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This is a call for talented, hard-working writers interested in forming a support group, for want of a better name. The main objective: to improve our writing skills.
Requirements: Writers who have written at least five scipts and have yet to become established as a professional/working writer.
Granted we are on the fringes of one of the most competitive businesses on the planet and have chosen perhaps the most difficult art medium in which to excel because of the many variables within the collaborative process.
However, one of the important questions to be examined by the group is, Why has so much effort been applied to one cause with little or no apparent success? Is it a structure problem, a lack of understanding of our chasen genres, a problem of creativity, choice of story material? Is it a lack of opportunity, or is it better to assume that opportunities, like our stories, must be created?
These are things to brainstorm over, for the answers are locked within our current process. There is an answer to every question, a solution to every problem. As writers, aren't we in the business of asking questions and getting answers?
The alliance idea is not without its problems, for how do we find three people who are compatible, with similar grasps of the medium and willing to divulge themselves?
Writers are some of the most private people in the world, often to our own detriment. We write in our private vacuums and rely on our power of critique to carry us through. But what if it is faulty? Who will care enough to point this out to us? Linda Seager would, so would Sally Merlin, but these people are busy professionals and they cost a lot. Truby would be glad to critique your script for $2500. Even if we had that kind of money to invest in a script, would the remarks really help us apply certain elements and principles to future work?
I suggest it is far better to get down into the trenches with this material ourselves, form a group and figure these things out for ourselves. Working this angle would allow us to assimilate this material in a far better way, wouldn't you say?
I suggest we already know the answers to our questions. We have the key to our own destinies. With the cynergistic powers of the group, we become our own best consultants. Wasn't it Socrates who said we learn through dialogue?
The following are a few objectives to complete the picture:
1)economize time through division of labor on reading trades, BBs, scripts, etc., and sending notes.
2)critiqueing each other's work, thus eliminating the need for consultants. That money thus saved might be better spent.
3)discussing structure, movies, strategies, story ideas, comparing story structure gurus. For example: structure or no structure, revision or no revision. As to movies: What was the major flaw (a plot hole) in CIDER HOUSE?
5)general support group
6) finally, the ultimate objective: to become better screenwriters
The Triad Alliance is merely a working title.
Three seems to be the magic number for the group. While two is not enough four seems too many.
Structure and guidelines for the group are up for discussion.
Our motto: The search for excellence in writing.
Thanx for considering this proposal.
In my experience, three is too small for a continuing group. I was in Scriptwriters Network, which encouraged triads and helped members form them.
I was in three of them. Each one started with enormous enthusiam. "I am going to stick with this. It is very, very important to me and I'm going to put in a lot of time and effort." Every person in every group said that. One group fell apart after the first meeting. The others didn't last much longer.
I've heard that some triads did last. But it takes a lot more effort than most people are willing to sustain once they face the reality. Big groups are easier because there are more people to come up with material to critique and to regenerate enthusiasm.
Of course, if you have three equally motivated people, it could be great. I don't mean to discourage you, and I'd like to see groups like that work out. I just thought I'd share my experience.
Sondra, thanx for the note, sorry I'm late getting back to you.
I too joined NS, ASA as well in the recent contests. I have yet to explore either as to this proposal but thought I would check first MB.
We scribes are like knights on a quest for that not unlike the Grail. How idealistic is that? But what are we if not idealists, extremists, non-conformists? A way to distinguish between us is not so much the level of our expertise but the level of our extremism, the level of our intensity, which will take us further in the long run.
Thus the size of the group is not so much the issue but the task of finding fellow knights of like mind and spirit and that all-important level of intensity.
Organization is the key to success in our trade because of the many obstacles we face in our attempt to hang our work. There's so much we can do to help each other be heard. We are in the relationship business after all.
I'm looking for two experienced writers of the struggling variety, as I've said, two with a single purpose to their existence, extremists to the extreme. We all have concerns, we have expectations, all of which are valid, but essentially we hope to create that certain chemistry that really makes things happen in a group.
