I wasn’t kidding when I said I’d rather stay home this week than pay $11.50 to see another Riddick movie. Money’s tight and must not be wasted on franchises that are really one-offs which have overstayed their welcome. However, NOT seeing Riddick (and therefore being ignorant of the plot details) put me in the unique position of being able to create a best-guess story pieced together from the results of a Google image search for ‘Riddick,’ which, let’s face it, will probably be more entertaining than the real plot of the movie anyway.
So on we go with:
Writers are, by nature, control freaks. When they’re writing a book or a screenplay, they’re in total control. They create the characters, decide on the setting, invent the plot, and just generally bend the story to their will. A lot of writers will give you that “oh, my characters have control, really” spiel, but that’s just their overactive imaginations talking. They created the characters (consciously or not) and only they are allowed to tell them what to do. They get very anxious when anyone else tries to horn in on their territory, such as an editor or a producer or even (especially) another writer.
How then, do movies get made? With a great deal of pain and suffering on the part of the writer, that’s how. Once all the various people get their filthy mitts on the original story (agents, editors, publishers, screen writers, ghost writers, producers, directors, actors, etc.) it barely resembles itself at all, and by this point the writer is nearly out of his or her head with agony. (If you don’t believe me, read this).
Without writers, movies can’t get made. But they can’t get made without directors and producers and all the rest of them either. So what’s the solution? I call it “Pre-Grief Counseling for Writers.” I imagine it would go something like this:
A disturbing number of people out there believe that if they possess a modicum of talent and are brave enough to move to a big city, they will eventually, some way, some how, be “discovered” and become a famous icon of the artistic profession of their choice. The reality is that the percentage of hopefuls who achieve this dream is depressingly small.
So why do we all believe, deep in our hearts, that it’s possible, and that it will happen to us? Because all we ever hear are the success stories. An attractive young man is out walking his dog and gets discovered and becomes famous (David Boreanaz of Buffy The Vampire Slayer ). A frumpy older woman sings a song in a contest and ends up becoming famous (Susan Boyle’s “I Dreamed a Dream” on Britain’s Got Talent).
We can recognize, logically, that there must be some failures, but we never have to hear about them, so it’s easy to pretend that won’t be us, especially when we read celebrity bios and find lots of commonalities between their early lives and ours. “Oh, he used to pretend to be people he admired when he was in school! I used to do that!” (Josh Lucas) or “Oh, she used to write poetry as a teenager! I used to do that!” (Danielle Steele).
I could say: NEWS FLASH! Everyone messes around with creative stuff in school and 99.995% of them never go anywhere. Just because you wrote angsty “no one understands me” poems that sounded suspiciously like the lyrics off a Three Doors Down album when you were 15 does not mean you are destined to be a modern day Lord Byron. Having a career in a creative profession isn’t about the famous part, it’s about the creative part. The tiny minority of uber-famous, uber-rich creatives has blinded people to the existence of the massive number of creatives who toil in relative obscurity for no reward other than their own satisfaction. (Translation: you are much more likely to become ME than to become Stephen King).
But people generally don’t respond well to random pessimism. They need proof. They need stories. They need biographies! So I present to you the story of Elsie Mae Plimpkin.