The Writer’s Path: Success Through Failure

My Dearest Odd-Jobbers,

There’s something ironically humbling about receiving a call informing you that your script has been passed on while scooping up a literal massive pile of dog crap at your “eight to six” job. Usually no “reason” is given for why a company passes. Normally Odd-Jobbers just never hear from them. Honestly, I felt lucky that they even called to crush my dreams.

I worked my “tokhes”off on this script. It started out as garbage, a bad script from cover to cover. But inside was this rough uncut gem of a story that I just had to find the right way to tell. After many a night spent writing through ungodly hours, the screenplay is a polished diamond.

I should be more upset at being so abruptly rejected, falling into the kind of mind numbingly deep depressions they show in montage during romantic comedies:

BEGIN MONTAGE

EXT. HOUSE – NIGHT

TONY LASCALA stands over a cheap BBQ, a manuscript on the grill.

He tosses a lit match and the manuscript goes up in flames.

INT. SHOWER – DAY

Tony LaScala sits hunched in the shower, water running through his shaggy hair weeping into a soiled dishcloth.

EXT. HOUSE – BY THE POST BOX – DAY

Tony LaScala pulls a stack of bills from the post box.

In a violent rage he tosses them into the street.

Thinking twice, he gathers the envelopes and tosses them in the recycling can and slams the lid in a nerd-like fury.

EXT. HOUSE – MORNING

Tony LaScala leaves the house in jogging gear. He stops.

SMASH CUT TO:

INT. HOUSE – COUCH – MORNING

Tony LaScala’s still in his jogging gear, polishing off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s on the couch watching Dr. Phil.

FADE OUT.

This time, none of that actually happened… almost. I sort of did the sitting on the couch eating an entire tub of Ben & Jerry’s, but I opted for the low fat low sugar Soy Ice cream bars instead… (Yeah, that’s right, I’m married).

Sometimes I think I’m not cut out for this writing thing. It’s an incredibly difficult field to get into, one that requires A LOT of time and patience. I look at my nearly empty bank account, the fading paint on my crappy car, and my tiny rental home and I think: I wonder what it would be like to have one of those real careers?

Dreamy, “Wayne’s Worldy” wavy camera effects wash over the room as we-

DISSOLVE TO:

INT.  OFFICE BUILDING – DAY

In a starched shite shirt and fading tie, Tony sits behind a tiny Ikea desk, rapidly punching numbers into the Excel program on the company desktop computer.

A LADY from middle management approaches.

LADY

You need to take this report over to So and So in accounting right away.

Tony woefully shoots up and snatches the report from Lady’s hand.

BOOM!

An explosion rocks the building, blowing out the windows and sending papers swirling through the cubicles.

Office workers flee in panic.

Tony rushes to an open window, where Lady dangles from the edge trying to pull herself back up.

TONY

Grab my hand!

An alien S.W.A.T. team rappels through the shattered window, firing photon globule rifles and...

Yeah, I can’t even imagine myself working at an office type place. Even if I wanted to go work at one of those jobs with a nice retirement package and dental insurance, I can’t really see myself doing anything else. I try to imagine working anywhere else and I always end up wanting to write a movie about a guy working that job.

Plus the skills and strength section of my resume would look like this:

GOAL: When I was four years old, I knew I wanted to make movies. While my mother finished preparing macaroni and cheese, I was left alone for a few minutes with a box of crayons and a freshly painted white wall. I decided in my infinite four-year old wisdom that said wall needed to be storyboarded with a sequel to Return of the Jedi. You can imagine my surprise when my mother did not share my love for the expertly told tale of Wookie Jedi’s and villainous Scooby Doo robots.

SKILLS: In 5th grade I convinced an unsuspecting substitute that our teacher had given the class an assignment of making a movie about the then ‘topical’ first Gulf Conflict. After “borrowing” my stepfather’s video camera and convincing the class to bring costumes and props from home, I spent the next two days writing and directing an alien invasion/ Iraqi War film.

HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION: Most people spend their teenage years partying, trying to meet girls/boys, starting a sub par rock band, and getting in freak car accidents. I spent my teenage years coercing my younger twin brothers into playing the protagonist and antagonists in some pretty horrible, yet imaginative, home movies. Of course, I believed those home movies were destined for movie theatre greatness. I experimented a lot with Lego and action figure animation, cardboard set construction, and what I thought were some pretty mean in camera SPFX.

COLLEGE EDUCATION:After years spent working my way through junior colleges, I scratched and clawed my way into a private school, the University of La Verne.  With $10,000 in tuition per semester looming over my head and surrounded by actors, I tacked two of my stage plays onto a bulletin board and waited for criticism in the coming weeks. A day later I was called into the head of the theatre departments office and offered a scholarship. Two years later I graduated with a major in theatrical writing and a minor in directing.

POST GRAD EDUCATION: Five years post graduation I have no professional experience, apart from acting in a few commercials and having an adult Sesame Street style pilot unceremoniously rejected by Cartoon Network. My plays have been produced all over the world, netting me no money. (Unbeknownst to me at the time of my decision to major in theatre, most playwrights don’t actually make a “living” playwriting) Like many of my screenwriting contemporaries I don’t know anyone of consequence in Hollywood. I’m not making excuses; I literally have no idea what to do next. 

I’ve grown to a point where I’m optimistic about my failures.  I used to go on a lot of auditions, and you get rejected hundreds if not thousands of more times than you get accepted. Optimistically, there are still a handful of production companies looking at my screenplay. Pessimistically, the numbers say they’ll all reject the script before getting to page two. As documented in these articles, I’ve already begun preparing to write my next script. I’m picking up where I’ve left off… right after I weep just a little and grab another soy-cream sandwich.

For better or for worse,

Tony LaScala