Friday, February 5, 2010

One Ticked Off Boomer

After sharing with you here how excited I was about actually finishing my first screenplay (and thank you all for your kind words of encouragement) I sent it off to a company that does professional critiques of screenplays. They call these evaluations "coverage". I was anxious to get some feedback from people in "the business" in order to have time to fine tune my script before the end of March when I'm scheduled to pitch it at the Northern California Screenwriter and Filmmakers Expo in Napa. I am new to this so I expected criticism and I anticipated the feedback would be blunt. I did not, however, expect to be bludgeoned. It has taken me a week to pick up my bloodied body and heave my butt back in my writing chair. But...I'M BACK!!

Once I stitched my body parts back together I was able to look more objectively at the criticism. Some of it was actually quite helpful—things like tightening up descriptions, raising the stakes for my protagonist, showing more rather than telling. They thought my main character was appealing and that I did a good job of balancing pathos and humor. They liked a lot of the "tart" dialog. What kicked me in the gut was the last comment I received, "Without the involvement of Nancy Meyers or Meryl Streep no one is going to make a movie about a 60-year old woman."

Really? NO ONE?

Now I realize that we live in a youth obsessed society and nowhere is this more evident than in Hollywood. And I love the movies Nancy Meyers makes, like "Somethings Got to Give" and "It's Complicated". But is hers the ONLY voice people are willing to hear? I adore Meryl Streep but she's not the only Boomer actress out there that people will pay money to see. Is she?

And this comment wasn't about 60-year old men. Look at Clint Eastwood (79) and Harrison Ford (67). It was a comment on WOMEN—specifically, that women as they become older are no longer interesting or worthy of attention.

Have you ever been so angry that you couldn't even form words? So offended that steam jetted out from your ears like a cartoon character? Okay. Welcome to my last week.

But the words are returning and I'm finding a way to channel the steam. I just finished revising my screenplay and sent it out for a new "coverage" from a different agency. I beefed it up and trimmed it down and think it's better for the makeover. But I'm not backing down from the premise of the script. I'm not kicking my heroine to the curb. She refuses to undergo plastic surgery and she's thrown off the invisibility cloak. In her honor I've donned my suit of armor and I'm prepared to charge ahead into the future.

They may have heard the phrase, "Don't mess with Mother Nature." They're about to hear the phrase, "Don't mess with Baby Boomer women."

6 comments:

  1. Trisha... As someone who was in the business for many years writing movies for TV, as well as spec screenplays, I completely understand what you're going through. Everyone in the business likes to say "no", because there is no risk involved. People are scared to death to say "yes." It's especially important to write your first screenplay so that it comes from your heart and represents you well as a writer. Don't worry about its marketability at this point. My first scripts never got made, but they served as excellent writing samples that got me agents and lots of work. That is what should be your focus right now. Best of luck to you.

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  2. While I have little to no experience with "the business," as a fellow writer I can sympathize with how harsh criticism can be. I'm just glad to hear that you were able to take it for what it's worth and have improved your script because of it.

    Kudos on sticking to your guns with your heroine!

    Stopping by from SITS, have a great weekend!

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  3. Best of luck! I look forward to following along and seeing what happens. Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

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  4. Hang in there!

    ...and even though I admit I am 30 (ugh 30) -- I truly enjoy things that don't feel the need to contain blond 20 year olds. ;)

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  5. Criticism, even if constructive, of writing is so personal, that I think you handled it pretty well.

    As for not wanting to hear about a woman of 60 unless it's Meryl Streep, well...she does have that market cornered right now, as does Nancy Myers, but there's always room for Tricia McWhorter...and don't cave in, don't make her 35 or 40 (which would be a totally different experience anyway) until they hand you the big check and that's that only thing they want you to change :) then write another screenplay about a 61 year old woman :)

    Lynn B

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  6. Oh my gosh. You are SO-O-O strong! Something like that would destroy me. Kudos for going back and doing it again!

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Thanks for the messages—I read every one.