My Background Part 2

In Part 1 we covered my start in writing during childhood.  I did continue to write throughout my scholastic years, taking a creative writing course in high school that was the easiest class I ever aced in my life.  And I aced pretty much everything.

Having always loved movies, the idea of writing a screenplay had always been in my mind.  In my mid 20’s, as a young man living with his pregnant girlfriend, I decided to finally take the plunge.  This was in the days before the internet and I didn’t know any experienced screenwriters.  I had been watching and studying movies all my life.  I had some intuitive knowledge about the construction of a film, but of course, that is not nearly enough to allow one to take on as difficult a piece of writing as a screenplay.  So I purchased two of Syd Fields’ books, “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” and “The Screenwriter’s Workbook”.  I devoured both books, and using the exercises at the end of each chapter of the workbook, I wrote my first screenplay.  On an IBM typewriter!  Let me tell you, I greatly  appreciate Final Draft. The software is so much easier.  It’s another thing I find fascinating about my idol, Woody Allen.  He stills writes everything on an old typewriter he bought when he was sixteen.  I can understand being old school, he has great discipline.  But, I love formatting software.  It takes most of the tedium out of the work and allows me to concentrate on the creative part.  And write fast.  Very fast.  My writer friends marvel at how quickly I can knock out a draft, and believe me, it’s a very useful skill to have when you’ve got a director and producer who need a revision immediately.

Back to that first screenplay.  For a first effort, I suppose it was decent.  It was structured well, character driven (as all my work is) and had a nice pace.  It was not, however, producible.  First scripts very rarely are.  It was derivative of a couple of films that I really liked.  This was before I found my own voice, which occurred during my years as a stand up comic.  I still have a copy of it, but I will never show it to anyone.

I wrote a second script two years later. (Again on the typewriter.)  It was a little better, but I tried a number of different techniques that I had seen in Woody Allen’s films that did not work so well in my script.  It was a comedy with some nice surreal moments that were quite funny.  (My sense of humor is one of my greatest strengths.  My whole life.)  I did things like have the characters reference the fact that they were in a film.  I also referenced a number of other films and television shows, some quite blatantly.  I even had my protagonist and another character refer to me, by name as their creator.  My protagonist complained about being made in my image by lamenting, “I wish he were taller”.  Funny, but disjointed and it took the reader out of the story.  I have a copy of that one as well, but no one will ever see it either.

I should have continued writing screenplays.  That is, of course, how you learn, improve and finally get it.  I had a number of ideas for scripts, but there was one that I knew had the potential to be a great movie.  It was just a simple concept, not at all formed enough to begin writing.  I wanted to write a screenplay about a guy who had problems in his relationships with women and created an imaginary manifestation of his ideal woman to help him in his quest for love.  I knew it could be great, just felt it.  But I wasn’t ready to write it yet.  I was too young, still a novice cynic, hope still sprung eternal inside me.  I hadn’t yet been rejected by enough women, hadn’t been sufficiently slapped around by life.  I knew that one day, I would write it, but not then.   Instead, I chose to enter another entertainment field, something I had always wanted to do, become a stand up comic.

Being a comedian was an amazing experience.  A great night onstage still, for me, provides the greatest exhilaration I have ever known.  I’ve been out of stand up for quite awhile, and I miss it, sometimes terribly.  I’ll go back to it someday.  Stand up changed my life significantly in a number of ways, but there were two that were huge.  It was the final straw in ending the only good relationship I have ever been in. But , as I stated previously, it was as a comedian, working clubs big and small, showcase rooms and dives up and down the East Coast, that I found my voice.  I learned to express myself humorously as the unique individual that I am, expressing my thoughts, analyzing my obsessions and laughing at my personal foibles.

This is getting long, and amazingly, I’m really getting into blogging, so I think we’ll cover my stand up years in Part 3.  I want to finish up my backstory over the weekend, so that on Monday, eight weeks out from the start of production on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? , I can start discussing preproduction.

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2 thoughts on “My Background Part 2

  1. I love this post, Paul, and I consider myself something of an amateur screenwriter, too. Granted, you seem to be much more developed than me, but I am constantly working to improve and have only produced one complete work. I have lots of ideas and a few scenes I’m developing for what I think is a pretty marketable idea, but blogging has pulled me away from it a little. If you ever want to discuss films, screenplays or simply the writing process, check me out. I promise not to steal ideas and would welcome the opportunity to share challenges and successes with such a great writer. And you would be surprised by how similar we are. Honestly, I almost felt like I wrote some of the lines in this article, so we might be cut from the same cloth. I wish you luck and hope to see you around, my friend!

  2. Scott, thank you for reading and for your compliments. I greatly appreciate them. I’ve started following you and I very much enjoy your writing. I would be glad to discuss writing in general and specifically screenwriting and films with you any time. I love talking shop with my fellow writers. I’m doing pretty well, i’ve written four original features and a short (the one that I am shooting in October) I’ve also got an assignment doing a rewrite for a feature that shoots in Singapore later this year. I look forward to many interesting and enlightening conversations with you. It’s great to interact with like-minded artists.

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