Writers are extremely sensitive. That is a given quality among us, even to the point of our being fragile, which is an immaturity that we must outgrow. Rawhide is the right hide to wear on this range. But we are human after all and thus always in a state of becoming, always striving for some ideal notion of excellence, like the heroes in our stories.
Truby says the main goal of the writer is to help his audience grow.
Within the cathartic process of the written word, we hope to get in touch with our own pain, those terrible things in our past from which we hide, focusing thus on our own growth process. Inside all this is the Piper's call for absolute honesty, a special brand of honesty that if shared within the group lays the groundwork for success.
We must be open about our insecurities, that we might make a mistake and look foolish, that we might not measure up, for it is a normal emotion. After all, we are artists in the state of becoming, so quite naturally we hide out on occasion, and hide especially from that one devastation lurking in some dark place, the uncertainty of uncertainties that perhaps, God forbid, we have no talent at all.
But this is a side of us, the fear and the uncertainty, that we must embrace, for it is the most human side of us that we will ever encounter. It is from this uncertainty, from the pain and the trials of being who we are, it is from this frail human side of our nature--the old verities of the human heart--from which we must write, and from which will one day emerge the excellence for which we strive. That's what I mean by divulging ourselves.
The quest of quests for the writer is to be heard. We imply by our long hours at the beast that we have something to say, that we do in fact have that unique voice. We just might be right and the rest of the world wrong. If we do not have this conviction about ourselves maybe we really don't have that unique voice. We must have the courage to stand by our beliefs, to bare our soul and not care who knows we are insecure. We must persevere until we are heard, take no prisoners. There are many reasons for writing but that is the bare essence of it.
On the other hand, if we write for the wrong reasons, if it is not the process for which we labor, the sheer joy of creating, and if we cannot embrace the bitter possibility that we may never be appreciated for the things we have to say, in this lifetime or any other, then we will be found out. It will show in our work and we will fall by wayside.
What is left to us in our pure and simple endeavor is the sincere hope to grow and to transform ourselves into the person we were meant to be, or better, the person we had hoped we might become, always striving for that elusive goal of excellence.
Campbell encouraged us to "follow our bliss." Is that what we're really about, following our bliss?
The triad seems ideal to me because each of us is able to devote attention to two fellow knights instead of many, and thus we have the right to expect our efforts to return to us more than threefold, which is the power of synergy at work.
I recently rec'd a copy of the SN (Scriptwriters Network) membership. I signed up for that organization during the last contest. There are 769 writers on the list. Most are from CA, as this is a CA-based organization (Studio City). But there are many from other states, even from other countries. SN offers its members the opportunity to form triads similar to the one I was trying to form.
Anyone interested in joining ASA can contact them at: (323) 848-9477 or scriptwritersnetwork.com
Goodbye and good writing.
I think your idea is worth a try. You can count me in. I have four scripts.
Are you aware of the American Zoetrope (Coppola) site, where critiques are exchanged?
We writers tend to be a little paranoid, I think, and surround ourselves with armor. But the armor is really dead scar tissue.
Anyway, I hope we can get something going.
PS: I can't find your Email address.
Hey, John, I have been corresponding with Ken and we have exchanged scripts, so feel free to contact me if you'd like. I'll let Ken speak for himself. email@example.com
You're right about the scar tissue. We write from the various traps and spaces we find ourselves in. All our characters have a little bit of us in them. Their pain is our pain. That's where we write from.
Truby says the writer's main task is to help people grow. But as we help our characters grow we hope to grow with them.
I think that's why we tend to write more positive endings, and why Follywood tends to prefer upbeat endings. We like to see people struggling with their slaveries as we ourselves do. But while life sometimes pulls us down all the way, and we understand how that happens, we prefer to see our heroes arrive at the moral decisions and the new equilibriums that help them to become better people and thus to help the world become a better place.
