by Lew Ritter
Many years ago, I attended a screening of the movie “Working Girl” with Melanie Griffith. At the end of the movie, I watched the end credits. I saw the name of the screenwriter. I told my friends that someday, my name would be on the beginning credits of one of those movies. They snickered and humored me. Dream on, they said. And so I did.
I have been enamored with the idea of writing TV or movie scripts since my college days. Somedays,
I would think about how great it would be to stand on stage making an acceptance speech for writing Best Screenplay. The readers of these columns TVwriter and dozens of other blogs like L.A. Screenwriter, OnStory.TV etc. are all about learning the ins and outs of the entertainment business.
Does our obsession touch other people? Does the outside world find writing interesting? Recently I started working at a local charter school as the Media Specialist (aka Librarian). I rarely talked about my passion for writing except in terms of teaching young students how to write. I didn’t want to jeopardize my career at the school with long odes to writing festivals and meeting with Hollywood executives. I didn’t want the administration thinking that the school was just a pit stop on my road to Hollywood fame.
However, my lunchtime was shared with a number of twenty something female kindergarten and first grade teachers. The usual lunchtime conversation was about the latest standardized test, a troubled student, or how the school administration was making life difficult for them. Occasionally the topic would drift to the latest episode of a reality series. Who would be voted off the island? What neat act of betrayal would occur in the next episode?
These were some of the burning questions that consumed the lunchtime. I understood that there was an age and experience difference. I was a middle aged male with an age difference of about thirty years. However, it was my only free time during the day, and I was determined to test the waters and participate or initiate some lunchtime banter about my writing class.
I casually mentioned that I was taking a screenwriting class. One of the pieces of advice offered by some teachers is to pitch your ideas to non – writers. Out of curiosity, I pitched my idea for a suspense horror movie. They nodded and agreed that the idea sounded interesting. However, the look and general reaction that I got was ”Does this guy really work here?” ’
Another time, I went to a meeting of my local fraternal organization. During the pre – meeting, I casually mentioned that I had entered a screenwriting contest. I was excited to be a Second Rounder at the Austin Film Festival. The response that I got were glazed looks or tepid comments like “that’s interesting.” Then, the conversation would revert back to discussing of their latest ailment or a trip they were taking with their wives.
I was disappointed by the lack of response. Why did it not fascinate them? I thought, naively perhaps, that you were supposed to let “your inner light shine, and be interesting” with different subjects.
The average reader of TV Writer.net is a tv and /or movie junkie. We grew up enjoying various TV and movie. Talking act structure, character arcs or the latest comments from script consultants were nirvana. I couldn’t imagine a more interesting topic than looking behind the scenes at how TV or movies were created.
Pondering this dilemma, I consulted a friend who is a moderately successful writer. He said that he rarely talks to his relatives about his writing. Another friend told me that unless I had solid achievements of having a movie or show out there, it meant nothing. I was just another wannabe among the crowd of thousands of failed musicians, actors etc.
Looking back, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the response. Most people are absorbed in their mundane day to day lives. They have no expectations of becoming a great writer or world class anything. It is rarely fodder for the average person. Don’t expect the average Joe or Jane to be fascinated with your screenwriting adventures unless you are already the next J.J. Abrams…and even then, be prepared for the fact that they won’t know your name.