DEFIANCE: friend or foe?
I’ve always been defiant. Even when I was a little girl, my parents knew that the last way to get me to do something was to tell me to do it. I could be reasoned with, cajoled, asked or bribed, but never ordered.
Through the years, my defiance has gotten me into a lot of trouble. It’s put me at odds with supervisors, clients and friends. It has definitely caused some fights between my husband and me.
When it comes to my writing, though, I can use my defiance to my advantage. True, I often rebel against my own action plans and schedules. That’s okay, as long as things get done in a reasonable time frame, and deadlines are met.
So where does all this defiance help out? It helps when no one but me really cares whether I write or not; when no one thinks I will ever get anywhere as a screenwriter. I’m too old to start, the jobs are too hard to get, and I don’t know the right people. Sometimes the messages come from family and friends, and sometimes from inside me. My defiance says “I’ll prove you wrong.” Sometimes it says “That may be true for the rest of the world, but not for me.”
You can call it tenacity, fortitude, persistence, dedication or self-discipline. All of those words are applicable to my pursuit of a screenwriting career. But when I’m sitting in front of my computer writing a screenplay, it doesn’t feel like any of those words apply. It feels like I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It feels like home.
That’s where my good friend Defiance steps up and says, “I will do this for a living, because I’m good at it. Nothing anyone says can stop me.”
The topic in the forefront of my mind lately has been the TV vs. Movie-writing debate. At a Christmas party last month, I met several new people, one of whom instantly called me a sellout when I mentioned I want to work in TV.
It wasn’t the first time that had happened, either. In the Big Apple, screenwriters are all about their indie features and much too sophisticated to ever sit down in front of the small screen (unless it’s to watch “Mad Men,” which is politically acceptable). It might be different in LA, but New Yorkers seem to still consider the world of TV beneath them.
Since my blog is called karenlovestv, you won’t be surprised that I don’t feel that way. In fact, I think that it’s very difficult to find an indie feature (or any movie in the theater, for that matter) as enjoyable and well-written as a good TV drama. My current favorites are “American Horror Story” and “Sons of Anarchy.” I’m also a huge fan of “Shameless,” “Game of Thrones,” and am getting into “How to Make it in America.”
Since the casts of those shows include big-name movie stars, I have to assume that much of the world agrees with me that TV is the best entertainment available today. As a writer, I can’t imagine that anyone would prefer to write movies!
I can hear the screams from here. But hear me out…
1. Screenwriting is about saying a lot in a few words, and there is no way that can be done more effectively than in a 45 minute episode. Generally there are three or four story lines, each thematically linked (if it’s good) and emotionally satisfying on its own, telling each of those stories in an entertaining way with a beginning, middle and an end. In and out, quick and dirty. Amazing.
2. All of those individual episodes combine over a season or several seasons to tell your story in its fullest and most satisfying and indulgent way. The writer is the first to fall in love with the characters, and then week by week, gets to see millions of people fall in love with them, too.
3. Writing in a team ensures that the vision of the series is respected, the quality stays good, and no one person is responsible for the brilliance of any particular episode. That means that if you have a good team, the end result is better than any one person could come up with. It’s simultaneously humbling and a great relief. You can roll up your sleeves and check your ego at the door.
4. The better the writing is, the more the director, actors and everyone else involved have to work with. That means, they can see things happening and bring new layers to the story that the writers didn’t even know were there. By doing their jobs, they make you look good. I can’t imagine anything more exciting than hearing dialogue I wrote come out of a gifted actor’s mouth, conveying something better than I intended. To have that happen on a weekly basis?… priceless.
5. To write for a living with a steady paycheck, benefits and great money is something most filmmakers don’t get to experience often. For me, it will be a dream come true. And it will be fun to work with other people who feel the same.
6. What a great example it would be for my kids to have a mom who went after her dreams and used her talents and hard work to achieve them. I believe that just going after them has a huge impact on their lives, not to mention the sense of fulfillment I get from using my talents every day. Way better than Prozac.
So the next time someone accuses me of selling out, I can smile to myself. I know the truth. TV is where I’d rather be.