In this regard, Truby criticized CUCKCOO'S NEST. He wanted to see McMurphy learn somesome and get the hell out of there. It was good that the Chief made it, but that didn't help us because we were in McMurphy's shoes. When our heroes die (as in COOL HAND LUKE) or when they end up alone because they refuse to change (HUD), as a result of their moral flaws, we as the audience don't learn anything about life either.
I believe that's what art is all about, people searching for themselves, a way to make some sense out of the chaos. Finally, as writers, that's why it's important for us to heed what Truby tells us about the responsibility of the writer.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Drop me a line. Let's see what happens.
I'm not sure about upbeat endings. I'd have to think about it. Does every movie have to make us a better person?
One of my favorite movies is MISTRESS (DeNiro, Aiello, Wallach, Jean Smart, Robert Wuhl, Jason Alexander). A killer comedy about screenwriting. And the ending is far from upbeat, kind of a downer that levels off.
Have you read Christopher (I forget his last name)'s THE WRITER'S JOURNEY? You sound like you have.
Anyway, I'll Email you and Miriam with info about my scripts, then we can see about arranging an exchange.
Vogler. Christopher Vogler is the name you want. Looking forward to hearing from you, John.
What we're trying to get at here is the ideal. The worthwhile project, the socially responsible project, if you will.
As to the upbeat ending, that in itself doesn't say much for the quality of a movie. Most often our mythical action hero gets the girl and saves the day. That's an upbeat ending. But perhaps we pay too much attention to the ending and not enough to what comes before, where all the killing takes place. What we need altogether is a new story and a new hero.
Campbell felt that we need a new myth, that the archaic religious myths are no longer supporting us as evidenced by violence, crime, drug abuse, etc., in our society, that the world needs a new myth, one that supports our struggle to make sense of a new world.
In answer to Campbell, Truby predicts the coming of a new breed of writer, new filmmakers (and for one gives Redford credit for working toward this end). A new writer with new kinds of stories, themes and heroes--the "great-souled hero", as Truby calls him, writing the "New World Myth." This is what we mean by the ideal, the ideal goal of the writer.
The biggest problem in cinema, aside from the way women are portrayed, is that our heroes continue to resort to violence as a way of solving their problems. It is the same in real life as life immitates art.
As writers we must focus on the impact of the stories we write. Our moives are real, our characters are real. They are as real as anything in this grand illusion we call life on planet earth. That is why we must take responsiblitiy for the social problems we experience in our society, from the Ted Bundys to what happened at Columbine.
Just as meat-eating is a learned behavior, so is violence. Truby feels that "violence is an addiction," which is why SAVING PRIVATE RYAN sent them around the block when ANGELA'S ASHES barely make it around at all.
These are choices we make based of what we have learned from our role models, mostly people we writers have created. We must break with our past. We must teach our children new ways to solve problems. We as writers are, whether we know it or not, assigned this task.
In so doing, the next time we write a TAXI DRIVER, our new Travis Bickle, would choose a non-violent way to deal with the bad guys rather than blowing them all away.
Violence is no solution. It never has been. Why do we still do it? In your local Video store see how many guns or explosions are depicted on the box art. If we stop writing these stories we will stop seeing these movies. There is no other way.
As writers we must set new standards of excellence for ourselves and our industry. When we begin a writing project, even as we choose our genre, we are making a statement about our commitment to the ideal goal, it is our personal answer to the call to make this a better world.
I'm going to display my ignorance (no trick for me). Who's Truby?
About your idea -- it's kind of quixotic. I think it's gonna take a lot more than screenwriters to change people. Most people lead fairly humdrum existences. What could be more spirit-killing than eight hours in an office? Just ask my wife, who is there now making enough to support my drone-like existence.
Anyway, what these people want in the way of entertainment is excitement -- pop bands, etc. As far as movies go, Hollywood recognizes that nothing is more exciting than sex and violence.
So tell me, Ken, what would you subsititue that would have the same visceral appeal?
