My Ambivalence Is Becoming A Problem

            I have a screenwriter friend in Los Angeles who has for many years been my eyes and ears in the movie industry.  He’s been out there since he was 23. He’s 46 now.  He’s had numerous deals, several things made with and without his name on the project. He has done rewrites and spent time on a few TV shows.
He’s made money. Not a living, but money—reminiscent of playwright Robert Anderson’s maxim about writing plays: You can make a killing, but not a living.
            My friend has not made a killing.
            But he keeps at it.
            He’s married to a woman who makes decent money so he doesn’t have a big financial monkey on his back and he lives comfortably. But he wants to earn more money.
            He’s also angry. His therapist told him that he’s the angriest person she’s ever encountered. My friend wore that as a badge of honor. For years he’s been referring to himself as The Angry Screenwriter. A.S. for short.
            Besides being angry he’s cynical.
            He’s also very funny. And witty.  I mean Oscar Wilde witty.
            He felt he was too lazy to start his own blog on the movie business. (He’s not lazy. He’s one of the most prolific writers I know) After thinking about it he felt that because of his addictive personality he’s concerned that once he started blogging it would take up all of his time. (It probably would. He is an addictive personality).
            Instead he asked me if he could tell me what’s on his mind and use Screenwriters Rehab as a way to vent.
            I happily accepted.
            Here’s the first thing that came out of his mouth:
My ambivalence is becoming a problem. I care deeply about an idea, then I hate it. I want to leave this town, then when I actually start to think about doing so, I have abandonment issues. I want to kill my agent, then I want to send  her candy because she got me a meeting. I want to make my work edgier, then when I do I feel that I’m becoming a different writer. I want to be more aggressive about networking and hustling new contacts, then I figure why bother? I don’t know how to be charming. I don’t know how to play the game. Then I convince myself that I’m very charming and I’m good at working the room. This is what I mean about my ambivalence. I’m curious if anyone reading your blog has the same problem.”
And there you have it. Him, actually. The Angry Screenwriter.
Welcome to his world!


28 comments:

  1. I feel it all the time. I think it's in a screenwriter's nature to feel like a failure until they attain success. Then when the initial thrill of success wears off it's back to feeling like a failure till the next success. It's a life of ups and downs.

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  2. I thought I was alone. The Angry Screenwriter is my hero.

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  3. I've been in LA for 15 years, getting close to deals and having meetings that seemed so good only to turn around overnight. It's very easy to feel ambivalent. What keeps me going though is the knowledge that people I know have broken through.

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  4. 23 years he's been pursuing the dream. I've been at it less than 3 years. At first I thought it would happen quickly because I won a couple of contests. I got bummed out at first, but I've come to realize that screenwriting is a skill to be learned. So many famous writers wrote 5 or 10 scripts before they got a deal. I think Oliver Stone wrote 10. I admire the Angry Screenwriter. I'm in it for the long haul!

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  5. Being married to a woman who brings in the bucks is a major plus. My husband gives me the freedom to write. I've gotten two rewrite assignments which made both me and my husband happy. It's fun to earn money and not work on spec.

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  6. Whenever I think about networking and playing the game, I feel like I have to take a nap. I hear you A.S.!

    Great post D.B.

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  7. I like the angry screenwriter's tenacity. He's had things made, picked up some money and credits and he has a wife who supports him economically and emotionally. Right on!

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  8. He is me and I am him. Or I am he? We are- I don't know. Whatever. I think you just described me.

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  9. 23 years. Wow. I'm 27 and I feel anxious that when I hit 30 I'll still be struggling. The Angry Screenwriter is an inspiration. And having the wife bringing in the bucks is very cool too.

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  10. So great for me to read today. The Angry Screenwriter is angry and ambivalent, but he's also persistent. He keeps writing and for me, that's the message I needed to hear today. Thanks, DB!

