An unlessoned girl, unschooled, unpracticed

I am new to these worlds: LA, Hollywood, screenwriting. They are new to me, shiny and enticing, like a wrapped present on Christmas morning. I'm still in the Honeymoon Stage of cultural adjustment. Next comes Hostility, so I'll need to keep a close eye on that.

I'm not so new to writing though. In fact, I've written all manner of things - electronics reviews, essays on Shakespeare, Bob Dylan, and modern Canadian poetry, a dating advice column, love letters, an entire website for one of the world's largest commercial real estate companies, buying guides for state-of-the-art home theater equipment, html, javascript, song lyrics, grocery lists, email.... Really, I know how to write. However, aside from having watched quite a number of movies, I know nothing of screenplay writing.

Happily, I am not yet so old but I may learn.

Starting with a poke around Amazon.com, I narrowed down the thousands of books on screenwriting by surveying the user reviews. Blake Snyder's "Save the Cat" seemed as good a place to start as any, and it was. Snyder explains the basics of screenplay structure while being a gracious and entertaining host. Since I'd never considered that a screenplay might have a structure, the book was just the kickstart I needed.

I then spent many hair-tearing days structuring my first story idea. This is the practice idea. The idea that will live with me in mutual torture for months, years even. The idea that I will grow to detest and hack to death during the learning process. The idea that I will eventually want to jump up and down on until it smashes into little bitty pieces all over the floor. Maybe I'll just hit Delete. Less vacuuming involved.

Anyway, I have better ideas, great ideas. But I'm saving them for a me that is less likely to make a mangled wreck of them. Perhaps this is my first mistake.

So, with my adequate idea in hand, I set everything up using Snyder's advice. I was satisfied with my beats and set-pieces, pacing and arcs. Then I wrote the first act and hit a big old brick wall. Realizing that 'satisfied' was hitting way below the mark, and with little bruises and cuts stinging my once unscathed psyche, I went back to the board. Again and again. I've written the first act of seven immensely dull screenplays now. So far, lucky number eight seems to be The One.


What fresh hell is this?

Freshly rescued from the depressing soul-suck that is London England, I felt optimism seeping back into my bones. Or was that just the Vitamin D?

Either way, it motivated me to seize the nebulous goal that had been hibernating in the wide muddy flats of my brain for yonks -- and actually go for it. That's right. Since I was finally in LA, I was going to become a screenwriter.

My naive and youthful optimism (which I had misplaced some time back in 1999) sprang forth and I was on the move. Armed with websites and "how to" books, I would polish my craft, create a masterpiece, and by golly, see it go into production and shine on the big screen.

That was a few months ago now. Waking to reality, I've realized that this is going to be one adamantine and infinite endurance test, with very little reward awaiting me should I succeed. For some reason I can't quite nail down, now I want to do it even more.

Here's my offer to you. Come along on my journey. Keep me company. Give me encouragement. (Lord knows I'll need it.) Slap me when I'm being a dolt. And kick me when I'm down if that's your thing.

In return, I'll entertain, inform, thrill, and delight you with what promises to be a truly twisted tale that might play out something like this:

An astonishingly clever Canadian woman escapes from England seeking sunshine, but instead finds herself wallowing into the dark underbelly of Hollywood, where she discovers the awful truth about Tinseltown...