Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Change in Focus or: Time to Put Up or Shut Up

It's over. At least I think it is. For now. Maybe. I'm not certain. But I'm pretty sure.

Since 1992, my plan had been to sell 3-4 spec scripts to Hollywood, then either use the money the self-produce/direct the next film, or offer the next script to a studio for a deep discount in exchange for the chance to direct. Seemed like a sensible enough plan at the time. And it stayed that way for the next 18 years. Through that time, I settled for less out of life and directly/indirectly imposed the same on the woman I love in the quest for that dream. There were trips we could've gone on, furniture we could've bought, repairs to my car that could've been made (that might've kept it from getting stolen) and all matter of things that we went without because we didn't have the money. But I had the Dream. And that's what carried me through some of the darkest of times.

Now the Dream is dead. At the very least, on life support.

At 32, knocking hard on 33, I've gotten tired - sick and tired, actually, of not doing anything. None of my screenplays have sold, I've suffered through two horrible options, and because of lack of funds, I haven't been able to shoot a short the way I want to since 2007. I've since stopped calling myself a filmmaker when speaking to others, opting to simply go by "writer" or, occasionally, "screenwriter." And let's not mention all the other stuff that's been on arrested development (especially marriage to a certain person with patience rivaling anyone or anything in the known universe).

It's gotten to the point that I'm not even interested in going to film events around town. Last night a major event was held and, technically, I could've gone. But I didn't - chiefly because I couldn't stand to sit and listen to others cheerfully talk about their projects, the fun they had and what they had up next - while I had nothing to look forward to.

I thought I was good enough once. Good enough to break through and sell a screenplay to someone in Hollywood. I even had my list of projects to write and sell, vs. projects I wanted to direct myself. It was a happier time earlier on, before rejection after rejection began to wear on me and slow down my writing process, forcing to obsess over every single comma, semicolon, period and double dash. I've gotten compliments on my work. Even with my most recent, the reader told me my script was a "fun read." Yet it's translated into nothing. I thought for the longest I wasn't getting through because I was Black and so were my scripts, but after the cold reception for Lupus Moon, a mainstream-targeted (there's only three Black people in the script, and one of them, the heroine, is technically half-Black), tentpole-ready, franchise-able project, what am I left to think?

Truth is, though, I still think I'm good enough. Call it arrogance, seeing things through rose-colored glasses or just plain, good old-fashioned delusion, but I think I have what it takes. At least the potential. It just hasn't come together for me. And, for the first time since making The Decision in '92, I doubt it ever will. It's a humbling realization, and an emotionally (and ego) crushing one. It's one I've never allowed myself to give much credence to, but the time has come to re-think things. Everything.

So where does this leave me? The answer is at the same time empowering and terrifying:

"Fuck Hollywood. I'll do it myself."

Sure, it's easy to say, but astonishingly hard to do. But I don't have a choice. I love writing and filmmaking way to much to walk away; it's my life's passion. So, I'll have to strike out on the path that so many others have and focus solely on self-created content. It's a first for me, not having the comfort of the Dream to fall back on. And it's scary. VERY SCARY. I don't have the support system many other indie filmmakers have. I can't ask my family for money because I know their reaction (I often feel they believe less in me than I have at my lowest). I don't have an uncle or grandmother willing to invest $50,000 in my first feature, nor do I possess rich friends (I have a lot of people who call themselves friends and say they believe in me; I wonder how many of them will run or avoid my calls if/when I ask them for money). I'm not in with club and bar owners, and I don't happen to know somebody who knows somebody who's dad owns/has access to an office building or lakeside cabin. Basically, I have nothing. That's not to say it can't be done, but the odds are staggering.

I alluded to several projects a couple of posts ago that comprise my working slate. The only difference is that I won't also be working on a script for Hollywood. I had started a final polish of Lupus Moon spurred by my own feelings about the last draft (and incorporating notes from the coverage I received), but I'm shutting that down as of now (unless a positive response from the queries still out there prompts me to continue). I was also developing Deuce as the third independent feature, but I'm shutting that down as well (no need working on a script that far down the road right now). Moving forward is development on the short films Nisa's Solo and Revelation, as well as the military-themed TV pilot BRAT (working on that with a college friend), and a comedic webseries, The Life and Times of Abigail Waller. I'll be financing everything myself, so needless to say I'm looking for a good job.

I don't know where this road will take me. Then again, I guess I never did. All I had was a hope and a Dream. And though the Dream is dead I still have my hope and determination, which I'll use to shield myself as I traverse this newly-altered path to my ultimate destination - my GOAL.

I've talked about being a filmmaker for years, and I'm tired of it (I'm sure others are, too). Time for me to put up or shut up - for good.


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