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  11. This is what I'm thinking, feel free to pile on. I think one of the initial attractions of trying to make it in a creative field is what could be called the 'Glamour" angle. It's that dream of big success - whatever form that may take for you. I started out with the goal of being an artist. I've been at it for going on 30 years. I'm not a museum name, I earn a living through commercial art. The big dream gave way to the reality but I'm still in it and it pays the bills (barely). Is there a relevant point here? I think Angry Screenwriter is emblematic of many who toil in the creative field. You do the work, you want the big score, it nearly always doesn't pan out, but sometimes it does. You hang on for the sometimes it does. The dream is tempered by the reality but it's still down there at the core and when you feeling like quitting the dream tickles you under the chin and says "remember me?".

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  12. So what is he's angry? I'm angry too and I haven't had any kind of success at all. At least A.S. has made money and has some credits. Based on what I've read and heard about development hell and how writers are treated, I bet every screenwriter in Hollywood is super angry. That's good. Anger fuels creativity.

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  13. I wish I knew how to be more angry. I behave like a child when I'm in meetings. Normally, I'm kind of a bully and pushy, but when it comes to talking to people in the industry I revert to almost childlike behavior. I read Joe Ezterhas's book and found out that he didn't take crap from anybody. I don't know if he was that way when he was first starting out and if having all those bucks he made on million dollar scripts made him tougher, but I wish I could have an attitude.

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  14. This is just what I need I could have used this help my last 4 sceipts.

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  15. I imagine the angry screenwriter pontificating with a dirty martini in one hand and an expensive Cuban cigar in the other. A cross between Dennis Miller before he turned right wing and John Stewart on downers.

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  16. I know the feeling about having a love/hate relationship with an agent. I've had 3 agents in 8 years. In the beginning it was great. They each liked my script. But they couldn't sell it. Then they couldn't sell the next couple of scripts and they soured on their belief in me. It's like being dumped even though you didn't do anything wrong.

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  17. I wonder how long it took angry screenwriter guy to get full-fledged angry. At what point did he start to go from idealistic young 23 year old screenwriter to Voldemort?

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  18. As an African-American I find that there's a certain liberal bias that works in my favor, at least getting me meetings. But once I start receiving notes and "ideas" to "improve" my screenplay it usually gets down to business as usual and I walk out hating the people met with. Am I angry like Mr. angry screenwriter. You better belive it.

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  19. I've had three deals, made some money and had one script made. But it was rewritten and changed so much that it was beyond recognition. The money helps, but there's nothing worse than getting the deal and telling your friends it's being made and seeing your name on the screen with two other people who you know have completely changed your original intention. It makes you angry and breaks your heart as well.

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  20. I wonder if his addictive personality is the reason he's gotten as far as he has. I don't have that mechanism. I know people who do. I wish I did. I think I'd be further along.

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  21. On "Notes, Ideas and Improvements" --

    As a professional "creative" it was nearly always my experience that people who are not creative (ie: suits, etc.) always feel that they can do your job better than you, that you will only benefit from their comments, that, in fact, your ideas are worthless without their guidance. It comes from the perception that what creative people do is not really work, it's more like we're just having fun, a lark and our lark needs to be directed by those with more sense. Pah!

    Hey, I just realized why I don't work in advertising any more.

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  22. I think that most screenwriters have to overcome the fact that they are taken for granted. It's not about getting the movie made or getting the deal We all want those things, but it's really about the satisfaction that comes from writing. My ambivalence comes from whether I'm working in the right genre. Should I write TV, plays, novels? I don't know. I sometimes feel I should try my hand at everything.

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  23. His world sounds like my world.

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  24. Having the attitude the angry screenwriter has is admirable. I'm filled with self doubt all the time. About my scripts, my ideas, the way I'm approaching a screenwriting career. Whatever is going on in his head is one thing, but the man has had a career. And he's still in the race.

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  25. It's the caring deeply about an idea and then hating it and then going back and forth, love/hate that frustrates me to the point where I give up and look for another idea and the same process happens.

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  26. I've known about 50 angry screenwriters, including myself. We should form a club.

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  27. Sounds more like a mid life crisis... I am in my 20's and if you told me right now I could be a writer for the next 20 years and live comfortable... I'd take it. In the words of the Joker "Why so Serious"!

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  28. This has been my favorite post so far because I'm pretty sure I've said those exact words. More than once. :)

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