Why hello, Oscar

Another week, another few pages. 55 pages into the rough draft, and so far I’m happy with where it’s going. I don’t worry about page length with the first draft, but I’d guess I’m about halfway finished.

It’s that time of the year again, the Super Bowl of the entertainment industry. The Oscars aired a few days ago, and like always I look forward to it, then a few hours in get bored and wonder what I was anticipating. My wife and I attended a party. Good food, good friends, and like all good sporting events, there was a betting pool. Last year, despite my extensive knowledge of movies and the business, I came in 17th place. ┬áThere weren’t even 17 people at the party, which means I lost to people who literally phoned it in. This year I did a little more research and vowed to do better.

Oscar Statuette

Say what you will about the silliness of everything, with who’s wearing what and what jokes tanked and who got ripped off and who shouldn’t have been nominated (and which 9-year-old got called the c-word!), not to mention the whole concept that one can beat other people for an award for something as abstract as artistic accomplishment is tough to fathom, but it is still exciting to watch people at this place in their journey, both with their careers and with a particular project. That said, I would be lying if winning an Academy Award didn’t cross my mind on occasion when writing a script.

Honestly though, visions of tuxedos, red carpets and front row Jack Nicholsons have not been swimming through my head while writing this script. Not that I wouldn’t want to touch that gold ring, but at this point in the script I don’t care. I’m writing this script because I want to make this movie. Plain and simple. I want to make it for me, for fellow artists and collaborators who are underworked, and hopefully for an audience that will appreciate the story I want to tell. To me, winning is getting the movie made. Winning is completing the script. Winning is writing this blog entry.

I’m a writer, and I’m doing what I should be doing. The more I write, the better I get. And the same goes with Oscar prognostication: this year I came in 4th place.

Lesson learned: never underestimate Ang Lee.

Lottery Tickets

I just returned from a 48-hour quickie vacation in Las Vegas with my wife and her parents. They were there for the World of Concrete convention. We helped them take down their display after the convention, shared a few wonderful meals, and my father-in-law and I both made cameo appearances in the Cirque du Soleil show O.

Outside of one sports bet, I didn’t do any gambling.

I like those odds

I like those odds

Nothing against gambling; I enjoy losing hours at the Blackjack table. However, at the time of this trip finances are tighter and I can’t justify throwing away $100+ when I’m not making as much money as I would like right now.

Besides, my entire career is based on gambling. Any career in the arts is a gamble, a lifetime of freelancing where if all goes extremely well you can find security for 12 to 18 months with a long touring gig, a TV writing assignment, an arc on a sitcom, or a variety of other highly rewarding jobs that at their best, will give you a financial cushion down the road when you are back looking for jobs. If you are not Pat Sajak or a cast member of Sesame Street, then you are likely looking for work now or in the near future.

This is why I refer to my scripts as lottery tickets. Whenever I write a script, I try to not think of the endgame…the success, the accolades, the long life of each project, but it’s hard to not imagine what would happen with a touch of success. The odds are long, which is why more tickets mean more chances. I’m not advocating spending time and resources to create a bunch of mediocre lottery tickets, but now when I have an idea, I start putting it into action, and damn the consequences.

When I was a younger writer, I toiled on a screenplay that I knew would be my big break. I spent the better part of two years writing, rewriting, having table reads, re-editing, re-imagining, and doing everything I could to make this script elevate my career. Despite favorable responses in the industry, I realized that one script does not a career make. Very few people had their first script launch them into the stratosphere. More often, the first script to become successful is built on the backs of other scripts and projects. Usually, when someone in the entertainment industry reads a script they ask “what else do you have” regardless of whether they enjoyed the script or not. People want to know that you have an arsenal. People want to know that you are in it for the long haul.

Some of my lottery tickets have paid off. Not on the Powerball level, but I am happy to say that most have come up a winner, and many of them continue to pay off. This new film script is another lottery ticket. It’s not my only ticket. It’s not even the only script I’m working on at this moment. But one of these tickets is going to pay off big.