To preface, I’m not really sure why I’m writing this. Maybe it’s for you, maybe it’s for us. My heart has been at odds with writing/filmmaking as of late. So, I figured I’d funnel some scrambled words onto the internet, to you.
I have all the ingredients for a burnt meal of failure: I hated reading as a kid, I made a 17 on my ACT, I made a C in freshman English class, I went to a college that had one C stand, I have no education on writing or directing films and I love Jesus. As you surely know, a vast majority of Christians make terrible films. These are the things that run through my fickle mind. True things, yet to which I scream, “RUDY!”.
All odds were against little RUDY (Sean Astin). The scrawny little body of his could barely cage his raging heart. Sleep was no match for his big dreams of playing on that Notre Dame field. I’m not a huge sports movie guy but I recently saw it for the first time in years and it filled my little brown eyes with tears of joy. He wanted it so badly! Nothing could stop him, nothing could crush his goals. After each big hit, after every let down, after every rejection, he kept on gettin’ up. He would not and did not give up. In simpler terms, he put in THE WORK.
DREAMS vs. GOALS. Apples and oranges, my friend.
I’ve had younger guys come to me and express their aspirations to become a screenwriter and without wasting a breath, and with my wand of discernment tightly clasped in my hand, I quickly realize that they don’t truly WANT it. It’s more of like, “Yeah, I think I could write scripts. I just don’t have time.” To that, I say, if you truly wanna do something, you’ll make time.
I don’t think they know that writing means working 24/7 because it’s all in your head. Your head doesn’t clock out at 5. My brain houses a jumbo gym for ideas and I’m the only employee. Quentin Tarantino worked on Inglourious Basterds for ten years. You can’t just grow a blond mustache and wear short shorts to be Larry Bird; you gotta put in the work. I’m the Karate kid’s kid. I’m the patch on a Private’s arm. I’m no master or veteran of screenwriting but in the little time I’ve attempted to do so, I have tasted the lonely solitude it requires.
I don’t go out on the weekend. I barely see movies. I sit in the dark in my $10 writing chair from Goodwill with back sweat drizzling down like condensation on a cup. With fear and uncertainty oozing from my fingertips, I type little, black letters, one by one into the white abyss. Apart from working on set and spending time with my girlfriend, my closest friend is my laptop. Honorable mentions: other writer friends who let me vomit ideas on them day and night. Mostly night.
After hopelessly watching my queue of shootable scripts stack up a few months ago, I asked myself, “If I never became a director and I could only write for people, would I?”
I want to direct movies more than anything, especially my own writings but the answer to the question above was something I needed to know before I got into a complicated, life-long relationship with writing. I had to make sure I wanted it. I don’t write and direct because I want to be known for it. If I wanted to be known for something, I’d pursue acting. Actors have faces. The average movie goer has no clue there was a script, let alone a writer. Writers are faceless ghosts trampled under the red carpet. Everyone just wants the switch – they don’t want Edison and his 10,000 failures. I write and direct because it’s what I crave, what makes my blood boil, why I don’t sleep and, why I wake up.
HUNGER vs. STARVATION. Tomatoes and potatoes, mi amigo. (I hate tomatoes by the way.)
Put a starving person and a hungry person in the colosseum and see who walks out alive. Desperation knows no rules. Most guys my age are just kind of hungry, not sure what they’re exactly craving for dinner. Now, I’m not saying I want to kill people like a gladiator. I’d hope to share whatever food scraps I can get with the next guy. What I am saying is that I’m waiting in line, starving.
I know it’s one of the seven deadliest sins in the religion of film, but I don’t drink coffee. I usually stick to a morning cup of blatant, black reality to get me going. It tastes like humble beginnings. Though it’s bitter, and no it’s not sweet, it’s healthy for my heart. I’m a nobody in the world of film. I’m an extra in the background, just trying to find something to stand on so I can see how it’s done. Even if the odds are never in my favor, I’m just gonna be waiting for my chance to get on the field, even if my mom is the only one chanting “Rudy.”
Whether it’s film, acting, writing, or whatever you want to do in this life, don’t let a stop sign held by inadequacy hold you back. Put in the work. It’ll be a long, bumpy road, filled with many a fork in the way. Just check both ways and then send that gas pedal to hell. Roll your windows down and give that blank piece of paper in front of you a dandy, little wave and write on, my friend. Write on.
One of my favorite filmmakers, Salomon Ligthelm, says it best in this gorgeous little piece. https://vimeo.com/90667610
I surrender to the great abyss.
Before you go, take a couple minutes and revel in the inspiration of a beautifully written scene from one of the greatest trilogies of all time, starring none other than Sean Astin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Soe8ayi3ScE
Sean Astin & I on set of MOMS’ NIGHT OUT last year. In theaters May 9th, 2014.