Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tools of the Trade

So what exactly do you need to become a successful, working screenwriter? The minute someone finds a real, solid, concrete answer for that, let me know. Of course, many will say all it takes is a great screenplay. Al-righty, then! It would take way too many pages and way too much energy to discuss, define, and apply the meaning of greatness.

So, minus the great screenplay? Why the hell are you waiting for me to answer this? But, nonetheless, let’s start with the tools that might come in handy.

A brain - preferably functioning, and I do define functioning very loosely. Many a great writer has been stoned, drunk, mental, depressed, and on a few occasions, completely sane.

An understanding of words - again, a little tricky with understanding. Some people just have “a way with words”. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. After teaching high school for eight years, I discovered that words don’t always mean what the dictionary says. I mean, after all, if a room full of people have a universal understanding of a particular word, and they can produce a ton of others who have that same understanding -then hell, that damn word exists.

Skin - preferably thick - hardened to a shiny, steel shell would be best. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Though I must admit, my shell is a little soft in spots. For those of you just sitting down to write your first script, the word “newbie” will be whacked across ever part of your body, mainly by those who feel it’s their duty to remind you that you don’t know Jack. Can’t say I’ve been acquainted with the fella myself.

Controlled deafness - the less you are able to hear for long periods of time, the better survival rate you will have the first year or two, or three, or four... well, you get the point. You will hear you suck more times than you care to count (sometimes in many masked and eloquent variations). You’ll also have your work critiqued to the point that the ability at controlled blindness might be a marketable skill, as well.

Mental illness - why else would you spend hours alone inside of your head with characters and places that don’t exist? You gotta be crazy, just accept it and move on. Stay away from the little blue pills, they tend to make those people inside your head disappear. Not that I would know from first-hand experience - I like the orange ones.

A face made of stone - preferably, it gets that way with the thickening of skin. If the stone face incorporates a chiseled smile, that will come in handy on the days when you hear “screenwriting, is that really a job?”.

The ability to say Fuck You, really loud, telepathically, with no one actually being able to know you said it. Trust me, you don’t ever want these words to come out of your mouth - at least, not without that chiseled smile and steel skin.

The ability to read - and decipher the right way to write a screenplay based on the countless books written by gurus who rarely seem to agree on any one method - but they’re all right and you better listen and follow their advice or run the risk of never becoming a successful screenwriter.

Oh, and a few other things like; a computer, really good, dependable software; a nice, reliable printer; tons of paper of various sorts and sizes; and a sense of humor that only a mother could appreciate.

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