Dispatch from The Quest: Brandon Cohen

January 8th, 2013 by

This marks Brandon’s final Dispatch from The Quest:

The Quest…is a wrap! But let’s be clear, it isn’t really. The completion of the Quest was kinda like the conclusion of the first part of a three part trilogy. The “Fellowship of the Ring,” if you will, in my ongoing saga to become a professional screenwriter. Yes, it feels great to have actually completed the Quest, but I still see a long road ahead of me, and the hardest part is yet to come.

I feel like we just went through the writer’s equivalent of the training montage from action movies. I was going to list a couple of examples, but it seems like this supercut has done that for me –

Although, I have to say that the absence of Batman Begins in there was a glaring omission. We Questers all felt like we had talent, we just needed a mentor (Scott) to help us foster and unleash it! Now, I am a fine tuned killing machine, except instead of avenging the death of my parents, I’m sitting in my underwear writing on my laptop.

Some of my friends and family have asked me what I’ve gotten out of the Quest, and it’s tough to really put into words. I’d say that the biggest thing I got out of the experience was a process. I know I’ve mentioned this before, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but before the Quest, I approached every project like it was the first thing I’d ever written. I didn’t have a tried and true system for writing, and that definitely led to a lot of time wasted.

Right before I started the Quest, I had been working for weeks on a different idea for a feature, but I hadn’t really made any progress with it, and it was extremely frustrating. It wasn’t that it was a bad idea, I still think the idea has legs, I just didn’t really know where to start with it. Since I’ve completed my Quest script, I’ve put my Quest feature aside for a couple weeks so I can approach the rewrite fresh, and during this time away from it, I’ve decided to start working on a new idea for a feature. I was amazed just how efficient I’d become in my process compared to what it was like trying to write on my own prior to Scott’s class. I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I was able to execute in an expert-like manner that even I was surprised by.

I know that there are countless screenwriting books that can give you the ABCs of screenwriting, but to me, it’s one thing to read that stuff, it’s another thing to be involved with a group of other people that hold you accountable for following the steps to a tee. To be completely honest, there were many exercises that Scott had us do that I was very hesitant to embrace. I would think to myself going into it, “Okay, I’ll humor him and do this, but I know I’m not going to get anything out of it.” It was always the exercises that I was most apprehensive about that ended up leading to my biggest breakthroughs. Had it just been me with a book telling me to do these things, I probably would’ve skipped over some of the ones I deemed useless. Having Scott and the rest of the Questers there to keep me honest and make sure I was doing the work ended up being a huge advantage that I didn’t expect.

I also can’t stress how helpful it was to have people there giving me feedback along the way. Not just in terms of the writing exercises we did during Core, or the beats we outlined during Prep, but having people there as you’re writing to make sure you’re staying focused and don’t get off track was a huge advantage that I’d never had in the past. I think we all know how solitary writing can be, so it’s great to have some other people who are going through the process with you. If nothing else, it keeps you from going insane.

I still have a ton of work to do for this project, as writing the first draft is really just the beginning. However, not only am I confident with how my script is shaping up, I’m even more confident, on a general level, about my professional future. I feel like I’ve been given a set of tools that have transformed me into a much more efficient writer. I quit my job to focus on writing almost six months ago, and I can’t possibly put into words the anxiety that went along with that decision. I’d say it was somewhere between skydiving and getting a one night stand pregnant. Do I feel completely self-assured right now? Definitely not. Until I get that first sale or have some other type of validation, I’m always going to have that monkey on my back weighing me down, but I think that it’s probably a good thing. It’s making me work harder than I’ve ever worked on anything, and I hope that I never lose that hunger. While the uncertainty of the future still weighs on me heavily, having the Quest come along to give me this extra boost of confidence and allow me to refine my skills was exactly what I needed!

I can’t thank Scott enough for everything he’s done for us, and thank you to everyone who has been with us for the last couple months cheering us on from the sidelines. It means a lot, and it’s great to see that aspiring writers are rooting for other writers to succeed! It makes me feel that much worse that I’m a vindictive and bitter person who wishes failure upon everyone. Just kidding – but seriously, thank you to the GITS community, my fellow Questers, and obviously Scott! I hope and pray this isn’t the last you’ve heard of me. I’ll see you in The Quest Part II: The Reckoning.

Tomorrow: Emma Millions with her final Dispatch from The Quest.

About Brandon: NYC native, fan of all things comedy. I cry every time I watch Big Fish, Forrest Gump and Marley & Me. Don’t judge me. Twitter: @brandandco.

One thought on “Dispatch from The Quest: Brandon Cohen

  1. In chess they say that the beginner considers every possible move, whereas the grandmaster considers just the one. The right one.

    One of my pet theories, that applies not only to Hollywood, but to sports and even Silicon Valley is that it’s not possible to become good until you work with pros. For example, in baseball if often takes a great deal of time and work for a player called up to the show from AAA to be good enough to play.

    For me, a recent victory has proven to be a fundamental epiphany about how Hollywood thinks and approaches things. I can only imagine the impact of weeks of immersion in that environment. I am simultaneously immensely happy for you and insanely jealous :)

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