Wednesday, March 04, 2009

All Roads Lead To...

I am a very responsible person. When I was a kid, my family was... poor, lower middle class, working class... you decide the term. If I wanted something, the answer from may parents was: go get a job, earn the money, and then you can buy it. They began giving out this answer when I was a little kid. Family chores included yard work - mowing the lawn, raking leafs, hoeing weeds, etc. But there were other people in the neighborhood whose kids had grown up and left the house, leaving in a void in the yard work department. As a kid, I would mow other people’s lawns, rake their leafs and pull their weeds for a price. Not much of a price, but enough to buy those things I had asked my parents for - toys, model kits, colored pens for drawing, books. Comic books were not allowed, and I never really developed a taste for them. But model cars and drawing material were my addiction. I mowed as many lawns as I could to get the things that I wanted... and still had to do yard work at home and either set the table, wash the dishes or dry the dished every night (rotation with my brother and sister). And take care of my brother and sister - the way things worked in our family is that I had to look out for my brother and sister, my brother had to look out for my sister (the baby) and my sister just had to look out.

Anyway, I mowed lawns and had a paper route for a while and swept my dad’s shop and sometimes the shop next door and for a summer I was my dad’s helper - standing two stories up on a wobbly ladder holding up a heavy sign while my dad bolted it in place. I hated that... but I did it. I was responsible.

I had a job at the local movie theater (Century 21 in Pleasant Hill, CA) when I was in high school, and went from doorman (usher) to Assistant Manager to Acting Manager - full time positions, while still in high school. Oh, and I was in the drama department working backstage or onstage in a bunch of plays on my days off from work. My grades were okay, and in many classes I was that kid who did all of his homework and knew the answer to the questions and did the extra credit work. I also did some homework for other students - and this was a great writing exercise in trying to get their voice right so that they wouldn’t get in trouble. I was responsible.

At 18 (on the dot) I moved out of my parents house into an apartment. I had a job at K-Mart and then a job at Safeway Grocery. I also went to community college and made short films while working full time. One of my problems (then and now) is that I expect that if I do my part everyone else will do their part... and that has screwed me up now and then. After NINJA BUSTERS crashed and burned, so did I. I may do a “Flashback” blog entry about that - because there are some things that happened that are so famous that they were part of conversations with my friends back home over the holidays.

Anyway, once I went back to the day job, I was the guy who showed up on time every day, did a full day’s work even when the boss wasn’t watching, and would do an extra shift if asked. I have a friend who has been fired form every job he has ever had... I was the opposite - they always wanted to promote me. I was always the one they trusted the keys to. I was responsible.

When I sold a script for enough money to quit the day job, I put in my 2 weeks notice and worked just as hard during those last two weeks as in the weeks before. In Los Angeles, I subscribed to the newsletter that would become Script Magazine, wrote a letter to the editor complaining that none of the columnists had any actual experience as screenwriters and were just trying to sell books and classes... and they gave me a column to write for every issue... for no pay. I continued to write for no pay for years, and when they went to a magazine, wrote 3 columns (2 under pseudonyms) for free to save them money. I also used to have them ship me a couple of cases of magazines, and drove around to film book stores and made deals to get the magazine on the shelves. Didn’t get paid for that, either. I was just being responsible.

You may have read about my adventures working for free on my friend’s film a couple of years ago. It was hell on earth, and the film probably sucks (he has never showed it to me... but it just came out on DVD, so I’m going to rent it and see how messed up it is) but I had a good time... and was usually the first one on set. I also ended up doing the grip’s job while the grip went crazy in the grip truck. I stepped up when they needed someone to do the grip’s job... I was responsible.

This year I started with a bunch of new Script Tips, and I’ve been adding more as we go and rewriting old ones - Monday was a page one of an old tip. I want to make sure the website is a good source of information for screenwriters. That’s one of my responsibilities. A lot of people have ditched their blogs, and that’s tempting... but I’m going to try to keep it going (and get back to the Hitchcock Fridays) - It’s another responsibility. I also have these pesky script jobs every now and then - and those are my responsibility. Plus, my website has a message board where you can ask screenwritng questions and I answer them. There’s one I haven’t answered yet... and it bugs me. Oh, and I spent some time in line at the post office today to mail out some CD and Blue Book orders. More responsibility.

