A Sense of Community
I was complaining to a friend of mine at my martial arts dojo one time about this business. After listening to my whining for a few minutes he looked at me and said "No one forced you to become a screenwriter." A bit harsh perhaps but he was right. My life, my choices.
My mistake was trying to express my frustration to someone who doesn't understand and work in this business. Had I complained about taking countless breakfalls or sore wrists or two separated shoulders and many dislocated joints from years of doing martial arts, I'm sure I would have gotten a more sympathetic response and then, of course, his list of injuries.
Community is more important than we sometimes give it credit. Sharing pain and joy with people who understand that pain and joy is in itself a joy because the people with whom you're sharing understand you at a level that others don't. Anyone in the arts appreciates what an arbitrary business it can be; how commercial success is always at war with your artistic sensibilities. How someone with far less talent than you can succeed even as you don't.
In martial arts, as with most things, if you do everything right you succeed at a much higher rate than you fail at any given task. In our community, the entertainment business, success is at times arbitrary and fleeting. Even if I write that perfect script it may never get sold or even read by anyone but friends. A TV series can be as well-conceived and well-produced as anything you've ever seen and it will still be canceled because it fails to find an audience or because an exec is having a shitty day.
Success in our field is a matter of hard work, timing, luck, and never taking "no" for an answer. People who don't work in the arts can't fully understand that rejection is our constant shadowy friend who lurks in the periphery of our sight even as we're completing that "perfect" piece of entertainment be it script, film, or monster makeup.
It's human nature to rail against our mates, our friends, our lives, our jobs and the world in general. Everyone gets that stuff. It's when you get into specifics like "My script got optioned but never got made," or "My stupid agent won't call me back" or "He said it was the best thing he ever read and then never bought it" that the differences come out.
May I tell you how many times I've heard: "This project you wrote is so good that it will change your life and make you an A-List writer" only to be ultimately disappointed by the vagaries of Hollywood? I've peeked through the doors of the Emerald City and have been close but even after 19 produced movies, they've never opened quite wide enough for me to slip completely through. See, now I know you like hearing that - that you'd appreciate it because it's probably happened to you or someone you know.
Not even my mom, who is insanely in love with movies and has always supported my career, really understands what I have to go through day after bloody day. She can't. She doesn't work in this business and just can't see how frustrating it can be.
No, for that you need people who are living it. Those who hear a thousand nos but never actually listen to them. Those who see a dozen friends sell something while you're left wondering who you have to screw to just get read.
That's why community is so incredibly important. We need the sympathetic sharing of common pains and common joys; an understanding that goes beyond the general and to the specific. Like sciatica sufferers who hold their backs in appreciation of pain that only they know. Everyone has back pain at some point but those who have gone through the torture of a sciatica attack can appreciate with a finer sense what another is actually feeling...just like this business - the biggest and most consistent pain in the, uh "back" you can ever experience.
So join us, you tired, hungry for a sale, you huddled masses yearning to "do a meeting." Join us in spirit and in person when we have our events at the Regency South Coast Village Theater and our MeetUps and our pizza parties. Sit with those of us who understand you and feel free to moan and bitch about this business.
Let's kumbaya as one raucous voice until someone tells us to shut the hell up (or buys our stuff.)
We at OCSWA actually do get it. We get you because we've been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt (although we've all paid way too much for it and mine doesn't fit me anymore.)
But it's really not even about a bitch-fest (have a little cheese with that whine, Mark?) It's about feeling like you're not screaming in a vacuum; knowing that there are others who feel the same way you do about what you're trying to accomplish and have the same hopes and fears and frustrations.
The Orange County Screenwriters Association is dedicated to bringing resources to this community - the community both physically here in The OC and virtually in all places online. Those of us who have been on the front lines can help you who haven't better understand the processes of this insane business.
At the very least we can pat you on the back and say "Hey, no one forced you to do this." Kidding. I joke.
We're here for you. Really.
So be inspired. Do good work.
We'll appreciate it - even if no one else does.