Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Fear

November 30th, 2013 by

As we wrap up a week’s worth of Daily Dialogue posts featuring the theme of Forgiveness (thanks to churnage for that call), next week’s theme is another F-word: FEAR! Suggested by sutinderbola.

Shower, anyone?

Okay, there are literally thousands of memorable movie moments featuring fear. The challenge will be to find some where the dialogue is not simply “AHHHHHHHHHHH!” or “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKK!” But I have faith in the GITS community! The Daily Dialogue Denizens are a hearty crew with terabytes of movie scenes zipping along in our collective hard drives.

Let’s find some kick-ass fear-themed movie moments featuring some memorable dialogue!

The usual drill:

* Copy/paste dialogue from IMDB Quotes or some other transcript source.

* Copy/paste the URL of an accompanying video from YouTube or some other video source.

I’d also ask you to think about why the dialogue is notable. Is there anything about the dialogue which provides some takeaway re screenwriting?

Here is our lineup for upcoming Daily Dialogue themes:

December 9-December 15: Parental Advice [David Proenza]

December 16-December 22: Awkward [SabinaGiado]

December 23-December 29: Christmas

December 30-January 5: New Year

January 6-January 12: Explain the Mission [Shaula Evans]

January 13-January 19: The Boss [kevinpgoulet]

January 20-January 26: Rescue [Despina]

January 27-February 2: Directions [brettonzinger]

See you in comments with your suggestions for movie scenes featuring FEAR!

Writing and the Creative Life: What are you afraid of?

October 24th, 2013 by

The single greatest inhibitor to creativity is fear. Do you recognize any of these voices?

I am afraid of typing FADE IN.

I am afraid I won’t be able to finish this script.

I am afraid I don’t have enough talent.

I am afraid the words won’t come.

I am afraid my characters won’t feel real.

I am afraid people won’t like my writing.

I am afraid people won’t like my story.

I am afraid I won’t get an agent.

I am afraid I am wasting my time.

I am afraid I don’t know enough about the craft.

I am afraid people will laugh at me.

I am afraid I won’t make any money writing.

I am afraid of not succeeding.

I’m not a psychologist, but I know enough about the writing process to understand that if you allow these and other like-minded voices to dominate your thoughts, you will have a hard time nurturing your creative self.

So the question on the table is, How to deal with fear? I don’t think there’s any right or wrong approach – a writer will do what they need to do to vanquish or, at least, manage their apprehensions. Some times you may be able to ignore the voice, the doubts, the insecurities – a good way to do that is to go so deeply into your story, your experience in that ‘world’ shuts out your negative thoughts.

Other times, you can use fear as a motivator: If, for example, you make a commitment, to friends and family, whereby you guarantee you will finish this script, your fear of public humiliation can spur you all the way to FADE OUT.

The simple fact is that whatever you do, you must do something, or else fear can devour your creativity.

Two of the greatest American novelists, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald, wound their way to Hollywood, and worked as screenwriters. Read these quotes below, and see if you can grasp the palpable sense of fear in their words:

“I think I have had about all of Hollywood I can stand, I feel bad, depressed, dreadful sense of wasting time. I imagine most of the symptoms of blow-up or collapse. I may be able to come back later, but I think I will finish this present job and return home. Feeling as I do, I am actually afraid to stay here much longer.”

– William Faulkner

“My only hope is that you will have a moment of clear thinking. That you’ll ask some intelligent and disinterested person to look at the two scripts. Some honest thinking would be much more valuable to the enterprise right now than an effort to convince people you’ve improved it. I am utterly miserable at seeing months of work and thought negated in one hasty week. I hope you’re big enough to take this letter as it’s meant—a desperate plea to restore the dialogue to its former quality…all those touches that were both natural and new. Oh, Joe, can’t producers ever be wrong? I’m a good writer–honest. I thought you were going to play fair.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald in a letter to producer Joseph Mankiewicz

Faulkner? Fitzgerald? Reduced to “I’m actually afraid to stay here much longer,” and “I’m a good writer—-honest?”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!

This is what fear can do. Strangle creativity. Squash talent. And in Hollywood, a city built on dreams, but run by fear, it can eat you alive.

So my advice? Don’t avoid your fear. Don’t run from it. Rather, acknowledge it.

