Not According To Script
Postcard from New York, New York
Such were my musings as I spend the better part of two months trying to write a feature film screenplay roughly 120 pages in length. However, the process is far more difficult than I’d ever imagined. Being an avid moviegoer and seeing the garbage that comes onto the screen—”Birth,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “War of the Worlds,” for example—I had thought that I, being a bright, creative person, would have no trouble fashioning a story that would enchant audiences.
But instead I find myself spending long hours in my apartment writing, rewriting, and, most of all, staring blankly at my computer screen as I try to figure out what should happen next. I’m still writing my “treatment,” movie lingo for the summary of your story which you use to sell your idea to studios. I had assumed it would take me a week or so to complete; needless to say, I underestimated the task.
Of course, I should have known better. “Taxi Driver” had about nine rewrites before it was completed. John Irving took 12 years to write the screenplay for the adaptation of his own book, “The Cider House Rules.” But somehow I assumed I wouldn’t face the same obstacles.
I also assumed that learning the structure and rules of screenwriting would be easy. Writing without narrative, which is how a screenplay and especially a treatment are done, is more challenging than you could believe. And, I never thought that I would ever face the problem of staring at my computer and thinking, “Can I use the term doggie-style in my treatment?” (The term, which did go in, was actually important for character development but that’s neither here nor there.)
When I’m not writing about sexual positions or other elements of my script, I must fill my time watching movies: current releases like Happy Endings, classics like Kramer v. Kramer, and not-so classics like Harold and Maude—a movie which revolves around a love affair between a high school boy and an eighty-year-old woman. My mind is so full of cinema that anyone who talks to me will have to endure tangents regarding film—as you’ve seen in this editorial—as I relate every part of their life to some movie I’ve just seen.
Thus, with all the time and energy I spend on writing and three hours of class watching movie clips and learning movie structure, I hardly have a chance to take advantage of all the wonders of the Big Apple. When I volunteered to write this piece for The Crimson two months ago, I imagined I would tell people of the joys of hearing Roy Hargrove at the Village Vanguard, of seeing a Broadway show, of watching the recently surging Yankees play ball in the Bronx. Instead, I’ve fashioned the archetype of a writer’s home, the idyllic place of no distractions. I have no TV. I connect to the Internet by stealing wireless bandwidth from my neighbors. I’ve even limited myself to a strict budget so that my diet consists of cereal, peanut butter sandwiches, and microwavable hotdogs.
But, even if I’ve seen none of the city nor enjoyed its fine dining, I encourage you all to come because, supposedly, it’s the greatest city in the world. I can’t give your tourism advice, but if you ever want to know a good movie to see or hear a piece of random movie trivia, give me a call.
Andrew B. English ’07, a Crimson editorial editor, is an economics concentrator in Cabot House. For some reason he thought that writing movies would be as easy as writing staff editorials.