Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #192 – “Get a Job!?”


THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

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by Larry Brody

The minute I said “Yes,” I knew I shouldn’t have.

Agreeing was a big mistake.

But Harold the Strip Mall Heir had a project, a novel he wanted someone to adapt into a screenplay, and he offered me a staggering amount of money to take on the task.

“It’s a terrific story,” he said over the phone. “Timely. Important. It’ll make a great film.”

“It’s set in 18th Century France,” I said. “How timely is that?”

“‘Those who don’t learn from history are fated to relive it,'” Harold intoned. “Even old news can be relevant.”

And then he told me how much he was prepared to pay a lucky writer to do the job for him. And how much he wanted the lucky writer to be Larry B.

Let’s face it. Financially, last year wasn’t exactly a great one around Paradise. The price of feed went up almost 30%. Gas—well, everyone knows how its heavenward spike turned driving into hell.

And the largest local business, a maker of recreational vehicles, laid off a huge percentage of its work force because even though their product isn’t exactly high-ticket, its cost of admission still had risen beyond most people’s means.

Cloud Creek Ranch took a hit too. I had to raid my personal savings just to keep the business afloat.

So even though I’d told myself years ago that I’d never write for television or films again, I heard myself saying, “How much did you say you were willing to pay upfront?”

And, after I heard the number, a very quick, “Yes!”

I hung up with a deal.

And a responsibility that already felt like it was strangling me.

Most people don’t understand how writing can be work. Writers sometimes have a problem with that too. For years I kept a sticky note on my computer monitor that said, on its front side, “Beats working.” And, when you flipped it up: “Beats not working too.”

But writing is work. Not back-breaking but mind-busting.

It’s all about taking your daydreams, which come so easily at all the wrong times, and putting them into words that create images and information and, if you’re doing the job well, emotions and involvement and, if you’re doing the job not only well but right, insight and fulfillment in the minds, hearts—the very beings—of your readers.

Plus, if you’re writing a screenplay or teleplay, you’re doing it on a schedule and in a way that absolutely satisfies whoever is paying for the final result.

Because if he, she, or they aren’t satisfied they’re going to let you know what a miserable failure you are, and you’re going to have a very tough time getting ’em to fork over the check.

The problem, I think, is that the thing that makes daydreaming so much fun is how it comes naturally. But when you’re being paid to daydream it’s all about forcing your imagination into a place it had no intention of going.

Cramming it into the buyer’s box.

No matter how bad the fit.

I’d left Hollywood because I’d grown way too weary of reshaping my daydreams on demand and promised myself I’d never do it again. Now I’d broken the promise, and for three months I tried…

But I couldn’t write a word about the oh so timely, important, and relevant French Revolution.

Because it just plain wasn’t any of that to me.

Talk about guilt.

I wore it like a shroud. Even felt guilty in my sleeping dreams.

Night after night, there I was standing before a judge and jury, reading from the screenplay I hadn’t written and trying to explain the meaning of, and the reason behind, every non-line.

In the dreams I was trying to make them understand why this tale had to be told.

And in my waking hours I was trying to make myself understand the same thing.

This week I gave up. Told Harold the screenplay wasn’t going to happen. Did the credit card, cash advance thing to repay the money he’d already sent.

I feel like a miserable failure.

And yet relieved—so very relieved!–at having taken off the shroud.

Let the daydreaming begin!

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.

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