So, before the holidays, an organization asked if I would help with a contest. Hey, more responsibility! I tried my damndest to say no, but they explained how great it would be for me to do this and eventually I said yes. That was a mistake. I already have way too much to do, and things fall through the cracks sometimes because I’m busy doing all of the other things. And now, one more thing.

And something I did not really want to do.

So, it became a dreaded priority... that I would avoid... becoming irresponsible.

And that began a domino run of irresponsibility, because on the big To Do List, I had to do the dreaded priority before I did anything else... and that meant while I was not doing the dreaded priority I was *also* not doing anything else that needed to be done. Which may have been a major part of my doldrums. The Hitchcock Friday thing - responsibility I wanted to avoid (along with that dreaded priority project). Blogging - responsibility I wanted to avoid (along with that priority project). And by having so many things I was responsible for, and not wanting to do one of them... I ended up not doing any of them. I became the most irresponsible person on earth. I did *nada*. Well, I did write some new Script Tips, but not as many as I had planned on writing.

After getting some advice from a regular reader of this blog to just get ‘er done - I spent the last day and a half finishing the thing and now I am a free man.

Now all I have to do is write an article for Script, stand in line at the post office again, hopefully finish this half written new tip for Monday, and...

Finish this damned spec script that has been in the home stretch since the beginning of the year. I think I have about 4 days left on it, and Wednesday is DAY ONE. I hope to be writing FADE OUT on Saturday night.

Okay, now you probably want to know if I’ll ever get around to writing up that DARK KNIGHT review...

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: REVEALING INFORMATION - Which includes a 7 minute film.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Togos sandwich while working.

Bicycle: It rained yesterday and it's supposed to rain tomorrow, so today I rode my bike. Medium bike ride to a Starbucks. After my last epic ride I was kind of blah the next day - I think I may have been dehydrated. Today's ride was more reasonable, and I plan on riding Thursday if it is not raining.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, don't give up the blog. A lot of them drop off and nobody notices (if I shut down my blog when nobody read it, will anyone care?) but you on the other hand will cause a black hole to open... and we all know what happens after that

mrswing said...

Not doing your dark knight review would be highly irresponsible, Bill! ;-)

Jim Endecott said...

I appreciate what you do Bill. Thank you.

-Daily reader.

Martin_B said...

Please keep blogging. You have interesting stories to tell. And insightful movie reviews.

If you need to take a break from blogging -- we'll wait.

Richard McNally said...

Bill, I noticed today that you don't have the copyright symbol (©) as part of your copyright notice at the end of your SS. Without it (depress option key and key letter "g") you don't have common law copyright protection for your work, I believe.

Morgan McKinnon said...

One day soon...some writer will grace a stage and accept an award for BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY. And that writer will thank you (as well as others) for your blog.

Your blog is a wonderful service...sometimes it just doesn't get said as often as it should be said.

Nevertheless, it is *most* appreciated.

Keep your blog, as if everyone is reading, because we are...

E.C. Henry said...

Bill, I too am a "resposible" type. My brother is the care-free one.

LOVE hearing insights into your world.

HUGE fan. Now all I'm asking you to do is fill in the blanks so that statement carries more weight.

DON'T be so serious. So much of life is a joke. Embrace the joke. And be glad, some of out there don't have to embrace the joke, they are the joke. (You're not one of the people)

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

Erik said...

I was at a lecture done by a cartoonist a couple of years back. Interesting fellow - left his 6 figure job working for IBM managing a major software project to become a freelance cartoonist. He started working for IBM after selling off his record label... bunch of careers.

He told this story about being tempted to start a company to manage freelance cartoonists - the kind of company he wished already existed. But he resisted that temptation. Back in college he had studied music, loved music, and when he couldn't rent equipment to produce his music he bought his own, and made back the cost by renting it out.

Then he built a studio. And financed that by producing the albums of other musicians. And, next thing you know, he's running an independent record label. Success! Right?

Well, no. Because in the rush to fill that void he had stopped making music of his own. He never wanted to be a record producer.

I love reading your blog Bill, and you're certainly more successful than me by an order of magnitude. But I sometimes wonder if you've let the little side projects overwhelm everything else. If you had to give up blogging to get an agent, or to have a theatrically released film, or a film that just plain isn't fucked over, I'd be the first to cheer you on.

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