Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where I’m At

Last weekend I was creating a packet of writing to try and get a TV gig. I’m doing another one now. I have to revise Herbie for the reading on the 5th and there might be a reason for me to revise Searching as well soon. And I have to go back and fix that screenplay, currently titled Stalker. I am also on page 30 or so of a new play but I have to say, even though things about it excite me, I keep putting it aside. I can’t help but thinking writing a new play is a waste of my time. In some ways it is probably my best work, and it is certainly a play I would like to see, but the thought of going through the channels afterwards, the revising and re-revising, the readings, the waiting, the rejections, leaves me cold. Why am I still doing this? I have all sorts of stamps of approval. I have writers groups and readings when I need them. When my plays do go up, they go well. They go much better than I imagine they will go and I have a great time. But breaking through to the next level seems not to be happening and it’s true I’m not a patient person, but I’m just not sure what exactly I have to do. For the first time, the answer does not seem to be write a new play. And I’m not sure what the answer is. The answer seems to be stop writing plays. I’ve already written about a bazillion of them. Why write more when no one is doing these ones? And the thing is, I have great agents on both coasts. I should revise the plays I’ve written, perhaps and fix this screenplay and figure out how to get into the TV and Film area. Because I’m sick and tired of the day job and of being so poor and of putting so much effort into writing plays and working to get them into the hands of people who are unable or unwilling to take a chance on my work. And it’s not their fault either. The market is flooded with good work. Most theaters have specific needs and only a couple slots and a particular audience they are catering to. But I’m tired of working so hard and not seeing results. If I can’t find a way in here, why should I stick around?

16 comments:

Johnna Adams said...

There is nothing wrong with taking a break and pursuing TV and film for a while. It will probably make your playwriting even more exciting when you come back to it.

I have decided that I am an idiot for being a playwright, given it up completely and decided to write only screenplays at least four times in the last ten years. Then I get a call from someone who is excited about one of my plays, or I place in a contest, or I go to a writers meeting and someone else's work blows me away and I am back in playwriting trenches the next day. But, I am hoping I can have a fertile TV/film writing period someday because I admire that type of writing a lot.

I think you should go where your enthusiasm is at the moment and think of it as an exciting new adventure and not a closing of the door on your playwriting. As prolific as you are, there is no reason on earth that you can't do both types of writing at the same time, anyway.

Joshua said...

Hey Adam,

Feel your pain, bro.

The looming strike is threatening everyone, especially TV stuff - it's going to be tough for everyone until that's resolved - in terms of breaking through, the more screenplays one has, the better . . . that's my advice - I've written a bunch of plays, but no one really knows about them, or cares . . . a short play can work as a writer sample for TeeVee, and that's about it -

But everyone is always interested in screenplays. It's good to have a bunch of those.

I think Scott Rosenberg wrote somewhere that it wasn't until his 12th screenplay that he broke through.

But it never hurts to vary up your game, as a writer.

I began a novel this time last year and I'm really glad I did.

Kyle said...

My thing is not to let anything I've ever been excited about writing go unfinished, but that doesn't mean I have to finish it right this second....

I'm determined to finish a draft of a screenplay by the end of this month that I started last year. Then next month I'm determined to finish a draft of one that I started earlier this year. Then it's a half-finished short story I started about two years ago. Earlier this year I tightened up three different short plays I'd written that I was still unsatisfied with, and I have another short play that extends as far back as graduate school six years ago that I completely botched back then. And that's on top of the two to three ideas for full-length plays I've been sketching away at, and the other screenplay I've done a little bit of writing on, etc.

As far as theater vs. everything else goes, if Adam Rapp can write for The L-Word, none of us ever have to justify not committing entirely to playwriting ever again.

You'll finish that play eventually if it means anything to you.

If you don't die tomorrow, of course....

Hah! Sorry, couldn't resist.

mbh said...

I can't add much more than what everyone else has said... and I do feel your pain.

Some stories belong on-stage, some need the big screen, some need a studio audience, some need to be read between two hard cardboard covers...

When you have the story you want to tell, tell it in the format it needs...

But to repeat what Joshua said... always have a few screenplays.. I blew a LARGE chance once when I wrote my first screenplay... they liked it and asked what else I had... I didn't have another screenplay to hand them and they lost interest... always have at least two to show them.

Adam said...

Thanks guys.

Joshua--12 screenplays! Jeez. I hope I'm not leaving one fire to enter another.

Michael, I really only want to tell play stories but I'm going to try and reframe my mind to go elsewhere.

There is that novel I want to get back to too.

Malachy Walsh said...

Keep at it, whatever "it" is.

Joshua said...

yep, 12 . . .

And I should add, that I've written 14 screenplays myself - and I had written 12 before I was hired to write a union gig . . . the recent one I got this summer.

I've written more screenplays than I have full length plays, actually. And each screenplay has been rewritten and revised more than ten times apiece, at least.

