The Bag Means Your Mind

A delightful mix of insightful comments and ignorant assumptions about screenwriting... and such.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dear Shakespear: Part 2

That punch in the face I wrote about? Yeah, that one. It turned out to be a gentle tussling of the hair. A week after my post I received an e-mail from Greg Beal. Not a personal one asking me, in teary prose, why I hate America, but a form letter that is sent out to the Nicholl entrants who were in the top percentages but missed the cut.

I'm not super needy (maybe just plain needy), but it was nice to get some external validation that I was at least heading in the right direction. My script was in the top 15%. That means that it graded anywhere from 506th to 757th out of 5050 scripts. Since I have no way of knowing where my script actually fell, I'll just assume the higher end of the spectrum*.

While I won't be screaming "I'm, at best, 506th!" from the top of the tallest midget in the circus, I will take this bit of encouragement, put it in my pocket and move on. When I'm down and convinced I can't write a cogent sentence, I'll take it out and remind myself that I'm on my way to better things.

*Higher meaning closer to 506 then 757.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007


Sometimes you encounter something in the wild. Something so spectacular that you must tell everyone in order to make them jealous, if only for a second. I was in an amusement park called Dorney Park near Allentown, PA. I was waiting for someone in my party to finish in the bathroom when the most divine example of Humanicus Mulletificus strided by me. I had thought they were extinct this far north content to graze in more fertile southern pastures, but here he was, a male of the species preening around the park with an infant who was still a ways off from mulletdom. I creeped slowly towards him, careful not to spook or startle the specimen.

His hair was perfectly manicured. The top of his head groomed with meticulous care. He was obviously proud of his mane. And let me tell you, it could only be described as a mane. It flowed over his shoulders down the front of his torso reaching all the way down to his belly button. I'm guessing he was royalty of some kind, the alpha male. He certainly could turn away all mullet challengers. It wouldn't even be close. I'm sure he enjoyed the finest female from his herd. No doubt.

It tried to get a picture of this magnificent beast, but he proved elusive. This blurry shot was all I could muster before he disappeared into the brush.


Dear Shakespear...

Well, I got my walking papers from Nicholl. It was a beautiful, carefully crafted, gently worded punch in the face. I'm not bitter. There are only so many ways to say "Learn how to string together some nouns and verbs and we'll talk." But they really go out of their way to provide you with a spoonful of sugar. "Dear Writer on the brink of scribing away poverty and achieving world piece through a powerful three act indictment, You were so close . . ."

Me, I look at the Nicholl Fellowships as an annual charitable donation which I faithfully deduct from my taxes. This year, I hope it goes to the venerable Brett N. Maybe next year I get a little somethin, somethin. I'll polish up my latest three-act fire alarm and send it west on the fastest horse.

I know it sounds like sour grapes or self deprecation, but it really isn't. Just my way of poking a little fun at myself and the whole process. I'm not worried that I'm a failure, or that I'll never cut it in this town. I just write the best stories I can and hope they can shine, contest or no contest.

It would have felt sooo good to open up the letter and get some form of validation, but I know deep down that I don't need to advance in the Nicholl to know that I have talent.*

I read a story about a screenwriter who had been writing for years. Each year she would submit to Nicholl and each year she wouldn't make the cut. Frustrated she gave it one last push and decided that if she didn't get in the next time, that she would hang up her verbs and call it a day. The Nicholl letter finally came. She opened it up. And . . . she didn't make it. But at the bottom of the letter was a personal note from one Greg Beal that said something like "You just missed the cut. Keep up the good work." So she did, and the next year she was a semi-finalist. Admit it, your heart just swelled and you lit a small candle. It's OK.

The point is that it seems that people tend to get what they need exactly when they need it. Call it luck, happenstance, magic, or providence. Doesn't matter. It just is. That's not to say you need to kick back and wait for senior Spielbergo to beg you for a script, but it is just to say: make an effort and be persistent and you will get what you want. Scary, I know.

*I was no where near a tall horse when I wrote that. I swear.

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