CONFESSIONS OF A SCRIPT CONSULTANT #2
By Craig Kellem

As we continue on our quest to help make screenwriters achieve their dreams, I’d like to take a step back and reflect on things, as I do from time to time. After all, so much of my life is vested in this and I give it the same kind of care and attention that I give to the other coveted aspects of my daily existence, such as my marriage, children, etc.

Sometimes people ask me if I get impatient or bored with what they project must be a steady stream of faulty material from the non-pro writer side of things. How surprised they would be to know what pleasure it gives me to be able to see real promise in MUCH that I read, and to relish the opportunity to help preserve and value the nuggets of what does work, and also find substantial ways to build on it. And although it’s very pleasing to go all the way with something (and it happens more often than you’d think - “all the way” defined as substantial progress, industry-wise), it’s also very fulfilling to see a writer grow measurably, and cross that line where she/he has finally written a script which can honestly be defined as a professional piece of work.

What a threshold!

Reflecting all this, here are a few moments in time:

*What a pleasure it was to hit the “on” button last Sunday night and see a produced movie on national TV that had floated in here not so long ago. What fun it was rooting for it all the way and being able to compare how it seemed in my head with how it was on the screen. The writer later told me that as she watched it, she couldn’t turn off mouthing the dialogue that still streamed inside. What a unique way to take in a flick!

*Still have my fingers crossed for the guy down in Tennessee who’s written a whopper and now keeps traveling back and forth, “power” meeting with producers who are very seriously running with his worthy script, trying to get it made and actively looking at “A-list talent to package with the script.” It should be noted that this piece of work had the dubious honor of making the Hollywood “black list,” a select list of projects that have not yet been made, but that a consensus of the town believes should be. He keeps getting close and it’s fun to watch it happen.

*Had a client recently who finally wrote the kind of script that he had always dreamed of writing. Funny though, he had no expectations regarding the contest, I could sense this as I know what it’s like having little or no expectations in certain areas. It was great fun to inform him that he had won, and to see him quietly enter a whole new level of a nascent writing career.

*They get away from time to time though. Worked with another writer and, oh my gosh, did we ever get into the zone. Initial script came in thin, a big idea that wasn’t being executed “big” enough. What pleasure it gave me to realize this and to influence the writer in that direction, who, to her credit totally rose to the occasion. Then, in midstream, she disappeared. My thought was that she got so excited with the prospects that she couldn’t stand not getting to the finish line even faster and knew I felt there was much more to do. Hope she makes it, but my experience is that if all this was about impatience, that’s usually a big mistake.

*Still have a terrific project, one that really knocked me out, floating around LA, fully optioned, all systems in place, but still not sold. It amazes me how long it took to get to this stage of the game and how long it can take to make the goal-line. But I must remember that it’s still alive and well and there are people who passionately believe in it.

*Recently worked with a well-known playwright, brilliant characters, incredible dialogue, great humanity, humor and vision. But boy did the STORY need work, and it would be so encouraging to younger writers to realize that even the masters can have trouble with their sense of direction.

And the list goes on:

*Loved working with a gent in Oklahoma who compensated me well whenever I had a funny suggestion for his worthy script, via a healthy, down-home chuckle as he scribbled away. Or the kid in New England who, after sending in a sometimes confusing piece of work (loaded with a plethora of college-age characters running into each other), took like a duck to water when I asked him to create story arcs to make a better linear sense of his various subplots. And now the piece is really beginning to shape up and take form. Or the guy with the “sports script” from Texas who keeps hanging in, crossing the t’s, dotting the i’s, so analogous with his script, whose protagonist is making the same kind of noble effort in his game of choice “against all odds.”

The great subtextual payoff from all this is in dealing with people all over the country, and sometimes all over the world. You get a sense of connectiveness and also a precious reassurance that there are good people out there, and that all is really well in many important (and gracefully quiescent) ways. This is in such stark contrast to all the constant bad news and noise of the media, and sense of endless busyness out there. There’s something reassuring about good people working on their “secret” projects, glowing with good intentions and hope and sharing them with folks like Judy and I, as they chuckle, wince and root for their baby to make the grade. What luck to be entrusted to share their experiences and hopefully contribute in crucial ways .



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