JSDC
XXII. Tracking the Threshold< Previous Chapter | Next Chapter >

Everybody Knows Your Name 

Kinkos sucks and their customer service sucks but everyone goes there anyway.

Because you’re running late for a workshop or a meeting and you need to quick copy some sides or a bit of your screenplay. And the mom-and-pop print shop closes at 6 PM, which doesn’t do anything for you.

At all.

You slide your debit card in and get ‘er going… Then the machine skips pages, runs out of paper, jams, eats your hand…

But you don’t have time to complain about it because you’re on a mission to save the world one story at a time. You get even more overcharged trying to correct the problem by printing more pages.

Now you’ll never make it to Starbucks on the way.

The world is ending.


Last night I needed four copies of a 140 page manuscript in a hurry, so I wasn’t taking any chances.

Instead of my usual mad copy dash, I asked the Sr. staff member behind the main counter, the one I see every week, to help me with self-printing my pages.

His nametag said Jack Langsten. And he helped me.

He showed me which machine he trusted most, gave me tips on avoiding paper jams and told me he’d look after me to see when I was ready for the next step. Left alone, I watched people come and go at the copiers beside me. I met many of them. (Having a script in hand will do that for you.)

“Did you write this yourself, Miss Stover?” Mr. Langsten asked, after we had spent about thirty minutes copying and hole punching and bracketing to perfection.

I see him every week, but I have never talked to him. His station is usually swarmed--

“Yes, Mr. Langsten, I did.”

“Smart and talented,” he said with a country-time wink.

All the while actors printing resumes came and went calling out, “Hey Jack!”

“I’ll fight you for him,” I said.

And he laughed, “I’m popular.”

He is. And for an hour, he made me The Queen of Kinkos.

Today, while driving, I thought about my Kinkos adventures and Mr. Langsten and realized that his first and last names are two of the exact first names of characters from my screenplay.

Which doesn't mean anything.

Except that my life is pure magic.

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I’ll Never Thank the Academy 

One of my past coaches is called Mr. Trainer. Seriously, that is his name.

He was in the Navy.

He is from Boston.

He looks like Captain Piccard.

He listens to classical music in his truck and plays conductor while he drives.

He coached the outfield for 12&U Steel Blue when I was 10. I was on that team. I am an outfielder. I was tiny and sometimes sat the bench because, at that time, this ball club was well known on the east coast for kicking ass and taking names so that we could look you up at the next tournament and kick your ass again. Most of the team had big talent with the attitude and trophy case to match. Our pitcher was a rock star.

Mr. Trainer put up with us all.

Two years later, he retired when the ball-club owner moved to Florida. I moved on to another good club and another great coach.

But he never yelled to me like Mr. Trainer.

Loud.

As a matter of fact, centerfield is pretty far out, so he had to.

“Where’s your piss and vinegar, Jessicar?!”

“You gatta be full of piss and vinegar!”

“You gatta have spock!”

(That was Boston for “spark.”)

(That was Sage for life.)

I told him:

I am. And I do.


He was always my favorite.

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I Can See a Clearer Picture 

There comes a threshold when an individual has studied enough craft and has to start making their own artistic decisions. If they can’t do that by said point, then something isn’t working in the first place. This is the point I have reached on my screenplay.

This does not mean that one is beyond feedback or the need for assistance. Film is not an individualistic medium by far. I have had help on the writing via the rad professional screenwriting workshop in which I take part and feedback from other professionals. On the next step I will need help. I will have to find someone to ask. And I will have to learn how to ask.

But, in the meantime, after getting run over quite a few times by bad industry advice, I have learned how to choose which feedback to take. Especially as a storyteller.

I trust myself.

So as far as the final revisions go, to those who do not (trust me as a storyteller, that is) and advise that I water something down or dumb something down or gloss something over because it’s too sad or violent or real, or because it will sell out better that way a la Pirates of the Caribbean or some other movie for 8 year olds that is only watchable because Johnny Depp is allowed to re-write his lines, well, screw off.

This movie is not for you.

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Served 

Hey, I called you twice today. Where were you? –Matt

One perk to being my friend is that you get your e-mails answered in front of the entire galaxy (including Gluxnar 7). All of my friends love this. All of them.

TODAY I swam. I swam in the Pacific Ocean for three hours. This is standard and is only notable because it was immediately pretty big out there. Upon realizing this, I ignored life, the undertow and everything and kept swimming. This lead to me getting crushed in sets of four and five.

Repeatedly.

