Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Friday, June 03, 2005
This past week, I received a bit of exciting news. There is a very real chance that I could be on the road to taking the "aspiring" off of "aspiring screenwriter", one of the many titles that I hold. I say this not with stars in my eyes, but with the firm, grounded belief that this could either be my foot in the door, or a fleeting chance that quickly disappears in a wisp of smoke.

This is a loose transcript of the not-so-chance meeting that I had with an audience member after the closing performance of "Marat.Sade" on Sunday. Crucial names have been censored in case these people want nothing to do with me later on:

SHE: Hey, great job. You wrote the adaptation, right?

ME: Yeah.

SHE: Great adaptation. Really great job.

ME: Oh, thanks. (Trying to sound appreciative while being really freaking tired)

SHE: Do you write screenplays?

ME: Um, yeah, I have, but they're not very good. (This is true)

SHE: Really? Why is that?

ME: I don't know. I just write them and go, "Mmm. I dunno." (This is also true)

SHE: Oh. (The director, GLENDELE, enters)

GLENDELE: That could be because he's not very good. (That's a joke)

ME: Yeah, I'm only good with other people's material. (Another joke)

GLENDELE (laughing): Yeah. Oh, by the way, Jeremy, *NAME*. *NAME*, Jeremy. (She exits)

SHE: Well, I'd like to talk with you more. I work for *PRODUCTION COMPANY*. You know *MAINSTREAM MOVIE NAME* with *BIG ACTOR NAME* and *BIG ACTRESS NAME*, we made that one.

ME: Oh, right. (Hadn't seen the movie, but had heard OF it)

SHE (fishing through purse for card): I can't seem to...Well, you can ask Glen for my contact info. We should talk.

ME: Definitely, definitely. It was great meeting you. (Now fully awake and sincere)

SHE: Yeah, nice meeting you, too.


So after a swapping of contact information, I was asked to send any screenplays that I had. I quickly went through my small canon of screenplays, and was highly disappointed in what I found:

"Loner" (Drama), 1998. A high school drama about a loner (didn't see that coming, did you?). I basically keep this one around for kicks. The self-indulgent story (I was a lonely sophomore in high school while I wrote it), the wants-to-be-witty dialogue, the unbelievable characters, and the absurd notion that a sixteen year-old who mopes around while reading Erich Segal will be lusted after by not one, not two, but THREE cute teenage girls is simply laughable. PASS!

"Lockdown" (Drama), 1999. I started writing this the day after the Columbine tragedy (I've always coped with tragedy through writing. My first full-length play happened because of 9/11, a fact that made me feel somewhat guilty when I was cashing the first royalty check that I received from it). It is about a fictional high school in a fictional town that is fictionally shot up by a fictional deranged kid (not in a trenchcoat, but a tuxedo. I don't quite know my reason for this, but I like it). Bogged down in cliches and weepy dialogue, it reaches the height of a forgettable TV movie. And after seeing Gus Van Sant's "Elephant", I'd simply be too embarrassed to even try with this one. PASS!

"Post Falls" (Drama), 1999-2003. Have you ever had a relationship where you wanted so badly to stay with the person, but there were just too many problems and you finally had to give up and cut all ties? I have not had one of these myself (I'm not bragging, it's simply because I was very inexperienced for a long time when it came to relationships), but I imagine it is something close to my relationship with this screenplay. I worked on continuosly for four years, coming with dozens of different drafts. It's a semi-autobiographical tale of going to high school in a small, boring town, with only my one good friend, who I looked up to as a brother, to help me through. The only problem is that I'd never been able to make it good. My high school years were boring as hell, so I had to come up with a lot of contrivances to make it an interesting movie (sex, parties, arguments, mean parents, car crashes, etc.). It made for a script that was either very organic or very cliched. I eventually gave it up, vowing to return to it when my sense of nostalgia (along with my sense of storytelling) had improved. PASS!

