As I've said in previous posts, I've always been reluctant to write about personal things in my screenplays, unless it's deeply hidden. But I've recently found myself getting more personal than ever before, almost to the point of autobiography. Why? Partially, to exercise my demons. But there's also a practical reason: my talent manager has told me (more than once) that this is my best work. If this is true, I’m assuming it’s because the writing is more passionate when I’m working on a piece that’s more real to me. So my most recent script is about some of my teen experiences, filtered through a fictional story. It’s a rough piece, but I think it’s damn good. But a question has come up: Why did I wait so long?
I can’t say writing about this time in my life never occurred to me. In fact, many years ago (probably 20 or more), a friend who knew me well suggested I do just that. At the time, I dismissed the suggestion, thinking it would appear narcissistic. It’s not like I was famous, so who would care? But that wasn’t the real reason. No, my biggest fear was that it would get made into a movie, then some ugly and embarrassing thruths would be out there for everyone to see (albeit hidden in a fictional story). In other words, I was afraid of what others would think of me.
So what changed? Did I suddenly stop caring about the opinion of others? Well, yes, a little. But the important change is I stopped seeing it as my story and began to see it as a story - and one that is honest and emotional. In addition, I think it could help some teenagers out there, in the same way “Ordinary People” helped me when I was young. And what could be better than that? So today, this very personal script goes out . . .
In previous blogs, I’ve written about representation and writing for the market. Now it’s time to write about something that I’ve always been bad at, but is a necessary part of succeeding in business, whether you’re an entrepreneur, artist or construction worker -- and that’s networking. God, do I hate that word. And if you’re an artist, you probably hate it, too.
There are many reasons why artists don’t care for networking. Some associate it with selling out. Some have the belief that artists should be discovered. And then there’s the embarrassment issue. We all know the artist who has very little talent, but is always hawking their work to anyone who’ll listen. No one wants to be that guy. I’m guilty of having these thoughts/feelings, but my main issue has been one of self esteem. I didn’t want to bother people. I didn’t want to ask for favors. And mostly, I didn’t want to be seen as a user. The very idea of networking made me think of Rupert Pupkin, the annoying character from “The King of Comedy.”
Here’s a cautionary tale about what happens when you don’t network. When I was still young, I wrote a screenplay (called “A Clean kill”) that made me many, many fans. Sam Raimi was one (before “Spiderman”). Another was a producer who has since won an Oscar. There were dozens more. But because of the reasons mentioned above, I didn’t develop most of these relationships. Instead, I waited for things to come to me. Big mistake. All these years later, I’m only in touch with one of those industry fans. And guess what? She has really helped me and continues to! But the rest of those people slipped away. My fear of coming across like Rupert Pupkin really hurt me.
Today, I no longer look at networking as bothering someone (well, most of the time). Instead, I see it as offering something that has value - my work. And if you’re talented, people want to help you. It makes them feel good, and it may help them, too. So if you’re an artist and really believe in your work, go for it.