The water was sometimes semi-shallow on a longer break, so at times there was little space to dive under. To deal with these sorts of waves, you must run-swim to meet the wave head-on, dive hard, lie flat on the sand at the bottom, swim forward and hold it there in space for a moment because the back-end/trough is the worst part. Then, there’s a moment where the backwash will near stand you up again. And drape you in seaweed. (Beautiful.) You take a breath–

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat–

Until you can’t take it anymore. Breath control will eventually get you if the sheer force of the waves does not drive you out. Or a panic factor, if you’re lame like that (C.Sto). At the point of I-wanna-return, you have to repeat some more until the set is done and you can body surf a minor bit of water out of the tug.

An onlooker on the beach told me that she thought I was going to die.

Awesome. (Sorry M.Sto)

While I admit that the water was challenging, I never once felt like I was in trouble. The onlooker’s reaction was probably due to the fact that little girls look even littler with big waves towering about. And because the backwash on those things was strong and long, so I was under for quite a bit.

The web report said the water was "dull with one to two footers." Clearly, the web report lies. I was there from 9AM to 4 PM and saw sets from 4ft and up all day whereas usually 3 is the tops. Come to think of it, I don’t think anyone updates those sites properly. Why do I even look at them? I also read the shark report. This is mostly because there are baby whites spotted beyond the break all summer long. It’s cool though, they know better than to bump and run a J.Sto. (Most babies do.)

TODAY I danced. I entered an impromptu dance contest but I didn’t dance to win.

I danced for props.

I finished in second, but was told that I had more crowd approval than the winner, who only beat me by pulling out an amazing heel stretch. Arguably, this is gymnastics move. Had I known that we were doing gymnastics dancing instead of hip-hop, well, I would have adjusted my freestyle as to serve her properly. All I can say is that my semi-skewed truck driver’s hat and borrowed police shades definitely should have won me the contest before I even stepped in the circle. I don’t mind, though. As usual I came away with respect, street cred, and more respect.

TODAY I drove. I drove a lot. In rush hour traffic. On the way home on the 10, while cruising at the mighty speed of twenty miles per hour, I noticed a white bag dropping from the sky. It fluttered about like a Forrest Gump feather and I knew, I just knew, that the timing would work out: Said trash bag would fly by the open window of my moving car and I would pluck it from the atmosphere like a global superhero.

This sort of thing is CGI-ed into movies because it has to be timed so awesomely. The bag and my car effortlessly met at the correct point in the space-time continuum and, without breaking stride, I gracefully snatched it from the air and checked my rearview to make sure that the person behind was impressed. (He totally was.)

Said bag is made of white plastic and has “Thank You" printed on it seven times in red ink. Let me know if this is your lost bag and I will mail it to you ASAP.

So there you go: If you have contacted me and I have not responded, it is because I am scratched. Bloodshot. Sand ridden.

Alive.

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A Wrinkle in Tide 

Recorded at the last minute of a long day:

Swimming back from beyond the break
Because that was the only place that was safe…

Here was a bit that can now be found in Aidmheil, the book.

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The Story of a Moment 

One day you are going to ask me how I did it, how did I row, row, row my boat up the friggin’ sweet stream of success. I will flash you a slick smile. Skim a load of details. Forget how hard I worked. Make it sound easy. But, so you are not fooled, I will riff about it now, while still in the wild...

Here is how you figure out what the fuck to do with an awesome screenplay:

First, you have to spend half your life (well, I guess that depends on how old you are) learning the craft of screenwriting. Theory doesn’t take much time at all and is pretty much useless. Theory won’t teach you how to do anything, really. Theory is Robert McKee. Read that book (Story) once and then throw it away. You have to read a lot of scripts, then watch a lot of movies, then get some screenwriting software and write. This is best done if you are resourceful, move to LA, randomly e-mail a known script guru, illicit a response with your amazing e-mail skills, trick him into meeting you so that he can do good by giving the next generation some tips, score a referral to a private screenwriting workshop…

Then you start attending the workshop. You have to pay for it, of course. You outline, you write. You rewrite. A lot. You never miss a week. You put your life into words. You think about your story all the time. You get ripped a new one every go. You want to quit, but you never could. It takes a year or so, probably. Maybe more depending on how much you suck going in and how much you suck at life in general.

All the while you have only a few words to paint pictures with and you learn to use them wisely.

And all along the way you make contacts and network. You talk about your project. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have your own teen show hanging about for a load of the process. This can earn you some cred and contacts. It doesn’t hurt to be acting and producing. It doesn’t hurt to be young. Or old. Or anything, really. (If you know how to use what you have in your favor and not let someone use it against you.) What does hurt is to be holed-up and not socializing. (Unless you are playing Zelda, because that definitely helps your story techniques.)