Feel it. Let it be. Let it breathe. Let it take you deeper into the core of your emotional self. You will discover things there you can learn in no other place. Emotions, memories, experiences have collected in that inner place for years, untouched because most people never go there. If you can get curious about why you are afraid, what are the particular animating elements behind your fears, you will discover a deep reservoir of personal insight and, almost assuredly, great story “stuff” as well.

Once you know that you can go there, acknowledge and experience your fears, and survive that process – which you will because fear is nothing more than an emotion state – what you will unveil over time in going there and coming back is… courage.

The courage to give yourself…
To your creativity…
To your stories…
Each one a great unknown…
Waiting for what you will find in your creative journey.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

September 17th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Christian confronts the F-word:

FEAR.  Fear is one of the top 6 motivators governing human decision making since the existence of hungry sabertooth tigers trying to eat said humans.  It’s an “eat or be eaten” world.  Fear is the underlying theme for the first week of prep – The Protagonist Character Treatment.

As discussed in other dispatches, I have used the last 8 weeks of Core as an opportunity to experiment with my story and writing style.  I’ve written test scenes switch protagonist and nemesis, changing genders and ethnicity, playing around with backstories and motivations.  This week was time to commit, time to make some decisions, time to “poop or get off the pot”.  So what do I do in this situation, with the hopes of having some divine intervention providing answers, maybe a small brush fire with a character name or something, I waited until the last possible minute to decide on my protagonist.

What was really holding me back was the fear of commitment.  Developing your protagonist is kind of like getting married.  Up until now, I’ve played the field, exploring lots possibilities for my story’s hero, but it’s time.  Daddy-Scott’s got his shotgun, and this shit is going to happen whether I’m ready or not.  So literally in the eleventh hour (1 hour before our assignment was due), the magic happened.  My hero raised her/his hand and said, “Here I am.  I’ve been here all along waiting for you to see me.”

With that mega commitment out of the way, why do I feel even more anxious this morning? Hopefully, this anxiety is more of an excitement to get this mighty writing ship out to the sea of story and experience more magical moments on the Quest ahead.  Bon Voyage!

If you Google “writers fear,” a quite impressive list of sites appear… which suggests that anxiety about writing is a pretty universal thing. Take this site for example which lists “The 7 Deadly Fears of Writing”:

* Fear of Rejection
* Fear of Inadequacy
* Fear of Success
* Fear of Revealing Too Much
* Fear of Having Only One Book in You
* Fear You’re Too Old
* Fear of Too Much Research

I could add a few like Fear You’re Too Young, Fear Your Stories Aren’t Commercial, Fear Someone Is Going To Beat You To The Punch With This Current Story You’re Writing And Wouldn’t That Suck Big Time.

How about you? Are there any writing fears you would add to the list.

The thing is, if we can learn to flip our perspective, anxiety or even fear can be motivating. Like what Christian did: As soon as he stepped out of the fear and into the real world, where he realized, “Hey, the due date is going to hit no matter what, so I’d better get off the pot here,” he pounded out a treatment.

Here is one of the best anecdotes I’ve ever heard about how fear can serve as motivation. I recall reading it in a book by screenwriter William Goldman. It seems Goldman knew this professional basketball player, a guy who was a member of the New York Knicks. The dude was known for his work ethic, showing up well before practice, staying well after, practicing his shooting for hours on end.

Goldman asked, “You’ve already made the NBA. Why do you continue to work so hard?”

The guy turned to Goldman and said, “Because I know if I’m not practicing… someone else is.”

Acknowledge the fear. Make fun of the fear. Embrace the fear. Use the fear. Whatever works. Whatever gets our ass on chair and writing.

Because when we’re not writing… someone else is.

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.

The terror of writing… the wonder of writing

July 22nd, 2013 by

I want to follow up on the previous post, a Dispatch From The Quest by Miranda Sajdak in which she writes this:

There’s something both wonderful and terrifying about reading these lectures – the knowledge, first of all, that I’m truly embarking on a journey that will bolster my writing capabilities is absolutely wonderful. With that, however, comes the fear – that the script won’t turn out well, or that it won’t be good enough; that the lectures or exercises won’t help; or just generically massive failure on every level.

Terrifying. The elephant in any writer’s room. Open the blinds! Turn the lights on! Look, see! There it is with its snaking trunk slobbering over your computer keyboard and story notes. How can you get any work done with the weight of this smelly, bone-crushing thing lumbering about?

