Wednesday, May 10, 2006

This is how we do things in the country.

I am one of those people who believes that my art has integrity and won't compromise it. That is why I make so little art.

Generally speaking, my art is the written word. Except for this blog, I have been extremely neglectful of writing lately. In January I started a screenplay that should have been finished within the month, but instead is still on page 6. Even though I know what is going to happen, I know the characters, I know the world. It even might be commercial enough to get some notice. But I do not write it.

The problem with writing for the screen is that you lose all control the second you sell your script. Now, on the one hand, you sold it. Bye! Now get over it. On the other hand, think of playwrites. Do you think there is a director on earth who would listen to a stage actor who said, "I just don't think my character would react this way." Um, no, there isn't. But if a movie actor said that, rewrites would be done and the entire character or plotline or movie might be lost because of an actor's ego. If a film director couldn't visualize something a writer put into the script, instead of calling the writer and saying, "Hey, how did you mean this?" he would make it fit his own vision, whether that works with the story or not. (Yes, there are exceptions, though rare, and yes, there are female directors - I am just using the masculine throughout for my own convenience.)

A lot of brilliant people will never get their ideas in front of large audiences because they refuse to work within the system. Rob Schrab created SCUD the Disposable Assassin, a favorite comic book of my teens. He also wrote Heat Vision & Jack, a Fox pilot Ben Stiller directed that was up for the Sunday night 8:30 slot that went instead to Malcolm in the Middle. HV&J went on to assorted film festivals and became a major cult hit (thanks in small part to pirated VHS tapes mysteriously sent out to everyone we know). When Rob and his very bitter (but painfully good looking*) writing partner Dan Harmon failed to make the bigtime they created Channel 101. Another cult hit. They keep trying to get a real movie made, and keep failing because they are "difficult," meaning they don't want to compromise on what they know will work just because some non-creative Suit at a studio has an opinion.

Out here in the land of Holly, you are supposed to pay your dues before you get to be the boss. Now, this makes sense in business. Prove yourself and you will get a chance, prove yourself. But when the people calling the shots are half-bright agents and studio execs who couldn't get a job managing a McDonald's where they come from, there is a problem. The creative people create, and the creations are then mangled to an unrecognizable state or shelved entirely and we have to see yet another Meg Ryan Kate Hudson romantic comedy whose plot I could shit out before breakfast.

So what do we, the creative people, do? (I myself do nothing, but this is not a solution in the long-term. I will eventually be miserable. So I ask in the abstract.) Do we sit through the inane bullshit that Hollywood constructs from our brilliance? Do we continue to pray for a few thousand dollars for our words, only to have some jackass with perfect teeth mangle them for millions? Or do we stand up for ourselves, insist on creative control, and languish away with only the possibility of cult status but no money or recognition? Because no one will give us creative control until we have "earned" it by giving it all away. And even then, probably not. It's a crappy choice.

*I am hoping that he googles himself.