Oh and you may want to launch your own amazing website and put some stuff on it about how you’re (undeniably) awesome.

Because, fuck, you’re almost done.

Your screenplay’s a fantasy, so you get someone good to do the concept art. You know, so that you can showcase The Awesome visually…

And you dive into final revisions. Your screenwriting workshop is wicked amazing and helpful, but it’s starting to wear on your nerves. After all, there’s only so much that seven people can say about one story before they have nothing else to say. And you are at the point where you can make your own artistic decisions. (If not, you should probably realize that you suck at life and fire yourself from living.) You get the workshop’s final feedback on the entire screenplay, and peace out to do an (almost) final rewrite.

You rewrite and then send your screenplay to three acquaintances. Said acquaintances are other (perhaps older and more experienced) screenwriters who can give raw feedback. These are your friendly industry contacts. They will read an almost finished copy, give feedback, wait for your final revisions, and still give it out to people they know. (Assuming, of course, that they don’t think your story sucks.)

Final revisions-- Then, you hit up every single contact you have and force them all to read your story.

Now’s the time when you need an amazing query letter to rock the world of every stranger producer in such a way that they holler, “Get me that screenplay wicked fast, yo! I must read it at once!”

I have mentioned that letter writing is a lost art. Query writing is an even greater challenge. But, if you have e-mail skills and can get professionals to cold meet with you, then you’ve probably got it on lock. So you put your skills at it and keep revising your creative query. You have two nightmares about appearing on Query Letters I Love because your story is a fantasy and it’s challenging to write about a fantasy without sounding like some sort of wizard. (Believe it or not some people do not take kindly to wizards.) This gives you acid reflux and prevents you from singing live on SNL oh, wait, no— that was someone else.

Anyway, you have a query and a screenplay and you research the shit out of the whole 10 production companies who could probably, actually pull of an original epic. You pause, “Shitwhatifmystorysucks?!” You almost cross the line to I-need-validation land…

But then you realize: I am the shit. My screenplay is the shit.

People want this story. Bad. They just don’t know it yet.

After all, if Sly can Rocky the industry, then certainly you can. Although, you are much smaller, so your pounding on doors might be less loud, and you haven’t actually seen Rocky….

But you’ve put the work and the time and the soul into the project and have therefore earned the right to be insanely cocky in a Stallone-like manner. You’re not desperate; you’re awesome.

Matt Damon? Ben Affleck? Good Will this! They have nothing on you, kid.

And everyone is about to fucking know it, man.

Every. One. Will. Know.

And, that, my mofo, is awesome.


I am going to kick so much ass. You are seriously going to lose your shit.

Seriously.

And, if you are the shit or know someone who is the shit and they want to seriously read this shit, (i.e.: solid, awesome screenplay 'n shit,) then let a Ninja know.

Blogosphere, activate.

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Ars Gratia Artis 

I have read a load of e-mail lately from writers who have had a recent traffic jump or are tired of their site layout or second guessing themselves for whatever other reason(s):

“How do you just keep putting things up? What do people want?!”

You are not alone. After my recent induction into the inner circles of webdom, I have learned that this is the number one blogosphere discussion when even some of the best online writers get together.

While doing Jessica’s Crush, I had millions of people watching and reading and not as much control over the product, so I had to get over the judgment factor or else. But actors learn to do that early on: Rejection is the meal between breakfast and lunch that we get served daily.

I brushed against the pressure factor again when I hit a surge in traffic a few months ago, but then I remembered that I can’t care about all that, really. I’ll come home tired and distressed and will publish something unedited. Because I need to. Because it’s mine.

This place is always changing, never staying, always in the moment:

Mine.

There exist people who read this site who try to look after me. But I won’t let them. There exist people who read this site in secret. There are so many different sorts of you. There exist people who read this site and have stolen my heart. I e-mail with you. I’ve never met you…

That being said, I forget you all.

I don’t care for nonsensical rules that tell me I can’t. I won’t abide by them. And if you want to ride with me, you won’t either.

And to my Wingmen I say,

You are enough.

When the camera is on you, you are enough. When you are on stage, you are enough. You are already interesting. Just standing there makes you interesting. Now all you have to do is tell your truth.

The collective readership, like any audience, is smarter than we are. Smart enough to see things in context. Smart enough to see what I mean if they would so like. M.Sto raised me to think for myself and I always assume that you are just as capable, if not more so.

I don’t look at my traffic, but I do check my referrers and the sites of all of those who post. And I will find out if you call me pitiful.

I may be young, but I do Know:

That if that stops you from saying it,

Then you aren’t a writer in the first place.

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