Thursday, February 3, 2011

To write, or not to write.

So Ulysses really is a heckuva book. It stresses me out trying to read it, so I've taken up Dog of the South, a slightly obscure book by the author of True Grit. It's quite good and has kept up my attention thus far. He is a great writer, I think. I always have mixed feelings about a movie fad shining light on what was nearly forgotten, usually because the people who knew it was there all along feel de-valued, as if their support didn't count. However I'm really glad that the film True Grit has inspired a huge wave of appreciation for Charles Portis. I would not have even known that TG was a novel if it weren't for the Coen Brothers's praise for it, and now reading another of his books (because I couldn't even find a TG copy!) is very rewarding and surprising. And hilarious. And set in Belize.

Anyway. Last week I went to Santa Barbara for a writer's panel that the film festival was putting on. The film fest there has gotten very heavy-duty, with very impressive people showing up every year. Last year I was bummed to miss it, so this year I made an effort. The writer's panel had the writers of Toy Story 3 (or one of them, who also wrote Little Miss Sunshine and is therefore a hero), The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, Get Low, and The Social Network-- IE Aaron Sorkin, the one almost-household name in screenwriting (the others are all auteurs, meaning directors also, like Quentin Tarantino, PT Anderson, Wes Anderson, The Coens... most of the great writers are also annoying great directors, or personalities like Tina Fey. I think only Diablo Cody is well-known as a screenwriter, and that's partially due to her loudness and stripper history-- don't get me wrong, I adore her). Sorkin is a really respected man-- I even noticed that on the dvd for the Social Network that his is the first name billed. Impressive, and deserved. Anyway, so it was this lovely panel with all of these amazing people, talking about how they first got involved with their recent projects and how they write and what they do for writer's block, how they managed with some of their stories being based on real-life events, and so on and so on. I got the most out of Sorkin, the writer of King's Speech, and the LMS writer, Michael Ardst. Sorkin is just basically genius. King's Speech writer had a fascinating story about what led him to write the script (he was a stutterer as a child and King George was his hero, he researched Lionel Logue, who, thanks to the royal family, had become a little secreted footnote in George's public story, he contacted the Queen Mother for her approval and she granted it, with the provision that it be written after her death-- she lived another 25 years, as he was writing the movie he discovered his own uncle was a pupil of Logue's, upon the film's overwhelmingly warm reception he began to cry because he felt he, as a stutterer, had finally been heard... yeah, cool guy), and Michael Ardst, the youngest there I think, had alot of applicable, friendly advice. The writers talked about the importance of having WRITING space (a luxury to those starting out), a regime (KS writer gets up, writes in bed, gets up, goes to his window, and writes until midafternoon, when he finally has to give up and chill out or go for a run. If necessary, he will resume after dinner. I thought this sounded like an excellent plan), people who will listen to your ideas. One of the writers, I can't remember which, said that he was once told that the most vital thing to do is pick one point, the finale, to head towards, and think of the entire script as running towards it, every single scene. I think the most valuable suggestion, however, came from Michael Ardst when he was discussing the creation of hilarious Spanish Buzz from TS3 and the VW horn/cop scene in LMS. When you're at a dead end, and your script runs dry, and your characters are in trouble, just make a list of every possible thing that might happen. Even if it's dumb. And your answer will eventually pop up. WHY HAD I NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT? GENIUS. SIMPLE, simple, genius.

After it was all over (it was too short! too short!!!), I got to speak briefly with Kids are All Right writer lady and KS writer guy. KAAR lady was a little pissy with people, but she was nice enough to me and we discussed character a little bit. I didn't like the Kids Are All Right, but I really appreciated the character of Jules who is a lost and kind of apologetic person who's written very well. So we got to talk about her. I also got to tell KS writer fellow how much I liked KS. Me and my parents went to see it, and my dad-- who never goes to movies-- loved it. His way of showing appreciation is slapping his knee and giving the screen a repeated and spirited thumbs-up when a character does something that he likes (no kidding, he really does this), and he did this throughout the movie. It made me think of how much my dad related to King George-- my dad wasn't a stutterer, but he's never felt like he's very smart or could do anything very well, even when he's had to, much like George, and I think he saw himself there. And I keep thinking, how funny, some middle-aged ex-mechanic with a special needs kid in Texas is identifying with a British monarch. That's pretty cool. So anyway, I told the writer this, and he just smiled and shook my hand and said "I like your dad."

Tomorrow I'm going back up to see the virtouso awards, where Hailee Steinfeld from TG will be, as well as other supporting actors from amazing movies this year. I have a weird suspicion that Jeff Bridges will be there, considering he lives in SB and might show up to support HS. One can hope. Anyway.

Dear Ringo has not been working for two weeks, so I've been bike-riding everywhere. This has been a good thing, because I've been meaning to start doing that, and I've felt better physically. Sadly it is VERY hilly in this part of town so coming back to the house is murder. A few days ago I took the beach route and promptly lost my new phone. No phone, no car. And at one point my computer, which really is due to die any day now, threatened to quit me. This combined with my already-feelings of being my own island just about made me crazy. I don't know what it was, but I just felt completely mad, sitting in my room, wondering what on earth I could do to feel like a member of society. I feel so terribly cut off. I mean, I guess that's been one of my little neuroses for years, feeling all alone and disconnected why me bla bla bla, but at present it feels overwhelmingly tangible. I find that generally when I feel this the most that I have been a bit out of contact with God and He's trying to communicate something, but at this point I'm sitting and quietly listening, when I have the energy, and I'm not hearing anything coming down the wire. I feel so left to my own devices-- all of my good friends are gone. I'm left. Bereft. This annoys me. I'm graduated. I should be the girl leaving everyone else. Eventually, is my consolation, but all of my savings (what little there was) is gone now due to cars and phones and I'm still surviving and sulky. Not even sad, really, at present, just sulky like a five year old with a sense of entitlement. Where are MY friends? Where is MY fabulous life? I've really bided my time for 23 years, wouldn't you say? When can I have some real fun? When can I stop feeling lonely, and not vulnerable or pathetic or stupid? I don't have to feel this way for the rest of my life, do I?

An acquaintance and relation to a friend of mine happens to be a mechanic and offered to work on Ringo. While he was doing so, he brought up the fact that he had read a story of mine and loved it, related to it, etc etc... in that second, my heart exploded. Just that bit of appreciation from a nice person, one whom I don't know all that well, made me feel so grateful that I wanted to cry. I fancied him for the whole day, until I realized that I seriously need to get out of here. Or get some help. Or something. I have too much going on in my head to keep it to myself on this island of mine.


Sonja said...

That panel sounds amazing. Amazing. And I love the bit about the writing space. Too many non-writerly folks just don't get it. Such a shame.

It seems that you and I are both on our little islands. :( I'd totally go hang out on yours if I could. We could bring our laptops and write, bounce ideas off each other.

Drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. ;)

Erin said...

Oh, wow, that panel--! Thank you for sharing bits of it here.