During a recent interview by Raymond Alexander Kukkee for his creative-space blog, Incoming Bytes, we spoke some of my journey into screenwriting early in my writing career.
As my thoughts of that time linger still, I can close my eyes and remember everything as it was. I can see clearly the space in which I dreamed, then wrote.
My home, being from the early 50’s, had windows that lifted up and were without screens, so my dogs often poked their heads in just to make sure I hadn’t moved since the last time they checked on me. And perhaps more importantly, I remember a home alive with young, unencumbered and uninhibited souls who lingered and lounged around my place, laughing, eating, watching movies or Saturday Night Live, and who would occasionally peek around the doorway to inquire, “What scene are we on now?”
We? Let me explain.
My home was a ‘hub’ of sorts; a place where things began and ended for my son and his friends in high school. Should a parent be looking for their son or daughter, there was really only one phone number they had to dial. Mine.
My gang was close to the age of one of my main characters, so it wasn’t uncommon that I would suddenly appear in front of them, hit pause (often to their irritation I’m sure) and ask, “Does this sound real to you?” before reading part of a scene I was working on. Without fail, they would jump right in and give it a thumbs up, or tell me what was wrong with it. They were my focus group, a place to bounce some ideas around and then disappear back into my cave. They were a part of the process and what became an important part for me. Over time, they seemed to be invested in the process too.
The farther I got into into the story — the more it became a reality as something I was actually doing — the more I allowed myself to dream of what it would be like to have it actually appear on screen one day …the more vested I became in giving the characters and the meaning of it all, life. That’s when doubt appeared, insisting that I ponder the ‘what if’s’ of failure.
But then I had what many writers don’t; a secret weapon ready at my disposal to vanquish such notions. I had my gang to always inspire me.
I recall with treasured emotion, one of my son’s best friends, Rory, standing in my office doorway late one evening. Like so many times before, he had been en route to the kitchen or something and paused to ask, “How’s it going, Rosie?”
I was having one of those ‘moments’, and while I can’t recall exactly what I said, it had something to do with being crazy out of my mind. “Why am I doing this? The chances of this thing ever being made are slim to none!”
Rory is an incredible artist …an amazing talent, and I think he understood both the creative process and the emotion that goes into it, as well as, perhaps, one’s desire to put their work ‘out there’. Will it be accepted?
He readily admitted, maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but it’s important that you write it anyway. “You need to just do it. It’s good. Don’t stop. Just do it.”
With that, he was a tuna sandwich (lol) away from something else, but in that moment I realized that maybe I needed to buck up for another reason and finish what I had started.
As parents, we’re often very quick to espouse our virtuous lines of encouragement. “You can be or do anything in life if you try!” Or, “It doesn’t matter if you succeed or not, or win, or not. It’s more important that you try. Do your best!” Sounds so good rolling off our tongues, no?
Well, it sort of became my reason to push on …to finish …to try. Just ‘do it’ indeed.
How could I encourage my own son and the rest of the gang if I was too chicken to take the risk myself? It was time to walk the talk I had been giving out. It was an opportunity to show my gang that even adults have to reach beyond themselves and what’s comfortable without any guarantees if they are to achieve a dream. And if the script failed to ever be made, that wasn’t what they would remember. They would remember that I ‘reached’ …I dreamed and I tried with all my heart.
I know that’s true because still today, from time to time, one of my gang will ask, “Hey, what ever happened with your screenplay?” before recalling one of my SNL interruptions fondly.
Sweet grins abound as I fire back, “I’m expecting Disney to be calling any day now!”
And Rory? Well, he’s helping other inspiring artist with their dreams as an art teacher at Del Oro High School where he, my son, Sean and the rest of their gang attended.