Will the 80’s save the day?

I am on a serious screenplay deadline today. I have a lot of work to do, much of it only requested yesterday.

I need a miracle.

And so I have pulled out one of my secret writing weapons — the playlist I like to call “The 80’s and Their Friends.” Although most of them aren’t even 80’s songs…. they are basically songs I like from about 1969 through 1992, but they’ve all got that certain something, and besides, I like calling the playlist that. So that’s what I call it.

I don’t have time to list them all for you (because I’m on a deadline!) but they include:

  • Midnight at the Oasis
  • Relax
  • Born To Be Wild
  • Black Water
  • Brother Louie
  • That Lady
  • Rock On
  • Suffragette City
  • Radar Love
  • Kitty’s Back (extra credit points if you know who did this song without having to look it up)
  • Hungry Like the Wolf
  • Bad Medicine
  • and my favoritest song in the world if I could only pick one, The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys

Now let’s see if this set of supersongs can save the day….

Don’t be an asshole

Thank you, Nicola, for pointing me toward this post from agent Nathan Bransford about why writers shouldn’t be assholes.

This is so true. And it syncs up with what I’m doing with Humans At Work (and as an update, the site is in development now and I’m hoping to launch in June). Working with people who are jerks is No Fun, and it’s getting to the point where it’s not necessary either — there are a lot of writers in the world (and sales reps and customer service clerks and executives and produce managers and… well, you get the point), and people in the position to give us work are less likely to do so if they think we don’t know how to play nicely.

Success these days is not just about having talent for one’s work. Certainly as important — perhaps more so, in terms of career if not art — is the talent for effective relationship. I know without doubt that it’s made an enormous difference in my career path so far. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have the chance to break into screenwriting without it. I know it helped with Solitaire. And I’d argue that it’s necessary for art as well. But that’s because I write what I do — I couldn’t very well work at character-based fiction if I didn’t constantly strive to experience and understand the nuances of human relationships.

I remember walking along a busy street in downtown Chicago one day. One car cut off another in traffic — the bumpers nearly came to blows — and then both cars had to stop for a red light just in front of me.

The driver of the rear car — man, 30’s, business suit — leaped out. Slammed the door. Threw open his trunk. And took out a golf club. He held it the way you do when your target is not the little white ball, but the back of someone’s skull…

The driver of the front car scrambled out of his car (bad strategic move, but hey, I’m guessing it was a new situation for him). Also a man, 30’s, business suit.

Golf Club Man chased Jerk Driver Man around his own car at least twice, shouting Don’t! (shake the club) be! (shake the club) an asshole! (shake the club).

Then the light turned green and all the drivers behind them, who were watching in fascination as if it were live TV, started honking. So the two guys got in their cars and drove away.

I don’t know about Jerk Driver Man, but Golf Club Man certainly got my attention. And I think he was absolutely right. Seems like the price of being a jerk comes when you least expect it (that golf club) and sometimes when you don’t even know it — the opportunities you never get because of the backchannel opinions of you that you never hear, but that determine who wants to work with you and who doesn’t.

The lesson I’m learning right now (waves to executive producer) is that it’s really important not to be an asshole just because I am grumpy. I think it’s easy for artists to think it’s okay to have “artistic temperament” (shorthand for I get to act like a yob because I’m all special and stuff). Note to all those folks: go off in the corner and have a sad drink in memory of the good old days. And then get back to work and play nice, because it’s becoming a jerks-not-welcome-world. I can’t wait.

The Rule

As I’ve been thinking more and more about the writing I want to do next — the fiction, and the screenplays — I find myself wanting to publish The Rule on billboards from Hollywood to New York. And maybe tattoo it on a few foreheads.

I first came across The Rule in 1985, thanks to Alison Bechdel. It’s one way of assessing a movie from a feminist perspective.

The Rule is:
1. It has to have at least two women in it
2. who talk to each other
3. about something other than a man.
(and the optional 4th element — it’s really cool if the women have names!).

Go ahead, do the math. You might be surprised how many movies don’t pass the Rule Test. Or maybe you wouldn’t.

Does this mean that Right-Thinking People shouldn’t see movies that can’t pass the Rule Test? Of course not. Good lord, it would certainly leave out a bunch of great film with all-male casts. But if your movie includes women, wouldn’t it be cool if they were real people too? And got to do real people things just like the guys?

Me, I think it would be great. I’d much rather see a film with no women than a film where the men are human beings and the women are mirrors.

See The Rule in action. With thanks to Alison Bechdel for putting it in the world, and her friend Liz Wallace for nailing the idea.

Screen and short stuff

Long time, no pint.

Congratulations on finishing your FIRST screenplay! This is very exciting stuff! What’s the title? What is it about? I’m working on a family drama called A Simple Kind of Man. Did you happen to catch the Screenwriting Expo in October?

Out of left field and rambling (grin)… Perhaps I should stop by more often and hoist back a few with everyone else?



It’s feeling like old home week in the virtual pub (grin). Glad to see you again, Lindsey.

I’m excited about the screenplay, and wish I could talk more about it right now –” but it’s Out In The World as we speak, and I think it’s best to let that process play out before I start slinging details. Although right now it seems that everyone has left Hollywood for the holidays so the process is that the screenwriter sits and waits.

Not that I’m bored. I’m working on a new short story for a collection that I hope will be out next spring –” I’ll post details as soon as the publisher and I have a contract. For those who follow my short fiction, the new story is about Mars (a character about whom I have written before, not the planet). I love the Mars stories and am delighted to be living inside one again for a while.

I’m also working on new screenplays. Regardless of what happens with the one that’s under submission right now, I’m serious about walking through this door that’s been opened for me –” and that means plunging right into the next thing. I’ve got some ideas. Now I have to swim. Robert Frost said in a poem that “work is play for mortal stakes,” and that has never been more true for me than now. I’m having serious fun, fierce fun, and the personal stakes are very high for me.

So, now that I’ve been so annoying uninformative (laughing), can I ask about A Simple Kind of Man? What’s it about, and are you enjoying working on it? What’s it like for you?

I didn’t go to Screenwriting Expo, although I scoured the panel descriptions with longing and would love to be there sometime in the next couple of years, god willing and the creek don’t rise. I’m also dying to attend one of the three-week courses of TheFilmSchool here in Seattle –” intensive learning experiences work pretty well for me as a rule. The last six months have certainly been intense. I’ll look forward to talking more about it when I can.

How’s Bonnie? I remember her quote, “Love and work are both four-letter words” every time I feel like throwing something I’ve written against the wall–¦.

Back to serious fun. Happy Holidays to all.