A year ago, I quit my very stable production accountant occupation to focus on screenwriting full time. Things were looking brighter than usual on my projects; a career opportunity seemed be materializing through the haze. Kristen and I agreed that this would be the best time for me to set aside my job to invest myself in the craft I'd been honing for fifteen years.
Two weeks ago, I ended my working relationship with my managers. I'd been with them for three years and this severance was a mutual decision. We had different reasons behind the decision -- their company was bought out by a larger production company which brought them different responsibilities -- but we agreed this was the best course of action. I have a lot of respect for those guys and I personally liked the producers I've worked with. And to be honest, I fouled some of this up myself. Inconsistent scheduling, fear, wobbly confidence, and frustration prevented me from putting more words on the page.
So, what I write in this post is about the career, not the good people I've worked with.
Cinema has been one of my true loves for the last fifteen years. It's been an immersion. I lost track of how many films I'd seen, a long time ago. It was well over the two thousand count before Netflix came along. My two years of film school were probably the best years of my life.
Though I was a poem and short story writer before I was bitten by the film writing bug, the poison from the script bite ran deep. It surged through my veins, reached my heart, then spread into my brain. It was like heroin at the start. I wrote feature-length scripts with lunatic passion, ditching sleep in order to power out draft after draft.
The energy slowed after a few years. My projects were more carefully chosen; I wanted to sell something. Yet, ironically, my scripts became more independent and less commercial. Some garnered raves and attention and pitches with producers, but nothing stuck enough to begin a professional career.
I tried to set it aside and work at a 9 to 5 job, but for those few years I felt the lack. So I got back into it. Almost four years ago, I started on a fresh new project. That script got the attention I'd been waiting for for so long. It brought my managers to me. Meetings followed. My professional screenwriting career officially began.
And now it's likely over. I'm attempting to work on a project or two with friends, something small, but have found that the fruitlessness and disappointment from the last three years have overwhelmed my creative energy. I've stopped enjoying writing.
I always foresaw the potential of that happening, but I had hoped that at least I'd be paid for my efforts. Compromise and rejection are always part of the job, but my struggle and failure happened for free. I'm a bit older now, a bit angrier, less of a masochist than that pudgy Afro-y film school kid; so I have no issues with trying to sell my craft. Compliments are all well and good, but they won't pay for groceries. Nevertheless, 99% of my creative efforts over the last fifteen years have been without compensation.
So if I'm going to write for free, I'm going to do it my way.
And, aside from a possible small project or two, it won't be for any sort of motion picture.
The Movies and I have gone on to separate paths. For years, everyone I've known has seen more contemporary films than I. It has gotten to the point that even most of the indy flicks are regurgitating stories and themes in ways that break no new ground. Occasionally there'll be a Tree of Life or Enter the Void, but most of the time it's a lot of Battleship and Madea (not the Greek one). And now that I've been (briefly) a short order cook in the kitchen, now that I've seen what dishes are going to be served tomorrow, I'm not dining here anymore. If I'm drawn to anything cinematic, it's old Avant Garde: Man Ray, Cocteau, and Vertov tinkering with a new power. Maybe, later on, some Brackage.
The structures I've been obeying no longer interest me.
I miss words. I miss stretching out. I miss the joy.
And I have to get a job now. I've blown through much of my savings -- on living necessities, not whisky -- and my household requires more income. So, I've joined up with a pair of employment agencies to see what I can get on the Finance front.
I'm separating myself from film a bit. I'm selling off a chunk of my DVD collection today and I've cancelled all of my online film-related subscriptions. Where I can increase the distance, I will, without regret.
People still read things, with or without hyperlinks. There's a place for my skill set somewhere, but it's not going to be a segment of someone else's grand plan.
At night, in the quiet, I often think about the hardest part of all. How can I keep from regretting my rare moment of optimism one year ago?