Monday, October 24, 2005

Take me . . . to the volcano!

As with any good screenplay, I suppose a blog should have a theme as well. Mine, as the title suggests, will deal with my attempt to transition from a career as an East-Coast lawyer to a West-Coast screenwriter. For me, this change has been some time in coming but one that I think (and hope) ultimately will be a good one.

"The Big Woo" is taken from the 1990 film Joe v. The Volcano, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley. It was the first pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan onscreen and much better than the Nora Ephron treaclefests for which they would become subsequently renowned. The movie itself is a funny, charming, and smart little fairy tale about a man (Joe) who learns to overcome the fears in life that have been holding him back from truly living. He does this, obviously, by agreeing to jump into a volcano (The Big Woo) on the tiny South Pacific island of Waponi Woo. I won't give away the whole thing for those that might not have seen it over the years. The point relative to me and this journal is the message that one takes from the movie: not doing the thing you're most afraid of, as scary is it may be, will condemn you to a half-lived and likely miserable existence.

For example, I have spent the past ten years in Baltimore attending law school and practicing as an attorney. Although the choice I made was the right one for me at the time, it became increasingly clear as I bounced from one firm to another for various reasons that the law probably isn't going to be a career in which I will be happy or prosperous. Mostly I would end the day feeling like Joe's coworker at the very bad job:

Not good.

Still, even as I was struggling with my left-brain issues, my right-brain creative impulses simmered on the back burner. I had what I thought was a pretty good idea for a screenplay and worked on it in fits and starts over several years and different states of employment. And in the meantime, I was doing the one thing that might be of most benefit of all to me: writing. Writing letters, writing pleadings, writing briefs, writing contracts, writing all things legal. You name it and over the past ten years I've probably written some variation of it. Additionally, about five years ago, I started teaching legal writing to first-year law students.

Teaching has especially prepared me, I think, for the move I would like to make. In the event that I had the opportunity to provide script coverage as a way of getting my foot in the door, even 120 pages of bad screenplay will seem like cake compared to ten or twenty pages of first-year law school composition. Think all the atrocious writing without all the zombies, ghosts, body-switching, time travel, or DaVinci Code ripoffs. So just as Daniel-san was really learning ka-ra-te when he thought he was only busting his hump waxing, painting, or sanding Mr. Miyagi's stuff, maybe the trudgery and drudgery has ultimately served to fully train me for the All-Valley Screenwriting Championship.

Now all I need to get is a new Powerbook, a copy of Movie Magic Screenwriter, and four premier steamer trunks for the rest of my stuff:


That's the backstory. I don't envision this blog as a font of nuts and bolts screenwriting advice or style tips. I don't yet have enough experience to speak on such matters with authority. Besides, there are already several established screenwriters whose blogs do: John August, The Artful Writer, and Wordplay. If I ever progress to the point that I actually do create something as affecting as Big Fish or funny and wonderful as Charlie & The Choclate Factory then perhaps I will open up the factory to reveal my secrets. Until then, I will chronicle my own journey along this new path, maybe tell some interesting stories that occur along the way, and see if I can't make a go of it doing something about which I am truly passionate.

P.S. Jump Soda is the orange soda of choice for the Waponi natives that live on the island of The Big Woo. Jump - volcano - get it?

7 Comments:

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger corporate gifts, at 4:39 PM  

  • Chris,

    We should chat. I have some advice about Writers Arc (saw your question on Fun Joel's site), and I'm also an attorney. Feel free to drop me a line at warren at screenwritinglife.com.

    And welcome to the scribosphere, by the way.

    Best,
    Warren

    By Blogger Warren, at 6:05 PM  

  • congratulations on beginning a new journey.

    i found your blog by random search.

    my brother went to l.a. to be a screenwriter. it didn't go well at all. stay off the drugs, would be his advice.

    i dig your writing voice, keep it up.

    please check out my blog to.

    projectkavannah.blogspot.com

    By Blogger jeremygoldberg, at 9:29 PM  

  • Aw dammit, the drugs *were* the reason for the move to LA. Oh well, back to the old drawing board.

    By Blogger Chris, at 11:46 PM  

  • To quote Meg Ryan's second role from that movie:

    I have no response to that! ;-)

    Good luck "jumping in."

    By Blogger Fun Joel, at 10:39 PM  

  • You're a brave soul (and how's that avoiding-the-drugs thing going so far?). Thanks for rolling me, welcome to Blog World... and as a Shanley fan, you might be amused by my latest post ("What Lies Beneath).

    By Blogger mernitman, at 9:02 AM  

  • Being a Joe fan and an aspiring writer all at once, I really enjoyed your site. Thanks for sharing!

    Molly

    By Blogger Moses, at 1:58 PM  

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