I don't we'll get rid of sex and violence, but we can give them a different twist. For a couple of thousand years, the most popular form of drama has been melodrama (Euripides wrote them), nowadays called Thrillers. Recipe: cardboard characters (good guy vs bad guys); intricate, suspenseful plot; moral simplicity. A recipe that sells. But maybe a different spin could be put on it: maybe comedy, which would distance the pseudo-seriousness of melodrama.
Or real history, which shows that violence creates more problems that it solves. I dunno.
On a side issue, my pet peeve is the excess of SFX, which, like car chases, is the resort of a poor director or storyteller.
End of screed,
I agree with that last, John. Look at Phantom Menace, with all that time, effort and $$ spent of fabulous beautiful effects, and a complete lack of interesting stories, drama or fun characters. The result? BORING! It's all in the script. Effects should be considered icing on the cake, not the be-all and end-all. Miriam P.S. haven't gotten your emails--look for the . in between my names. firstname.lastname@example.org
I didn't see PHANTOM MENACE, but heard it was bad. I'm one of the apparently few who's not a fan of TITANIC either. Maybe because I'm not a DiCaprio fan.
I was curious about MATRIX. Haven't seen it. Did you?
First, my credentials (or lack thereof): I'm an old fogie, who usually prefers the original rather than the remake. Examples: THE HAUNTING: I liked the Claire Bloom-Julie Harris original (and just bought it today for $5). I haven't seen De Bont's remake, but everyone says, Don't, It's just SFX. Same with CARNIVAL OF SOULS orignially made some forty years ago for 30K, and recently remade by Craven I think. Again, I was warned against it.
You might say, Well, why not buy a ticket and judge for yourself? But this is capitulation. Hollywood doesn't give a damn what we think, as long as we buy a ticket. The only thing they consider (I generalize) is the bottom line. SO IF YOU BUY A TICKET TO A MOVIE YOU PRETTY WELL KNOW IS BAD, YOU'VE JUST CAST A VOTE FOR IT, AND YOU'LL GET MORE JUST LIKE IT.
What we need is a little selective boycotting.
I'll fold up my portable soapbox now, and stumble offstage.
PS: (Here I go again): Another example of a remake that stunk was THE JACKAL (Original: DAY OF THE JACKAL). The Edward Fox version is a classic thriller. The remake stunk. (Unforutnately, I saw it)
I agree, John. I practice selective boycotting all the time. If I MUST see something out of curiosity, I wait till it's out on video. That's why I haven't seen THE MATRIX either, because I saw clips of the guys with guns, and thought to myself, "that's not the kind of movie I want to support." The rest of the country may enjoy watching people shoot at each other, but I get enough of that on the nightly news.
Also agree on remakes. When you have a fabulous original, you'd better have something amazing to add to it, otherwise, why bother? Look at YOU'VE GOT MAIL -- already a remake several times over (Little Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime, plus the musical She Loves Me). You wonder what they were thinking?
I guess they were thinking, Hey, if it made money once, why not again? Or with a re-remake, maybe, We pulled the wool over they eyes once, let's try it again.
I guess I'll stay away from MATRIX. It just didn't sound like my kind of movie. I also managed to avoid ARMAGEDDON. (But got sucked into that other apocalyptic one with Tia Leone)
Some violence is okay, IMHO, if it's SIGNIFICANT, and not just mindless blowing away of bad guys. An example for me is THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, a classic noir -- excellent even aside from the fact that it introed MM (in a minor role).
I haven't seen the one with Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson as Marine colonels yet, but I understand that the violence is at the beginning of the movie, and the justification for it becomes the central question. (I've heard, though, that the movie has other problems)
I guess what I'm saying is that the violence should be shown as repulsive (THREE KINGS did this), and the good guys should get their share of it. It should not be random -- or overdone. (Same holds true for sex and nudity)
End of sermon (Wake up!)