It’s the reality of a writer’s existence that with any creative endeavor, there is always the chance of failure. We know this. We feel this. The mind races. Heart pounds. Sphincter tightens. It’s an unwelcome elephantine presence just as we begin the nervy process of introducing ourselves to a new story.

I’m reminded of an anecdote from my favorite filmmaker Billy Wilder. In 1942, he was just about to start directing his first Hollywood movie The Major and the Minor, starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland. Beset by anxiety, he reached out to his mentor Ernst Lubitsch, confiding his fears to the famed German director: What if I fail as a director? Ernst is said to have responded, “Billy, I have directed over 70 movies, and I still am afraid every time I start.”

This echoes the sentiments of another creative master Stephen King who wrote this:

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

So yes, we know anxiety, we know fear, we know terror. There is nothing quite so daunting as the blank page, something I posted about previously here:

It beckons you with a daunting whisper. It mocks you with its dull emptiness. It freezes your soul with its ice cold whiteness.

It is – the blank page!

How can a mere 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of white paper provoke such anxiety, such horror, such despair?

The despair of the blank page – the writer’s bane!

Laying eyes upon the blank page provokes a catch in your breath, a twitch in you muscles, that special tightening in your sphincter.

Fear. But fear of what?

Fear of the not knowing. Not knowing what words will appear… or won’t appear. Not knowing if the words will make sense. Not knowing if the sentences will be good. Not knowing if the story will work.

How to deal with the terror of writing? I’ll pose that question for you, dear reader: How do you handle your fears?

But let me just say this: Miranda has presented a welcome counterbalance to the terror of writing – and that is the wonder of writing.

Yes, it is possible this story we are working on just now may turn out to be nothing more than shit on a shingle. On the other hand, it could end up emerging into the light of day as something truly remarkable, a tale well told, a great story.

Logic dictates this: You may fail… but you may also succeed.

And that is one key aspect of the wonder of writing: Watching our story come into being, quite literally an act of creation. Who else has the opportunity to experience the entire gestation and birth of a story?

It is wonderful what we do. And I suspect if we strip away everything else we endure in the craft of writing — daily grind, endless revisions, cruel uncertainty, near misses — we can if we open our eyes and hearts never miss seeing the wonder of it all.

So yes, we have the terror of writing… but we also have the wonder of writing. And I’m thinking that perhaps…

We need them both to succeed.

See you in comments for your thoughts.

Onward!

The writer’s life: What are you afraid of?

September 11th, 2012 by

The single greatest inhibitor to creativity is fear. Do you recognize any of these ‘voices’:

* I am afraid of typing FADE IN.
* I am afraid I won’t be able to finish the script.
* I am afraid I don’t have enough talent.
* I am afraid the words won’t come.
* I am afraid my characters won’t feel real.
* I am afraid people won’t like my writing.
* I am afraid people won’t like my story.
* I am afraid I won’t get an agent.
* I am afraid I am wasting my time.
* I am afraid I don’t know enough about the craft.
* I am afraid people will laugh at me.
* I am afraid I won’t make any money writing.
* I am afraid I won’t succeed.

I’m not a psychologist, but I know enough about the writing process to understand that if you allow these and like-minded voices to dominate your thoughts, you will have a hard time hearing your creative voice.

So the question on the table is, How do deal with fear?

I don’t think there’s any right or wrong approach — a writer will do what they need to do to vanquish or, at least, manage their apprehensions.

Some times you may be able to ignore the voice, the doubts, the insecurities — a good way to do that is to dive so deeply into your story, you drown out your negative thoughts.

Other times, you can use fear as a motivator: If, for example, you set a deadline with friends and family, whereby you guarantee you will finish this script by a certain date, your fear of public humiliation can spur you all the way to FADE OUT.

The simple fact is that whatever you do, you must do something, or else fear can devour your creativity.

Two of the greatest American writers, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald, wound their way to Hollywood and worked as screenwriters. Read these quotes below, and note the palpable sense of fear:

“I think I have had about all of Hollywood I can stand. I feel bad, depressed, dreadful sense of wasting time. I imagine most of the symptoms of blow-up or collapse. I may be able to come back later, but I think I will finish this present job and return home. Feeling as I do, I am actually afraid to stay here much longer.”

