Written By January 2011 : Page 12
And here are some other things that happen: In spite of the fact that you’re viewed less enthusiastically because of your age, your skill as a writer has actually increased dramatically since the days when you were getting more work. The stories that you’re suppos-edly too old to tell emerge even more quickly—perhaps because there’s an urgency about the amount of time you have left. You now know you’re mortal; it will end one day—yet somehow your brain won’t let go of the push to cre-ate. There’s not enough time to write all the ideas that keep exploding out of your head and the ticking clock is aw-fully loud. tick, tock My son, who is 16, thinks I’m the antichrist of uncool. To him, most of what I say is worthy of a roll of the eyes. I like to view him as the familial embodiment of development executives. If I can make it through his wall of derision, do you really think a measly TV exec can break me down? OMG! NFW! And I mean it. I’m still a BAC. If I can make it through his wall of derision, do you really think a measly TV exec can break me down? OMG (oh my god)! N FW (no fucking way)! And I mean it. I’m still a B AC (bad-ass chick). A long time ago, when I asked Da-vid Milch at a lecture he was giving about his strategy for writing such lean, precise dialogue, he answered: “My first drafts are very lean, and then I cut.” I always remember that. There’s a certain shortcut that comes with age that allows you to cut the bullshit and trim the fat. We’ve lost some patience and want to get to the heart of it before it’s too late. That’s a good quality for writing dialogue. Get to the point. Be precise about what the conflict is in a scene and stay on it. That comes with experience—with age. Yes: age. AW HF Y (are we having fun yet)? Age Act This is a time in life when our parents die, things get messy, and we know we’re next in line. In case you want to stop reading now because you think I’ll get more morbid, you can relax: I won’t. Because this is actually an exciting time in life. The approaching end creates an element of danger that mixes things up a bit. We’re smarter. We’re wiser. We know for sure that time M FS B (moves faster than a speeding bullet). And that creates an urgency and precision in our work. DA M H I K T (Don’t ask me how I know that). I just do. I’ve been teach-ing screenwriting for close to 10 years. Teaching college students how to write has taught me more about making my scripts better than any writing job I ever got. It’s been miraculous. Now I write the way I always wanted to. Now is when I’m producing my best work. I remember many years ago, a director friend said to me that I was too cau-tious in my writing, afraid to explore my dark side. Well, I’m not afraid any-more. I’m old enough that my dark side doesn’t scare me. It beckons, and I say yes. My son, who is 16, thinks I’m the antichrist of uncool. To him, most of what I say is worthy of a roll of the eyes. I like to view him as the familial em-bodiment of development executives. 12 • WGA W Written By january So, would I be able to write a series for the CW about high school students? I was about to say of course, but the truth is . . . maybe not. I probably wouldn’t want to. The subject matter might not 2011 pull me in, even though being a screen-writer is in many ways like being an ac-tor. You imitate other people’s voices. You put yourself in the skin of another character and create their personality, their way of seeing the world. You do research and grow a new skin every time you create another character. But some things, though, are bet-ter left to writers who can relate more to their subject matter. Sometimes it’s about feeling it in your bones. That said, however, even though I prefer to write about people more like me (which I do) and don’t actually want to write about high school students, I could still find their voices if I had to. We’re chameleons. We do some things better than others, have our favorite genres to write, of course, but when it comes to telling a compelling story, that’s a skill, whether the character is 14 or 92. And after all these years, we’ve honed our craft. We’re good at it. We’re not BBR (burned beyond repair). And by the way, does anyone know what the CW stands for? So, I Y K W I M AIT Y D (if you know what I mean and I think you do), don’t count us out. Because I M HO (in my humble opinion), we’re better than ever—still excited by ideas, still skilled and experienced. Do you really think we’re finished? IT S F W I (if the shoe fits, wear it). But you’d be wrong. May-be I take Lipitor, maybe my son knows more acronyms than I do, but I sure do understand three-act structure. So, all of you out there who can relate to this: G BT W (get back to work). Okay, so you still think I’m too old? TA B O O M A (take a bite out of my ass). How old am I? N OY B (none of your business). N I SM (need I say more)? G G N (gotta go now). XO XO (hugs and kisses), Julie P.S. Remember in The Odd Couple when Felix signs a note of admonish-ment to Oscar: FU ? Oscar wracks his brain until he finally realizes that FU wasn’t fuck you, but Felix Unger . I love that.
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