"Project" (Drama), 2000. My good friend Katie sent me this, which was her first and to date (I think) only screenplay. Seeing a lot of potential (along with the wrong formatting and only a 70-minute running time), I asked if I could do a rewrite on it. Together, what we came up with is an interesting cast of characters (they're all, GASP, high school students!), a plot that, while cliched and convoluted, is fast-moving and not entirely predictable, and some really great dialogue (along with some really crappy dialogue as well). Basically, it's something for us to be proud of. But not anything that we'd really want to show anyone. PASS!

"Cult Classic" (Comedy), 2001. A very absurd comedy written at a low point in my life. A video store employee in Victorville comes across an old, obscure Western movie musical featuring an actor that not only looks like him, but has the same name. His investigation into the film leads him to an underground cult who worships the actor. While recently re-reading it, I found it to be fresh and original, great characters and plot, but too amateurish in its dialogue and has too many jokes that fall flat. This has potential, but it needs a huge re-write first. POSSIBILITY!

"The Rules" (Drama), 2004. My glorious return to screenwriting, made not-so-glorious. The first ten pages of this script were based on a dream that I had, in which I and couple of friends conned some poor stiff out of a couple hundred bucks. From that, I wrote this Mamet-wannabe screenplay about teenage girls who pull con jobs while dealing with their impending high school graduation. Think the more boring aspects of "Ghost World" and the more manipulative aspects of "House of Games" meshed into one poorly constructed, lazily written mess. PASSY PASSER PANTS!

On a side note, looking at all of these descriptions, I realized that I really want a movie to be filmed in my hometown of Post Falls, Idaho. Of those six scripts, three of them actually take place in Post Falls, and two of them take place in an unnamed small Inland Northwest town (like I could be any more obvious). I can think of two reasons for this. The non-selfish reason is that it is an immensely beautiful town with kind-hearted citizens who would quite literally flip if an entire movie was filmed there (believe me, I know. For "Dante's Peak" they destroyed a small town about a half-hour from where I was living, and the residents there loved them for it). The selfish reason would be so that I could return to the place where outdoor activities are king, and a teenager with an obsession for independent/foreign films will find himself mocked, and show them all that I MADE IT!!! I'm weird like that.

So, anyway, I was left with a bunch of "no" scripts, and one "maybe". It was looking like I could see that wisp of smoke forming. But then I remember the voice that existed not only in the back of my head, but in the mouths of a few other people, telling me to adapt my latest play "Orange Alert" into a screenplay.

"Orange Alert" is a story fueled by my subsequent love and frustration with Orange County, as seen through the eyes of three women trying to fit in with the standards of O.C. living. It has numerous scenes, a handful of characters and, unlike my previous plays, an actual progressing plot (my earlier works were exercises in style and dialogue), so it's a natural for an adaptation to the screen.

So I spent the last few days working on reformatting, cutting, and restructuring one of the few scripts of mine that I actually really like. And yesterday, before I sent it off, I read it straight through one last time, fixing any typos or making any changes I felt were necessary.

I was amazed to find myself looking at the story in a different way. With a lot of the unnecessary dialogue exchanges taken out and the world of the story expanded to include the citizens of Orange County (who are essential to the love/hate relationship I have with this place), it seemed to be more rich and natural than its theatrical counterpart. Not only did I have a screenplay that I liked, but I actually liked it better than the stage play.

But is it because it really is better as a screenplay, or is it because of the standards for movie writing (because let's face it, a lot of the best movies would make only mediocre plays. Only a few films like "My Dinner With Andre" would work on stage, and most plays, like "Angels in America" and "Oleanna" tend to lose their power when put on film)? My love of movies came before my love of theatre, so is this where I'm supposed to be? Am I going to be doing the Alan Ball route, turning my mediocre plays into really good screenplays?

I guess will have to see how the adaptation is received. I'm just hoping that when my friend Darcy told me about a month ago that big changes were coming for me, this is what she was referring to (see, Darcy, I told you I'd work you into this post).

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