Monday, February 11, 2008

The Rocky Road to Dublin

Well, shit.

I have just had one of the strangest, most frustrating experiences I think I've had in my whole life.

I signed up for a course called "Second Chance Cinema" with the Princeton Adult School, which basically means me and 68 senior citizens in an auditorium on the Princeton campus getting a chance to watch films we didn't get to see in theatrical release. Eighty bucks for 13 films, only two of which I'd already seen. A good idea, yes? Monday night = Caroline's night to go see a flick and have some Caroline time. Yay!

Except today, the first film, "The Wind That Shakes The Barley." I don't even know how to describe it, what happened.

The curator/emcee got up and described the movie, did his intro, gave the proles and droolers a little background on Ken Loach and his style of filmmaking. All very standard.

The lights went out, the movie started, and the first scene was like Paul Laverty broke into my house two years ago and cherry-picked scenes from one of my scripts, inserted them into his screenplay, and made the fucking thing with Ken Loach.

I thought, "This is my movie. Fuck! Fucking Ken Loach made my movie!"

But he didn't, really. It's a very different movie. It just happens to have some of the exact same scenes I wrote in my script The Long Black Veil eight years ago at USC. This has never happened to me before - it was the strangest thing, sitting there, watching scenes unfold almost exactly as I'd imagined them in my head (and wrote them in my script). It was partly exhilarating - like, "YES! That's exactly how it should look!" and "Oh, perfect! That's it! That's perfect!"

It wasn't until I really thought about it a little bit that I was overcome with the "Oh, fuck!" feeling. I can never make my movie now. Or if I do, I'm going to have to drastically change several key scenes.

It's not plagiarism, obviously. It's just a case of two people having very similar ideas. And, the Big Fucking Difference, of course, is that Ken Loach actually went out and got the funds and the actors and the equipment and Made The Goddamn Movie, whereas, what have I been doing for the last eight years? Oh, sitting around with my thumb up my butt, thank you very much. And they're not really the same story, at all. TWTSTB is more of a political polemic (a Ken Loach film, in other words) while TLBV is a romance. A period Irish historical romance. Gah!

I guess I should be glad that it was a Ken Loach movie and not a fucking Ron Howard movie or something like that. Jerry Bruckheimer, worse. At least I like Ken Loach's movies. Mostly.

I'm so angry with myself. I worked so hard on that script, and it's been sitting in a fucking Staples filing box for six years, being carted around from LA to New York to Boston to Princeton. And now it's toast. It's dead. I might as well burn the fucking thing.

But you should see these scenes! See the movie! Go see it! Rent it! The hurling scene at the very opening - the whole idea of sport as a metaphor for war, for the stupid games men play. The scene at the ceilidh dance, with the fiddlers! The couples whirling around, and the camera picking out the couple we're really interested in, seeing their shining faces as they spin because they think they've really got something to celebrate, when in fact it's all going to crumble soon, and only we know how fragile their elation is, because we know what's coming. Those scenes. Those scenes are right out of my head.

Arrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhh. I'm going to go kill myself now.

Thanks for reading.


Erica said...

Oh man, that's a super bummer! What the hell! That must have been the strangest feeling. I can relate a little bit, I have seen illustrations that I swear must have been plucked right out of my head. Don't let it get you down. Circle the wagons and rally! Rally! Let it fuel the fire under your butt and get writing, sister!

Electric Mayhem said...

Joy, you've got many more good ideas in that creative head of yours. I know how this sucks, given the care you put into TLBV, but once you get over this you can put your energy into something new and great.

Also, every time I think of Ken Loach, I think of "Lair of the White Worm". Ewww. That falls under your Irrational Fears post.

Adams said...

What?! Is someone talking bad about Lair of the White Worm?! I will not have it. That movie is like a delicious melty ham and cheese sandwich, only without the ham and bread.

As for this tragedy: it's every screenwriter's greatest fear. It's more terrifying than the thought of getting your work up on the screen and having it bastardized by some hack director.

I am working on something right now that I am convincedI have about 18 months left on before I see it on the big screen somewhere. You can't f*ck with the zeitgeist, man. When ideas are out there, they're just out there.

Zach said...


But don't burn it.

Also, when will the Caroline/Ebony collaborative screenplay be underway?