I wrote my first script in approximately 1997, a sitcom. I didn’t have a clue in hell what I was doing. I thought my co-writer Blake Pinter and I were funny. We had an idea about two nut sisters who really dislike each other, but in order to survive, have to live with each other. It was originally called “The DeVols.”
I knew one high-level TV writer who had worked on “Roseanne,” “Murphy Brown,” “Frasier,” and other extremely big shows. He agreed to read my pilot. He wrote a scathing 8-page dissection of it. If I had been young and impressionable, I probably would have driven off a cliff. But fortunately, I had had 18 years of therapy behind me, and I could cope with his criticism.
This is good, because I have encountered all kinds of criticism in the entertainment business. I started as a songwriter. My worst experience was with an A&R person at Geffen Records. Although the meeting was set up well in advance by a prominent entertainment attorney, the A&R man seemed clueless about who I was or why I was there. I played some of my songs for him. He said that “no one” was singing songs by songwriters anymore; he said artists were writing their own songs (I guess he never heard of Diane Warren). He also said that if I hadn’t been sitting there, he would have thrown my songs in the trash.
It was unnecessarily cruel. Was the idea to make me say, “Oh, well, I guess I don’t have any talent, so I’ll just give up my dream.” I don’t know. He didn’t have to love my songs; hating them was okay, too. But what the meeting lacked was constructive criticism.
At any rate, I persevered with my songs and about 8 years after that meeting, I finally got a song produced and released. One dream achieved, a million to go.
Back to “The DeVols.” Although the criticism I received on it was scathing, I still felt the idea was worth pursuing. I put it on the “back-burner” (something I do not like to do), but sometimes it takes ideas years to form fully. It wasn’t until the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt came out that my co-writer said, “It’s TIME for ‘The DeVols.'”
Blake was always more progressive than I. I was too afraid to go out of the box. But Kimmy opened doors in my mind and I went back to “The DeVols” and updated it via a class I took through Roadmap Writers. The script is now called “Better Together.” It received a quarter-finalist in the Screencraft Screenwriting Fellowship (as “The DeVols”). It’s still about two nut sisters — but it’s grown into something richer and more layered, as I’d like to think I have. If I had succumbed to the criticism I received so long ago, would I even have wasted my time pursuing this? No. The problem (?) is: I still believe in it. And I think, ultimately, that is the point of this post.
Maybe I was clueless when I started. But I have persevered. All my scripts have “placed” in competitions. I am proud of that. None have been produced, other than the short scripts I have produced myself, but being acknowledged by competitions is what has given me the impetus to keep going.
Soon, I will have been writing screenplays on and off for 20 years. During that time I have been hired three times to write screenplays for others. None, including the one I mentioned in a previous blog, have been produced, despite what people said and promised. People get ideas, they want to do something, they get others involved… and then… things suddenly change. It is the nature of the business. So, that is why I made my own films; I don’t have to wait for others to get their act(s) together.
Now I am mainly focused on writing screenplay and teleplays. No one is paying me to do this… YET. But, I believe, one day, someone will. So, for those that ask “Am I wasting my time?” “Does any of this mean anything?” “Will I ever get paid to do this?” “Am I too old?” “What’s the point of this?” — I think the answer is in the words on your page. Your commitment to them. Your belief that they matter.
So, as I sit here in my little Tokyo office, surrounded by pieces of colored glass which catch the sunny rays of a crisp fall day, I continue to write. I have lots of paper, lots of ink, lots of ideas. My pen will never run dry.