I have earned a living as a writer for the better part of a decade. But, as anyone who has followed my career knows, I write nonfiction. I get paid to write nonfiction. No one seeks me out to create fictional worlds and populate them with characters (for that type of experience in my career, I have to be hired to cast fictional scripts I did not write).
And even though I have written fiction, it encompasses about 5% of the work I have ever put out there and less than 1% of the work I have ever been paid to put out there. That said, I did attempt The 14-Day Screenplay Challenge last year (as you may recall).
I got a grand total of about 18 pages into the script and then gave up. Ah, well… it happens, right? At least I tried.
Cut to a couple of months ago. It’s time to start reviewing material submitted for the Cricket Feet Showcase. We’ve done a call for submissions and we’re ready to read! I figure, “Well, hell. My ‘screenplay’ is only three times the length of some of these scenes we’ve been sent. Why not at least get coverage on it?”
So, I strip away its identifying marks (like with the rest of the submissions) and send it along to the reading committee. Turns out, folks like it. Every submission got a “consider,” “consider with rewrites,” or “pass,” and every writer got a “consider” or “pass.” My work got straight considers, even though there was hardly a scene to use. It was the start of an unfinished screenplay. There was no stand-out scene to put into showcase format. There were no two characters speaking to one another for any length of time that could work in a showcase scene. But it still got considers.
During final scene selection and casting, I took another stab at Moshi’s world. I pulled the scene that had the most potential for showcasing–even though it was only one-third of a page in length–and fleshed it out, bringing it to four pages. Having lost all objectivity on whether this scene could possibly work (and being totally unsure as to its strength as a scene, at this point, since what was originally assessed was NOT this piece, really), I handed it off to my partners (Keith and Eitan) and told them to have their way with it.
Each did some punch-up. Each tweaked a line or two. And when I read the final version, I was very pleased with it. This was getting exciting.
I cast two extremely likable and high-chemistry actors in the roles and then I handed the script off to Anna (our director–who is also a phenomenal writer) and told her to feel free to continue with rewrites as necessary, as she certainly recognized that this scene had been severely retooled from the first version, anonymously submitted to the team (including her) over a month ago. She came back with another round of changes that improved the scene even more. I was delighted.
Cut to last night. We had the showcase “first looks” session, wherein we got a chance to see each scene in its pre-Anna shape, to get our first feel for where scenes should go and where we are strong/where we need work. And as I watched the scheduled scenes get checked off on my spreadsheet, I realized something potentially life-changing was about to happen. I was about to hear my words performed live for the first time.
Yes! It’s true! People don’t typically gather on stage to read my columns aloud or do dramatic readings from Self-Management for Actors in front of an audience. “Oh, crap,” I thought. “What if it sucks?”
And then Emily and Kerie took the stage… and they were brilliant. And the words they were saying were brilliant. And the beats they were taking were brilliant. And the ad-libs they threw in were brilliant. And the improvised moments were brilliant.
Best of all, the audience laughed. And not because they knew I wrote the scene or anything like that. They laughed because it was funny. And sweet. And real.
Holy crap, that’s a delicious feeling. I think I might be hooked. And just like the short-short story was always my speed (when I did write fiction), the five-minute, two-person comedic scene seems to feel right for me, now. Awesome. It. Is. On.