– William Faulkner

“My only hope is that you will have a moment of clear thinking. That you’ll ask some intelligent and disinterested person to look at the two scripts. Some honest thinking would be valuable to the enterprise right now than an effort to convince people you’ve improved it. I am utterly miserable at seeing months of work and thought negated in one hasty week. I hope you’re big enough to take this letter as it’s meant–a desperate plea to restore the dialogue to its former quality…all those touches that were both natural and new. Oh, Joe, can’t producers every be wrong? I’m a good writer–honest I though you were going to play fair.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald to producer Joseph Mankiewicz

Faulkner? Fitzgerald? Reduce to “I’m actually afraid to stay here much longer” and “I’m a good writer–honest?”

Are you kidding me?!

This is what fear can do – eat your creativity alive.

So here’s a counterintuitive piece of advice:
Don’t avoid your fear.
Don’t run away from it.
Rather – acknowledge it.

Feel it.
Let it be.
Let it breathe.
Let it take you deeper into the core of your emotional self.

You will learn things there you can learn in no other place. Emotions, memories, experiences have collected in that inner place for years, untouched because most people never go there.

If you can get curious about why you are afraid, what are the particular elements behind your fears, you may discover a deep reservoir of personal insights and, almost assuredly, great story ‘stuff’ as well.

Once you know that you can go there, experience your fears, and survive that process, what you may discover over time in going there and coming back is:

Courage.
The courage to give yourself.
To your creativity…
To your stories…
Each one a great unknown…
Waiting for what you will find in your creative journey.

[Originally posted September 18, 2009]

Hollywood: The fear factor

February 16th, 2012 by

I have noted before how fear is a key dynamic in Hollywood’s business ethos. Here is an example why, an email that has been making the rounds in Hollywood:

From: Arnon Milchan
Subject: New Regency

I’ve committed $300M in fees which translates to $5 billon in movies and TV over the next 10 years, which forces me to have sleepless nights. I’d like to know what the 3-5 best connections you have in the movie industry, that can move the needle and create added value beyond what Fox does. I’d like to be reassured that if I don’t sleep, you don’t sleep. I can afford not to – you cannot. I’m contemplating a major decision, and before I do that, I need your feedback.

As a reminder, the world is heading into a huge financial crisis. I have only one request – be honest. I expect caring, pro-activity, creativity and thinking outside the box with tangible results. We’re not here to continue the old regime creatively, but to create a new world. If this is not within your reach, please be honest with me. I’ve done it for the last 35 years and built a great company – I do not feel I deserve to have it evaporate. I need a timeline for Regency to become the home of great TV and movie makers.

I expect you to improve on a conscious basis with our friends at NewsCorp and Fox. They’re our friends. I need accountability and responsibility. Anything less doesn’t work for me. This is not pep talk – this is serious. I’m just now finishing my day job at 2am, which are my regular working hours because of the time difference. I expect resolutions by the end of next week.

Arnon

Background on Arnon Milchan and his production company New Regency Productions.

There is the fear of failure as I noted in my post above:

Every time they greenlight a movie, they put their ass on the line. Much easier to say NO and not risk a B.O. bomb than to say YES and have everyone involved in the dud run for the hinterlands, leaving only you, red ink, and your corporate overlords glaring down at you.

The problem is saying NO is not a sustainable business policy. Sometimes a studio has to say YES. To make a movie. To generate revenues. So there is also the fear of not succeeding.

Keep that business climate in mind the next time you meet with a studio executive, the enormous amount of pressure they feel, and the fear which looms like a shadow over every decision they make.

The despair of the blank page

September 22nd, 2008 by

It beckons you with a daunting whisper. It mocks you with its dull emptiness. It freezes your soul with its ice cold whiteness.

It is – the blank page!

How can a mere 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of white paper provoke such anxiety, such horror, such despair?

The despair of the blank page – the writer’s bane!

Laying eyes upon the blank page provokes a catch in your breath, a twitch in you muscles, that special tightening in your sphincter.

Fear. But fear of what?

Fear of the not knowing. Not knowing what words will appear… or won’t appear. Not knowing if the words will make sense. Not knowing if the sentences will be good. Not knowing if the story will work.

I could lay a little “power of positive thinking” on you. You know…

Imagine the possibilities!

My experience with those positive thinking platitudes is that when your blank page remains blank, the writer’s life becomes about the power of positive drinking. And look where that got Hemingway!

Thus, instead of behavioral modification, let me suggest a more philosophical, even, dare I say, spiritual approach.

I ask you to consider the possibility that your story already exists.

