Here’s the end of semester summary, which he titled The End”, written by Daniel on May 9, 2002. He died in a car crash May 13, 2002.
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.” Confucius. Philosopher and teacher.
Conflict. The desires of characters. Visual storytelling. Focusing on the story. Letting go of what isn’t needed. Being open to change.
I learned this semester much the same as last. Throw in rising complications, the Passover question, and letting the characters talk for themselves. Three act structure. Reversals, midpoints, events. Terms. Lots of terms.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw. Nobel laureate.
We’re done now, and my brain hurts, and I’m feeling like being blunt. I knew most of this stuff coming in. It happens automatically when you’re writing from the heart. You know what’s wrong, you fix it, and the script moves closer and closer to form. Because form is the structure of a well-written script.
I could have gone my whole life without ever knowing the terms. It’s probably better not to know them. Frankly, I’m worried about what knowing them may do to my integrity. I’m terrified of getting caught up in them and writing boring, clichéd, formulaic scripts. Page after page, scene after scene, story after story about two people arguing. Conflict.
“You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.” Eric Hoffer. Philosopher and author.
What have we learned? What are you teaching? Characters should want things. It’s more interesting if they want different things. Other things should happen to keep them from getting things. Tension should rise, intensity should build, and at some point it should come to a head. And then the thing’s over.
It seems obvious to me. It seems like it should be obvious to everyone. But I saw, I read and I critiqued and I saw people grow, some more than others and some not really at all. I saw people who didn’t know the obvious things you were teaching, and I saw them learn and become better writers because of it. I worry about how bad they were before.
“Everywhere I go, I’m asked if the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.” Flannery O’Connor. Journalist, I think.
But I learned too. I learned the terms. And I catch myself asking if my scenes have events. And I catch myself checking where my inciting incident falls. And I catch myself making my scripts move better by shaping them to form.
I came in September feeling validated as a writer. I saw the first scripts and hoped I was a better writer than that. I knew coming in that what I’d get from this program is the ability, through forced labor, to rewrite and revise my scripts. I’m doing that now. I’m seeing room for improvement. So really, I learned what I expected.
“I am no more humble than my talents require.” Oscar Levant. Composer.
And the terms. I learned the terms. I can label the elements in all of my scripts. If they’re missing, I can put them in. If something’s wrong, I can ask myself what instead of waiting until it comes to me. I just hope against hope it doesn’t hold me back. Because worrying about how can make you forget why. I’d hate to forget why. I’m all about why.
Maybe I’m pompous. Maybe I’m confident. Maybe I’m just in a kiss my ass mood. I worked this year. I worked hard. I’m still working hard, I’m still doing rewrites. And I’ve changed, I’ve learned, whether I wanted to or not. I’ve seen bad writing, I’ve seen good writing, I’ve seen them both from others and from me. I’m glad I came and I’m glad I’m here, and I’m sure I’ll learn more in the next two years. I’m sure I’ll continue to change and grow. And I’m sure I’ll continue to be a pompous ass.
“We are all born originals – why is it so many of us die copies?” Edward Young. Poet.
I am a good writer. I know that. That’s why I’m here. And while I’m here I’ll show other people just what it is I can write. I’m writing two and a half features this summer, that’s my goal for the break. I’m writing specs, I’m writing plays, I’m writing pilots and shorts. And at the same time I’m running a production company, and at the same time I’m in pre-prod on an independent feature. A feature that will make people know me, make people hate me, or not get me noticed at all.
I’m working. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned. I’ve been working all year, and it’s been work. I’ve learned what it means to write what you want. This summer I can write what I want. This summer it won’t just be work.
“We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.” Anne Lamott. Writer.