Another gem I picked up at Austin Film Festival: the crap +1 fallacy.
The fallacy is that you see a bad movie and think that all you have to do to succeed is write something a little better.
It’s a fallacy because you can’t see the myriad reasons why the movie didn’t end up well–the missteps, the studio interference, actor problems, mistakes, and concessions that made a bad movie out of a good script. Your screenplay isn’t competing with the crappy final version of a movie — it’s competing with the good script that got mangled after it was purchased.
I get this completely, but I have seen films at festivals where I thought “oh, I can make something better than this” and that has been an effective motivator for me at times.
The Not Actually Crap corollary: the movie was bad but made a ton of money. Sure, to your refined taste it was an artistic failure, but to the fat cat investors it was a resounding success.
Also known as You Are Not the Audience (YANTA). Hint: the audience is probably teenage boys or Chinese moviegoers.
Step one: identify what seem to be, right now, the most meaningful ways to spend your life.
Step two: schedule time for those things.
There is no step three.
Everything else just has to fit around them – or not. Approach life like this and a lot of unimportant things won’t get done, but, crucially, a lot of important things won’t get done either. Certain friendships will be neglected; certain amazing experiences won’t be had; you won’t eat or exercise as well as you theoretically could.
In an era of extreme busyness, the only conceivable way to live a meaningful life is to not do thousands of meaningful things.—Oliver Burkeman
Found this in my notes from a few years ago. Huge fan of Burkeman’s book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.
i hate grants
i hate writing grant applications.
does anyone enjoy this?
did you like my thing?
are my artistic goals good enough?
do I have a good purpose?
do you like my carer trajectory?
is my art too safe or too risky?
am i saying the right things?
what are you looking for?
can I have some money? i would really like some money.
i hate grants
The etymology of the word “passion”:
Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin passiō, passiōn-, sufferings of Jesus or a martyr, from Late Latin, physical suffering, martyrdom, sinful desire, from Latin, an undergoing, from passus, past participle of patī, to suffer.From wordnik.
One thing I noticed at AFF was that a LOT of people are writing TV pilots. It seems like every aspiring-to-be-professional writer I met had entered a pilot into the screenwriting contest or was working on a pilot or was trying to break into TV with their pilot.
I had a conversation with a woman who was developing a pilot for a show that was an autobiographical story of how she found love later in life. I liked the story. I think it would be a good rom-com.
I asked her if it wouldn’t be better as a movie. As someone who lives in Austin, she has virtually no chance of that pilot getting made. First it has to be a great concept. I like the idea but it’s not like earth-shattering and the audience is somewhat limited.
Second, she has to get the idea into the hands of people that can make it a reality, which is basically a few different studios or Netflix or Amazon or Apple.
She doesn’t really have connections there. And it’s very rare that a first-time writer just gets a show made like that.
I told her that it would be much easier to make as a movie. You just have to find a producer that wants to make it. It’s much easier to find an indie producer than a willing TV executive, especially since there are so many possible budget ranges. You could do her idea for $200k, $500k, $1 million, or $20 million.
It’s still hard; it’s still a longshot. I just see a better path there. And it’s her story. She wants it to be told. You can make a movie through sheer force of will. You cannot make a TV show that way. There are just too many factors outside of your control.
She could also write a play, a really funny play. All of these strategies hinge on the material being really good, although honestly, the indie feature route has the least reliance on having a good script.
A lot of the people with pilots in Austin were people that lived in not Los Angeles. It’s pretty damn hard to break into TV if you’re not in Los Angeles. I’m not really sure what their career strategy is. Maybe it’s submitting to contests, hoping to win one that gets them a manager? There are many ways in but I know that if my main goal in life was to write for television that I would have moved to L.A. years ago.
I went to a panel with the director of filmmaker labs at Film Independent. She said that comedy features are very much underrepresented in their submissions for the screenwriting lab.
I think everyone who wants to write comedy went over to the pilot side, which in one way makes sense because there are more writing jobs in TV, but then again, there’s only a loose connection between the jobs and what gets you the job.
Why not zig when others are zagging?
Sometimes I will find myself yelling in my head, in response to some writing advice I read on the internet.
It goes something like this: “you idiots! you don’t need writing advice! you just need to write! sit down and fucking write! do you really think that reading what Hemingway said about the bullshit detector is going to help you, you lazy fuck, when you’re not even putting in the time!?”
