Sunday, January 27, 2008


Do you believe in beginner's luck? It amazes me that some first-time screenwriters hit it big, win Oscars and say screenwriting is no biggie. Wow. How come the rest of us take the classes, read all the books, write the scripts, go through agent after agent like bad dates, and only get nibbles of success, if we're lucky? But we carry on just the same. The dream lives on.

Look at Diablo Cody this year. She's nominated for an Oscar for her original screenplay JUNO.
She told Oprah that writing her Oscar-nominated script was, you guessed it, no biggie. Oprah, who owns a production company, looked incredulous. How could it be that easy for a newcomer to write JUNO?! Diablo Cody (cool name huh, but not her real name) said "The movie's only 91 minutes long. How hard could it be?" Damn.

One of the best scripts that I've read -- and movie that I've seen -- is "Thelma & Louise". This Oscar winning script was written by Callie Khouri. I admire her a lot. That script is solid, excellently structured and contains two of some of the best female characters ever to grace the big screen. It was Callie Khouri's first script. She nailed it, baby. The idea came to her as she drove into her driveway -- "two women go on a crime spree across the country". Piece of cake. No problem. Let me just bang out an Oscar worthy draft right now.

Okay and let's not even discuss Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's first-timer success with their original script "Good Will Hunting" and the gold statue.

Now do all these writers REALLY bang out that Oscar worthy script that easily or does it get developed into an Oscar worthy script by numerous execs and producers? Who knows. The hype and myth sell mags and books for us starving screenwriters. It gives us all hope. It also makes some of us green with envy. Is your script better than some of theirs? Did they just have better contacts? A better agent? Did the planets line up for them?

I like to think they did it on their own -- that they wrote the scripts the way they claim they have -- these fortunate writers. And if they didn't, well, let them still take credit and the glory. How many writers get to do that in their lifetime? Not many.

Now get back to your desk and bang out that Oscar-worthy draft.

Hey, it's no biggie.

Janet Lawler
Astoria, New York


Mona said...

amazing janet. if that's not inspiration, though frustrating too, i don't know what is;) happy new year! hope all's well.

What said...

Matt & Ben are different because they had been emerged as dramatic players for a while.

Diablo Cody, on the other hand, pissed me off more than inspired me. I hated her speech last night claiming she dedicated her Oscar to "the writers." I don't think something like that holds much water considering most of her fellow nominees were brilliant seasoned veterans (like Tamara Jenkins). What does she know about real gut-wrenching-you wanna-hang-yourself-sometimes writing? Michael Arndt is an example of a deserving first-timer because he was always by definition a screenwriter and endured a grueling time learning the craft. Besides, I also think she only got the Oscar because her competition was pretty weak. The adapted category was much more dynamic. Pretty insulting actually.