Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rish Outfield, Screenwriter

Not long ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about my writing career. I guess I should've put "career" in quotes, but let's not be mean, okay? He is an entertainment lawyer and film executive in Los Angeles now, and our dreams had been, ever since I met him, to go to Hollywood and make movies. I would write, and he would direct. Or produce. Or something.

Well, I moved out out there, a few years back, and accomplished very little in that arena. Then I moved away, my eyes forever glued to the rear-view mirror. I still want to be a screenwriter, but a few years ago, I stopped writing scripts and started to focus on short stories. My reasoning (and everybody who knows me has heard this a dozen times) is that a short story, when finished, is a completely WHOLE thing, a work of art in itself. A screenplay, however, is still unfinished, even when you finish it, because it's just a blueprint for a movie, an outline for a greater whole. And I was tired of writing scripts (that I thought were really good), only to have nothing to show for it afterward. It's not easy to hand a script to your uncle, when he asks for something of mine to read, and have him get enjoyment out of it.

Actually, I did do a bit of screenwriting professionally a couple of years back, but that was work-for-hire stuff, other people's ideas, and not what I'd call enjoyable, writing for fun. Stories are fun.

And I haven't really minded no longer being a screenwriter. I've focused on my podcast and on writing short stories, and I'm as creatively satisfied as I've ever been. Except that every once in a while, I'll have an idea, and I know it'll only work as a movie (or a short film, or at least an audio production). Most of the time when that happens, I shrug and say, "This one is for the Rish Outfield of an alternate universe, who still lives in L.A., works in the film business, and spends thousands on coke and hookers every month."

And then, I had this conversation with my friend. He was probably trying to give me a peptalk, or express disappointment in my life choices, or even just a backhanded compliment, but he told me, basically, that I was really talented, and might have made it as a screenwriter, but had given up. "Don't worry," he said, "Not everybody has what it takes to make it out here in L.A.. The film business takes a certain kind of person, with the kind of persistence you just don't have."

Well, that really bothered me. To be told that I could've been a real cop and I blew it was no divine revelation, but the truth hurts, as they say, and his words ate at me for the next few days. I thought about one of those Alternate Reality Rish ideas I'd had a few years back, and how I told it to Big and convinced myself--if not him--that it was a totally great idea for a movie, but it's a shame I don't do screenwriting anymore.

But why not? How hard would it be to write it down and type it up and send it to Ian and say, "See? I'm half the loser you think I am! And maybe half the writer you think I am too, but at least I wrote something!" And so, I did.

For the last couple of months, whenever I write, instead of stories, it's been this screenplay. And because that's what I studied in school, and virtually NOBODY I know also writes scripts and hence cannot criticize my work, it was way easier than I remember it being. And today, the 20th of August, I finished it.

I don't know if it's good or not. Big and I will have to talk in a future episode about taking a good idea and turning it into something mediocre, and that may well be what I've done. But at least I finished it. At least I still had it in me. And that makes me feel, if not good, at least that I'm not ready for the glue factory just yet.

So there.

Rish Outfield, Screenwriter

P.S. Of course, it's totally possible that he was trying TO motivate me, and I went out and did exactly what he hoped I'd do. If so, he's the kind of clever person we need making decisions on movies, rather than all the committees and politicians and pencil-pushers out there.

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