When I finished the 75 page rewrite of We Come I figured I'd go through it and see what I could expand upon so it could get back up to 90 pages. But as I started, I fell into my old routine of letting the characters run things and trying to make sense of it...something that usually works...but this time it collapsed. I wanted to write a nice cheap SF-horror script to sell to one of the contacts I have, and I couldn't. I hated the story, hated the structure, hated everything about it. So I had to put it aside.
It didn't help that someone who read Bugzters asked if I got the idea from Inside Out. The story of an 11 year-old child whose parents move her from a home she loves to one she doesn't like, as several emotions in various colors try to guide her to an understanding and acceptance of her new life.
Bugzters is about an 11 year-old boy who doesn't want to move from the home he loves, and who has some different colored aliens in his MacBook help him come to terms with his new life and at the end he has accepted it.
When I was rewriting this for animation, I was told over and over the ending had to be different, that I had to combine the boy with his genius next-door neighbor girl to centralize the character, and he had to achieve something, not just peace of mind. When I wouldn't change that, the script was finally taken away from me. That was 9 years ago. I'm not aware of anything having been done with it, since.
And now it's dead. Yes...the details of my script are different from Pixar's, and I wrote the first draft nearly 17 years ago, but that is immaterial. Since Inside Out is a Pixar/Disney film, the people who read it (and who knew they'd have to deal with another party if they went forward with it) feared they could be sued for working with something that could be seen as a rip-off. "Loved the script but have to pass."
That's when I went through all the submissions and queries I've made over the last year, for scripts, as well as competitions, and got overwhelmed with the rejection of it all. I have a full series of writing workshops I bought to help me write a sellable script and I've taken seminars...and they've been worthless. Nothing has made any difference.
So I tumbled into this blank universe, where words vanished and it was all I could do to just surf the web and comment on Facebook. This wasn't just a crash and burn. The ground give way beneath me, and I slipped into a sort of drowning phase. I have nearly drowned, before. I can't swim because when I know I'm in water that's too deep for me to stand up in, I freak out. It's a visceral reaction. I need to know I have that minimal bit of support in the back of my head or I cannot function.
I guess that's true of my screenwriting, as well. I needed a minimal amount of delusion to keep going, and I don't have it anymore. I'm not going to write the next Scream or Halloween or Hitchcockian action-adventure script. I don't have the ability to let go and vomit out just anything. But that's not the real drawback. It's that I do not have the kind of luck it takes to make it happen. Meeting the right person at the right time to get something like The Alice '65 into the hands of Russell Tovey or Darian's Point to Aidan Turner or Carli's Kills past Alex Minsky's or Katee Sackhoff's people. And so far the three agents who were willing to read my work will now not even respond to me.
Eventually you have to accept that the trouble is not with everyone else; it's with yourself. And it's not just that I do not know how to sell myself or network or any of that; it's that I don't write scripts that producers will go nuts for. I need the kind of luck that will help me find the one producer who will so love my screenplay, he or she will force it to get made. I thought I had a couple of times, but it turned out not to be, and I seriously doubt I will, now, living in Buffalo.
What finally pulled me out of this collapse was sitting down and working up a quiet moment between Devlin and Reg in Underground Guy. A gentle, brutally honest discussion, 10 pages long, of what was beginning to happen between the two of them -- one a straight married British cop who can't understand his attraction not only to another man but to someone he knows is a rapist; the other, the American man who abused him, sexually...and who is realizing his past actions were evil...and who is trying to find a way to make amends. I worked on it till three, this morning, and reread it just a little while ago...and I like it. I can see it. Hear it. Feel it. And it would never work on film...but I don't care.
So I am not writing or rewriting another screenplay, not until I have sold at least 2 of the ones I currently have. I've written a total of 33, but in reality 12 of them were works for hire, like Bugzters was, and only 9 or 10 are good enough to offer. I have a dozen more ideas, but it's a waste of time and misdirection of effort to do this unless I know it will be worthwhile. It's ludicrous for me to keep working up new scripts and rewriting the ones I have in hopes that someday lightning will strike. It won't. I just plain do not have that kind of luck. Never have.
I will keep submitting the ones I think are good to producers and production companies and fellowships, but nothing more. I don't know how this will work out, but I feel like I'm finally taking a serious step towards being a novelist instead of using writing books as a substitute for screenplays.
I'm finally accepting the story being told and the characters being seen are what matter, and doing that in a book is better than making a movie.