Following the reading, I met with the producer over lunch to discuss how it went, including going over the feedback we received. We both felt pretty positive about the current state of the script. We discussed improvements and the next steps. I had applied to two different screenplay development labs, but we wouldn’t hear from either of them for six months or so. Outside of this project, he was about to embark on three months of various projects which would consume all of his time. I had deadlines with the screenplay I was hired to write, plus a collaboration on a TV pilot was nearing completion and taking up a lot of my time. We both decided to step away briefly, focus on our paying work, and reconvene in a few months and dive back in.
So that was three months ago.
Nothing has changed. The project is going forward. Sadly, the screenplay development lab submissions are no longer pending. But as for the script, literally nothing has changed. The script collects virtual dust in a folder on my hard drive (and a backup folder in the ether, I’m not totally careless). But it feels like a lifetime ago since I did any work on the script.
And in that lifetime doubt creeps in. Is this script any good? Does anyone care if this gets made? Will this actually make a difference in my career, or in the world? Will the production company that hired me to write those other screenplays be happy with the final product? Will my wife’s new TV show be good? Will our son continue to be a great sleeper at night? Will the Orioles make the playoffs? Will Bernie Sanders be a viable candidate?
See how easy it is to get derailed when there isn’t a deadline? And that’s how it goes, my focus is on other projects, and then this script pops into my head. I know I have revisions to do, I know I can do more hustling to get it read by more people. But I have to get through my other commitments and, like all of us, daily life, before I can fully attack the script again. I am the leader of the Closure army, and I am in exile.
So what can I do? Not much, unless I can find an additional five hours in the day. I know that this too shall pass, and soon enough I’ll be back into it, but with each day and week away I feel further adrift, as if it will never happen. So what can I do?
I can sharpen my skills. In my spare time (ha, what’s that!) I read the excellent screenplay writing guide Save the Cat. The book has been around for a decade, but it is often referenced by other writer friends of mine and by producers in meetings, so I figure it was about time I read it. It is incredibly helpful. In the more recent years of my career I’ve become increasingly aware of how important structure, outline, and planning are in the creation of an excellent script. The more I write, the more the structure of the story becomes easier to create, but sometimes I don’t outline or solve every piece before typing “FADE IN” on page one. I did not outline Closure before I wrote it; instead I had a number of plot points I wanted to hit and I made sure I hit them. Now, a few drafts later, the structural problems with my script are clear, and the book certainly helped recognize them. Are these problems in my script fixable? Absolutely. Would these problems in my script have existed if I outlined in more detail? Maybe.
So when my current projects end in the coming weeks, I will dive back in with the script. And I have already planned my attack. And somehow, planning an attack makes this hiatus feel less like an exile.