I agree that sometimes violence has its place, and how it's presented can make a big difference. But in general I just don't like to watch it. I don't know about anyone else, but I would almost like a different R rating for violence than for sex cause I'd rather watch nudity than people exploding any day.
Sorry guys I been draggin' my feet.
John: M and I have hashed this over some already. She's taking your position somewhat. Here's the point I think:
As writers we are the vanguard not only of our industry but of the world. What people think and do somebody somewhere has written. We can try to sweep Columbine under the rug if we want to, but these kids are not gonna let us. We ain't seen that last of it. And we can deny our responsibility in this all we want, but we can't lie to the secret self. We know. It's not fun and games like Tarantino and his ratpack buddies think it is. "Oh, let's do some fun stuff. Now we've got FROM DUCK TILL DAWN in triolgy form. Give me a break Q! Talk to those people in Colorado, see how much fun they're having. They just lost another one over there. Somebody's got to speak up here. I'm a nobody (as Martell says, we're just donkies) so what I say doesn't count. But if enough nobodys start speaking up we might be heard. And the best way to speak up is in your stories guys. Do the right thing.
It's not enough to say that sex and violence is what the masses want. That is some sheep talk big time. Get in line boys, lets do some fun stuff, see how much shit we can blow up, see if we can get a higher body count than RAYAN. That's what the people want a blood bauth. GLADICATOR: "On my signal unleash hell."
The people want this crap like FIGHT CLUB because that's what they've been raised on. Give me child until the age of five and I can make him want anything. In Natural Hygiene (to which I am a practicing member--see livingnutrition.com) there is an example of a four-year-old, hygienically raised child named Raven Rose, that is, all natural, organic, raw-food diet. RR was invited to a birthday party of conventional garbage stuff like cake and ice cream. She tasted the stuff and didn't want it. She wanted her grapes and bananas. She was a freak. That one fish on the T-shirt swimming up stream.
Truby? Write and ask for his brochure at email@example.com. He's a tapes guy only except for a book that's out of print.
Truby feels that people are addicted to violence, which means that Follywood is the drugpushers, which means that we are the suppliers of this dope, the Colombians in this scenario. See what I mean?
Now, there are leaders and there are followers. We're supposed to be the leaders, out there on the cutting edge fixing the world. It takes some cajones to stand up and be counted. But we need to check where we're coming from. Are we real artists or merely little capitalists masquerading as artists?
When Spielberg came out with SCHINDER'S one critic said: Spielberg has finally come of age. What does that mean, to come of age? To be more responsible? I don't think so. I blame Spielberg for not standing up and leading his community in a movement to forgive and forget and stop all this Nazi-bashing. He's the king of FW. He could do it. Anybody else would be tarred and feathered, crucified, and run out of town on a rail.
Spielberg can do any project he wants. He's King Midas. In fact there may come a time when every movie that comes out is stamped Dreamworks, imprimatur. So why would you do a project that celebrates death and man's inhumanity to man such as RYAN? I'll tell you why. Because he's King Midas, and he wants to be Emperor Midas. If he makes a movie and they don't line up around the block he doesn't make that one any more, as in COLOR PURPLE and AMISTAD.
And it's because of leaders like him that the people are still HOOKED on sex and violence.
I agree it will take another millennium for us to outgrow this habit. In the meantime what are we going to do about it? The essence of being an artist is to be a rebel, a revolutionary. Maybe Spielberg should take a lesson from Wagner. He had everything. He didn't need to fight for the revolution, but he was there in the thick of it.
If we continue to supply dope to the masses, our lives in the end will add up to a big fat zero. We need to ask ourselves: What the hell are we doing here? Better we just go get one of those jobs you're talking about and quit masquerading as an artist.
Anyway, I agree with most of what you say. I thought FROM DUSK TO DAWN was a truly lousy movie. Take away the SFX, and you're not left with much. My nephew could have written it.
But what's wrong with celebrating a guy like Schindler?
They lined up around the block for AMISTAD? (I thought that's what you wre saying)
Anyway, carry on, man!
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