It is already there… all 120 pages. From FADE IN to FADE OUT. Written. Rewritten. Edited. Spell-checked. Properly formatted. And ready to go.

The story concept exists already.

The characters exist already.

The plot exists already.

The dialogue exists already.

The themes exist already.

It is there, waiting for you to find, uncover and reveal it.

Okay, Myers, if it’s waiting for me, then where is it hiding out ‘coz I sure as hell can’t find it!!!

Your story’s right there… on your blank page.

“The despair of the blank page: it is so full.”

That’s right, your challenge isn’t the emptiness of your blank page, it’s that there is so much there already. All you need to do is see it…

And you’ll see it when you believe it.

You can choose to stare at that blank page. Sometimes that is quite valuable – clear the mind, focus your thoughts, go into a state of deep concentration. But in general, the best way to find your story on the blank page… is to start writing.

Believe it… then you’ll see it.

Start writing. And watch the magic of your story reveal itself to you… as your blank pages becomes full.

The writer’s life: What are you afraid of?

June 1st, 2008 by

The single greatest inhibitor to creativity is fear. Do you recognize any of these voices:

I am afraid of typing FADE IN.

I am afraid I won’t be able to finish this script.

I am afraid I don’t have enough talent.

I am afraid the words won’t come.

I am afraid my characters won’t feel real.

I am afraid people won’t like my writing.

I am afraid people won’t like my story.

I am afraid I won’t get an agent.

I am afraid I am wasting my time.

I am afraid I don’t know enough about the craft.

I am afraid people will laugh at me.

I am afraid I won’t make any money writing.

I am afraid of not succeeding.

I’m not a psychologist, but I know enough about the writing process to understand that if you allow these and other like-minded voices to dominate your thoughts, you will have a hard time nurturing your creative self.

So the question on the table is, How to deal with fear? I don’t think there’s any right or wrong approach – a writer will do what they need to do to vanquish or, at least, manage their apprehensions. Some times you may be able to ignore the voice, the doubts, the insecurities – a good way to do that is to go so deeply into your story, your experience in that ‘world’ shuts out your negative thoughts.

Other times, you can use fear as a motivator: If, for example, you make a commitment, to friends and family, whereby you guarantee you will finish this script, your fear of public humiliation can spur you all the way to FADE OUT.

The simple fact is that whatever you do, you must do something, or else fear can devour your creativity.

Two of the greatest American novelists, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald, wound their way to Hollywood, and worked as screenwriters. Read these quotes below, and see if you can grasp the palpable sense of fear in their words:

“I think I have had about all of Hollywood I can stand, I feel bad, depressed, dreadful sense of wasting time. I imagine most of the symptoms of blow-up or collapse. I may be able to come back later, but I think I will finish this present job and return home. Feeling as I do, I am actually afraid to stay here much longer.”

– William Faulkner

“My only hope is that you will have a moment of clear thinking. That you’ll ask some intelligent and disinterested person to look at the two scripts. Some honest thinking would be much more valuable to the enterprise right now than an effort to convince people you’ve improved it. I am utterly miserable at seeing months of work and thought negated in one hasty week. I hope you’re big enough to take this letter as it’s meant—a desperate plea to restore the dialogue to its former quality…all those touches that were both natural and new. Oh, Joe, can’t producers ever be wrong? I’m a good writer–honest. I thought you were going to play fair.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald in a letter to producer Joseph Mankiewicz

Faulkner? Fitzgerald? Reduced to “I’m actually afraid to stay here much longer,” and “I’m a good writer—-honest?”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!

This is what fear can do. Strangle creativity. Squash talent. And in Hollywood, a city built on dreams, but run by fear, it can eat you alive.

So my advice? Don’t avoid your fear. Don’t run from it. Rather, acknowledge it.

Feel it. Let it be. Let it breathe. Let it take you deeper into the core of your emotional self. You will learn things there you can learn in no other place. Emotions, memories, experiences have collected in that inner place for years, untouched because most people never go there. If you can get curious about why you are afraid, what are the particular animating elements behind your fears, you will discover a deep reservoir of personal insight and, almost assuredly, great story “stuff” as well.

Once you know that you can go there, acknowledge and experience your fears, and survive that process – which you will because fear is nothing more than an emotion state – what you will discover over time in going there and coming back is — courage.

The courage to give yourself…
To your creativity…
To your stories…
Each one a great unknown…
Waiting for what you will find in your creative journey.