In 2009, I wrote a script that advanced in the Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition, and I accepted the invitation to attend the conference. I listened to a number of panelists, writers, agents, managers and development execs talk about screenwriting, the writing process and what they look for in a script. I heard a lot of, “Man, this writer, isn’t she great?!” The conference was fun and insightful and I left with one big take-away: The secret to breaking into Hollywood is simple. Write something great.
This news was a relief. No networking games or query letter gimics--just write something great and the gatekeepers of the industry will find you.
So, for the past seven years I have dedicated myself to the pursuit of writing something great. I wrote five more screenplays. Each one pushing my abilities as a writer. A female protagonist. An ensemble piece. A workplace comedy. A romantic comedy. A sci-fi period piece. And with each script I wrote, a crazy thing happened. I got better. Not “great” better, but better.
Which brings me to the script, the script I have been working on for nearly 10 years. It’s the story idea that was in my head when I moved to LA. It’s the story I keep coming back to, like that girl you used to date years ago that keeps returning to your imagination, “I wonder what she’s up to?” The script is a fantasy/drama called The Resurrection of Dennis Munson. It is a story I can’t shake because, quite frankly, it says (maybe explores is a better word) everything I want to say about life and loss and the power story.
The script is two stories woven together. The first is about a children’s fiction writer, who after suffering the tragic loss of a child, becomes a prisoner of his own imagination, writing a series of books where his deceased son lives out fantastic adventures. The second is about the boy found in this fantastic world who must overcome trials, temptations, and monsters in search for the truth of his origin. It’s about two people searching for one another.
I know, a dead child. The premise is sad. But I believe the story is full of hope.
I have had the script and versions of the script reviewed over a dozen times by industry professionals. The verdict is consistent: It’s above average. The most frequent critique is that the budget to make this film and do it justice is too big for any independent production company, and no major studio is going to take a big budget risk on a movie about a dead kid. There were other criticisms of the story and a good deal of praise, too. When the dust had settled from all the reviews, what was left standing was still just “above average.”
I’m okay with being average at most things. I’m okay being below average at some things. But what does one do when the one thing you love to do more than anything else in the world, the one thing you’re stuck with that just won’t leave you, the one thing your soul says, “risk everything for”--when the guardians of that one thing say it’s just above average?
Each night I lay my head down and I wonder if I’m just another guy whose passion exeeds his ability.
Each morning I get up. I brew a cup of coffee and I start writing again.
A WRITER KEEPING THE FAITH IN LOS ANGELES