Of course, it didn't take that long for everyone, and some of the previous 12 I wrote were optioned (in fact, 2 or 3 are still unavailable) and I had a couple gigs that paid a few thousand to write - but I didn't really get a big union break until this spring - and I'm still working at it, of course, and planning my next spec . . . I'm fortunate, but it's entirely possible I'd have to get a day job next year as well, depending on the strike, so I'm getting ready to write another thing on my own.

The point being, most people I know who made it took some time to get there . . . and lordy, I wish it weren't so - man. Can't tell ya.

some folks do break out on the first or second script, but it's fairly rare . . .

Josh Olson (oscar-nom'd) told me he had years of non-union gigs that paid a couple thousand here and there . . .

It happens out the gate upon occasion, but usually it's a question of sustained excellence that puts a person thru . . .

My best friend is a great actor, and I remember in the beginning, he'd just gotten a couple lines on Third Watch . . . he had a great agent and manager and was going out on auditiions for everything.

Everything. At the time I worked at abc in casting, and I saw a lot of those auditions . . . he was always the best one in the room.

He didn't get anything for a year and a half. But he was always called in, everytime.

Finally he got a gig and it opened up like a waterfall for him - but it took almost 3 years for people to get this guy is the real thing, EVERYTIME, and he was't going away . . .

It takes time, and I always hated it whenever anyone told me that (I still kinda do) but the fact I hate it doesn't make it less true . . .

My advice for anyone wanting to break out into TV / film is to write a LOT of screenplays . . . make sure they're good, of course . . . but write a lot of them because everyone is always looking for a good screenplay, always.

I don't believe folks are looking for good plays these days, I just don't. Not that many people, anyway.

Johnna Adams said...

12 screenplays is nothing compared to Sharon Shinn (the novelist's) story. Tad Williams, at a science fiction convention I went to years ago, told the audience that Sharon's 17th NOVEL was the first one that sold. Imagine what writing the first 16 felt like. Ouch.

Adam said...

Now I'm depressed. I've only written 2 screenplays.

pat said...

I've been in your situation (maybe I'm still there). Everyone's given you good advice already, though I'm not convinced that breaking into film is that much easier than theatre. The hard thing about theatre is that the market is so very tiny, and you're competing with Tina Howe and Craig Lucas, as well as all the rest of us. If you've already got agents, though, you're pretty far into the game.

I've mostly stopped writing plays for the moment, because I don't have one burning a hole in my mind, though I might get back to it. For me, I think I'll keep it up from time to time, because I love the social aspect of theatre. But trying to have a family and earn a little money writing for theatre seems a non-starter.

No matter what, though, it's all hard--novels take a long time to write and the pay is small if you don't have a bestseller (though more people make a living writing books than plays). Screenplays can pay, but it's especially hard if you're not in LA.

Don't lose track of your love for writing, for writing whatever is utmost in your creative mind. I would think the only thing worse than having to write on break from your sucky day job is to have writing turn into the sucky day job itself.

Adam said...

Thanks, Pat. I think that's the danger. of losing the love.

Congrats on the sale, Joshua! I'm hoping the strike ends soon.

Ruben Carbajal said...

I suspect you write plays because you have to. (I think you may have mentioned this in an interview?) As long as you don't have any illusions about playwriting/theater, i'd say don't beat yourself up over the fact that you enjoy writing plays and are clearly incredible at writing them. Why not be proud of that? Write what you are most excited and passionate about, and write as well as you can. If you're looking for money, then by all means keep pursuing film/tv-- it's a tough racket to get into, yes, but you definitely have the skills. I guess I'm just saying you should do your best not to get discouraged! (This is coming from someone who battles discouragement day to day(!)

Adam said...

yeah. some days are better than others. it's just so bleak, isn't it?

Yes, I write because I have to but I keep wishing I didn't have to.

Ruben Carbajal said...

It's bleak. But it's also late October. I'm trying my best to write without attaching myself too much to the outcome. This is tough when you're getting to be an ancient one, you've just been married, and are poor as a church mouse. At the same time, writing remains one of the few pure joys in my life. So, I guess I have that to be thankful for.

Ken said...

Adam,
Great post. I almost started crying, because I saw myself, as I'm sure most people reading it saw themselves. Taking a break from theater is OK. Theater's a hard world, because not only are you faced with innumerable gatekeepers you have to please before anything substantial can happen with your work, but unlike TV and film, once it passes muster, you can be almost be guaranteed you won't make much money from it OR have many people see it. Still, if you love it, you can't not do it. But yeah, go for some good steady TV work! That kind of day job kicks the ass of any other day job I can think of, certainly the one I'm shackled to for God knows how long.

Adam said...

yeah, Ken, I'm shackled too. I will go back to the play and finish it because I finish things and because I do like writing plays but yeah, maybe I won't try to write another play immediately after.

I'm tired of all the PR I do myself and all the gatekeeping. I feel like they let me in the back yard but not in the house.