about it in the first place?? Then after changing your script three hundred times only to return to the original draft, they delight you with astute comments like, "Actually, I don't believe the character would do that." Hmm. okay, well, as I wrote the character, I'm pretty confident that they would. Or one of my personal favorites "Can you make the script, I don't know, funnier." [I wonder what John Steinbeck would've done if his editor had told him to make Grapes of Wrath less, I don't know...depressing.] Um, okay, in what way do you want it funnier, can you be more specific? As well, humor is subjective; one man's ‘Hangover’ is another man's pile of shit.

"Not really. Just funny it up a bit." You then glance at the poster on the wall behind them of the last 'funny' film they made and you think, I'm totally screwed.

Then to completely add insult to injury as they finish telling you they are worried the audience won't find something in your script believable, (“A 30 year old female that doesn’t want to get married?? I don’t buy it.” Gosh Chuck, you know this how exactly? Clearly NOT by being a woman in your 30's. And might I add, Julia Roberts was a hooker in Pretty Woman. She gave blowjobs. People didn’t have a problem with that one) they tell you excitedly about their next project about a time traveling porn star that ends up marrying the Prince of England and opening a cupcake shop. Cause that my dear friends is something anyone would buy.
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