Screenwriting is a team sport. You have to play well with others in order to get anything done.
The screenwriting teacher at the Tapps Art Center, Ron Hagell is one of those jolly, skinny guys with a wide smile and fanned-out buck teeth. He resembles a character drawn by Matt Groening. When I delivered my pitch in front of Ron and all the fun people in the class, it was easy. But on February 5th we will be faced with a panel of “producers,” folks like myself who make independent films. I know I’m ruthless, so they must be worse.
Today I wrote a first draft of the pitch, and it’s way too long. That’s because my main character – Mildred – is complex. She’s big, she’s bold, and she writes bad poetry that rhymes. In the first scene, Mildred has kidnapped her son in order to steal his VA disability benefits. Funny, right? But Ron insists I need more conflict. So besides kidnapping and stealing guns from a manufacturing plant, Mildred NOW has to meet up with some gun dealers from Sinn Fein. I don’t like this new plot twist.
Okay – Ron wanted the mafia, but I refuse to fall into that trap! Just because I’m Italian-American I’m not going to write about the mafia. Figuring Ron had some Irish blood in him, I chose Sinn Fein. In fact, I watched that group beat a guy to death on the BBC when I was living in Brussels. Sinn Fein is bad news.
Screenwriting is always collaborative. You have to write something that others will agree to produce. But what about abandoning my values? Do I have to do that as well?
Or can I just stick to Mildred, battling herself and society, without any conflict with Sinn Fein?