That’s a lot of yelling, but I’m yelling at myself.
The first kind of writing advice is designed to get you to sit down and actually write. To create space in your day or your life to do the work. To get words on the page, no matter how not good they are. This advice often has an inspirational or self-help feel to it, and for good reason. You want to write, but you’re afraid for any number of reasons and you haven’t started to put in the time.
I listened to The War of Art once and that more or less rewired my brain to write every day. It’s a powerful book.
The second kind of writing advice is more practical or technical. It’s for people that are already doing the work, putting in the time, pumping out the words. Advice of this variety has to do with how to write an outline or develop a character or create suspense or write better dialogue.
Type II advice doesn’t really mean anything if you haven’t created a space to work within.
One of the ways in which people speculated (fantasized?) about MoviePass making money was through “big data”.
People seem generally uneasy whenever a company has your little data and combines it with everyone else’s little data to make big data, which is pretty much all the time because all the companies are collecting your data and many are sharing it around and integrating it with their data.
When it comes to MoviePass or Sinemia, I’m actually pretty optimistic about the prospects of them having my data.
Here’s my thinking: every time I go to see a movie, it’s like a vote for that kind of movie. It’s clear from the MoviePass experience that one of their long-term goals was to start financing and distributing films (like American Animals, which was pretty good I have to say. If only MoviePass were less good at losing money, we might have had more of these).
And if they discover that, hey, there’s like this whole market out there for movies for adults who like good, well-written stories about adult-y things beyond the ken of comic books, then they might start financing and distributing more of these movies and they can market them directly to me via the app.
As fun as the MoviePass debacle was, it left me in the undesirable position of paying retail price for movies.
There’s a new company that wants to subsidize our movie watching, despite my not very elastic demand curve for movie-theater-going (I’m out here shouting that everyone should be seeing more movies in theaters! You’ve been tricked! Binge-watching at home while on your phone is NOT good for your soul!)
The new company is Sinemia. Here is a link to sign up (you’ll get a $5 credit if you use that link and I’ll get a $10 credit).
I guess you get the name Sinemia by taking Cinema and replacing the C with an ‘S’ and then adding an ‘i’ in there. Do people even try when naming companies now? Is ‘sin’ supposed to have some kind of biblical meaning?
Anyway. I have nothing to say about the experience yet because I just signed up and haven’t used the service yet. On the positive side, they seem interested in subsidizing my movie-going.
Last week I finished a freelance gig that started in mid-July. It was an intense gig with long hours and many working weekends. On the weekends where I didn’t have to work, I was on call.
It was tough and stressful and often miserable. There were good times too and I met good people there.
I’ve been thinking in the last few days how I got through it. Because, honestly, without going into details, it was pretty miserable. And it meant not having a Chicago summer.1
Here are some of the reasons I didn’t quit:
- It’s only 3.5 months, anyone get through something like that.
- You made a commitment, keeping your word is important.
- The money is really good.
- I need the money.
- I don’t want to let the team down.
- I’m learning a lot.
- I’m working for an important cause; it’s important that I do my part.
Those are all good reasons, right?
What’s interesting is that depending on who I’m talking to, I might offer a different reason for why I did it. We tailor the stories we tell, depending on the audience, and I think for two reasons: one is to make the story more interesting and two is to make ourselves sound better.
The story you tell yourself about why you are doing it, that’s what gets you through.
And all of those stories worked for me at one point or another during the experience. But the one that persisted, the one that really kept me going was about the freedom. I’m sacrificing a lot of freedom right now for a lot more freedom down the road.
And sitting here on a Friday morning with nowhere to be and nothing to do, I have to say that I made the right choice. That sweet sweet taste of freedom, the freedom to work on whatever I want. I have about three to six months of runway before I have to take another job (assuming I don’t pick up any new freelance work) and that means I’m free to write every morning, for hours at a time.
I could jump on the train and fly to another city right now if I felt like it. I’m not going to, but I like the feeling.
I spent June directing a feature film, then I went to Scotland for a week in July and then started the job when I got back ↩
Reminders for myself as I return to daily work (writing):
- Work every day. Compound interest. The Daily.
- Work with purpose. Deliberate practice.
- Work deeply.
- Process over results.
- Take risks. Stop playing it safe.
- Dream big.
- Ship your work.
What am I forgetting?