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The Fourth Consequence of Screenwriting: Gluttony

By Randal Stevens · May 24, 2010

Centuries ago, some guy who lived alone in the desert made up the Seven Deadly Sins to justify his importance to the Church. Just now, I made up the Seven Deadly Consequences to justify (perhaps futilely) my importance to this blog. The Seven Deadly Consequences are just like the Sins, but are not actions; they are reactions. Specifically, the Consequences are reactions that occur when you should be writing, but you’re not. They won’t have any effect on your immortal soul, but they come with equivalent amounts of crushing guilt! This fourth entry is focusing on the Consequence of gluttony.



So you haven’t written for weeks, possibly months. When you began your screenplay about the robot super spy from the future who saves the world from Armageddon triggered by the love-child he fostered with a dinosaur, you felt so good about it that you banged out a treatment, outline and 60 pages of screenplay within a month. When you got stuck, you retreated to your DVD rack for inspiration to see how the proven writers had done it before you. But then, for whatever reason, your writing slowed down. Maybe you got busy, maybe you went on vacation, maybe your computer got Hiroshimaed, but either way, the momentum you had behind you has stalled. Thinking that you just need to be inspired again, you return to the DVD rack more frequently and also add a few more trips to the local Best Buy to stay up to date with the newest releases as well. As your movie collection grows, the DVD player becomes more active while your computer becomes less active. If you continue on this path, you’ll find yourself in the enveloping grip of gluttony.

Gluttony is derived from the Latin “gluttire,” which means “to gulp down or swallow.” Nine times out of ten and within practically every religious circle, gluttony as a sin is reserved for over-consumption of food. Early Christian church leader Thomas Aquinas even took a more expansive view of gluttony, arguing it could include an obsessive anticipation of meals, constant indulging of delicacies and even went so far as to list six ways to commit gluttony. Unless you’re toying with an idea about a man obsessed with Double Downs, none of the above information is applicable to you as a screenwriter. However, the specific translation of gluttony, the Latin “gula,” is also defined as “the over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything to the point of waste” and it’s in this definition that gluttony as a Consequence rears its ugly head.

Escapism is an inherent element within films that give them an immortality that escapes books and television. Unfortunately, escapism can often act as a Siren song if you’re using it as a crutch instead of a distraction, like if you’re trying to distract yourself from the guilt in the back of your head telling you that you should be writing. The less you’re creating for yourself, the more you’re escaping into the creativity of others and the larger your DVD rack grows as you try and compensate for what you lack. Sure, it’s great to be ingrained in cinema past and present, but if you really want to be a writer, you have to be writing and not collecting. Buying movies becomes an excuse for not writing; the cinematic equivalent of buying an SUV because your cock isn’t big enough. You can brag all you want about the Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition of Blade Runner that’s disguised as a briefcase or the cigar box that is actually the Ultimate Edition of I Am Cuba, but if you’re buying movies to escape the fact that you’re not writing your own, you’re guilty of over-consuming to the point of waste and thus, guilty of the Consequence of gluttony.

How to Avoid the Consequence of Gluttony

For one thing, don’t buy so many movies. I love movies just as much as the next guy if not more and my DVD rack is constantly expanding, but buying has to be moderated. For one thing, buying new and classic old stuff can get expensive and like gambling, it can actually be addicting. You may have liked Avatar, but did you like it enough where you need to buy the recently released featureless edition? You may have thought Nicholas Cage’s Wicker Man was so bad it was entertaining, but do you really need to buy it just because you found it for $2.00 at the bottom of a bin in K-Mart?

On the other hand, if you do continuously expand your collection, spread the wealth. Recommend films to friends and colleagues and lend them out. Put your encyclopedic knowledge and collection to good use and let others know about the great films that exist out there, known or unknown. The more you share, the less selfish you become.