Screenplay Q & A

What went wrong, Lindsay?

Pam, a good family friend (and essentially honorary family member), posted a very good comment on my latest screenplay post. She had a couple questions about my screenplay and I realize I haven’t said a lot about it. Part of this is out of paranoia of my ideas being stolen and part of it is because I feel silly talking about the story when it’s still in its early stages. But, since she asked, and since I love nothing more than talking about it, here goes.

I keep referring to “Rush Week” as “‘Mean Girls’ goes to college,” which, a friend recently pointed out, is not helpful if you’ve never seen that movie. “Mean Girls,” written by Tina Fey, stars Lindsay Lohan before she was crazy. She plays a high school student who, until recently, was home schooled. She begins public school and, in spite of herself, ends up running around with the cool kids. Completely disgusted by their horrible personalities, she decides to exact revenge on the popular crowd on behalf of her real friends, a couple of misfits. My screenplay takes place in a college setting and centers around a college freshman who seeks to go undercover for the school newspaper and write about the five sororities on her campus. She writes mean things about them, they retaliate with mean spirited pranks, she guns for them even harder, she finds redemption and realizes she may have been wrong in her initial impressions of Greek life. It’s based on a real article I once wrote about the rush process at my college that pissed off about every sorority on campus, except instead of thinking I might have made a mistake, it took me a few years to realize I may have been a little too hard on everyone involved.

Q. Are you looking for a commercial “hit” or just seeing if there’s an audience for your message?

A. This is, in my mind, more commercial hit material than my masterpiece. I am really proud of what I’ve written, but I am also writing it while keeping in mind its mainstream potential. This is not an indie film script. I’m hoping to write my “Little Miss Sunshine” down the road after I have some more experience. As for a message, I like to think this is a story about journalistic ethics. But since most people couldn’t care less about ethical journalism, let’s say it’s about sorority girls and non-sorority girls learning to be nice to each other and not dumping pig blood on anyone at the prom. That sounds far more interesting.

Q. What’s your target audience? If you need to expand your world, you might want to think about who exactly you’d like to have read your script. Will your audience be your age? Your dad’s age? Tall? Married? Precocious? (Hannah [my ten-month-old niece] might be interested in eating your script).

A. My audience will likely be the 18-34 demographic – maybe college educated, maybe not. This is a PG-13 script, not R. A web site I read recommended I “interview” my major characters in order to get to know them better, and as a result, write them better. Make them seem more real to the reader. I am hoping to do this exercise very soon because I think it will help my dialogue flow a little easier.

So, thanks Pam, for asking some good questions. I am writing a lot this week, and it’s very encouraging to me to know that people are interested in how it’s going!

Learning to love living alone

The first night being back at the apartment, I couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t even because of the neighbors, like it would be most of the several following nights. But after that first night, I felt a little more used to being alone and started to even enjoy it. I started reading a John Grisham novel that a friend had recommended while I was on jury duty. It’s a court room drama, and it is far more interesting than any of those cases I didn’t get to sit in on in Franklin County. On Saturday morning, before heading to Cleveland, I picked up some audio books from the library for the trip. On the way to Cleveland and back I listened to half of “Eat, Pray, Love.” It was so engaging that I ended up listening to another disc and a half of it when I got home while I cleaned the apartment.

The neighbors, as I’ve said, are still pretty oblivious. There’s at least two of them, and sometimes an annoying dog. One of them is often listening to music above my bed, while the other plays a game on top of the living room. Most nights, the video game noise is far less obtrusive to my sleeping schedule, so I’ll go to sleep on the couch until I wake up at some point in the middle of the night, realize it’s gone quiet, and finally go to bed in comfort. For some reason I can’t bring myself to confront them. When Brandon was there, I was braver; either I’d talk him into knocking on their door, or I’d go up myself, Brandon always behind me. It’s not that I’m afraid of our neighbors; I am just feeling too exhausted to worry about what they’ll think of me, or find new ways to phrase the same request politely, so instead I choose to endure it. Something has changed here; I’m a wuss now. Maybe I always was, but Brandon’s presence brought out the backbone in me.

I haven’t been watching the usual (sad) amount of TV shows on DVD, even though I could. The night I moved in I watched one single episode of “The Office” while I ate dinner, and that was it. Lately I’ve been sort of conflicted about my love of watching episode after episode of shows; it’s absolutely not a productive use of my time, and yet it’s something I consider worthwhile because I enjoy it so much. If only I could limit myself to only watching one or two episodes of something, they would last longer and I could get more stuff done; but, much like a bag of chips, I can’t have just one. So for now, I’m choosing to have nothing at all. Anyway, if I really want to watch TV, then maybe I can take the time to figure out how the heck to get episodes of shows on my iPhone and I can watch something while I’m at the gym. The books I’m reading are helping, and I am getting surprising satisfaction out of shaping up the apartment, although that hobby is quickly getting expensive.

Last night, I had a very productive and social evening. I went to the gym, to Cup O’ Joe’s, and then to my aunt’s to watch the new episode of “Glee” with her and my cousins. After that, I had an interesting experience. When I got home after 10:30, the neighbors were in full swing over the living room. They must have gotten a new game, one in which the point is to blast things up as loudly as possible, because all I could hear and feel were these shuddering, inconsistent rumbles through the walls.

Annoyed, I decided to plug some headphones into my computer and sat down at my desk to work on my screenplay. I told myself if they were still that loud by 11:30 or so, I’d finally go up there to ask them to keep it down in the future. Several pages later, I suddenly realized I didn’t feel the rumbling anymore; they had stopped. I looked up at the clock to see it was nearly 1 a.m. I’d outlasted them. Not only that, but I’d made some pretty decent headway on my screenplay. Victory at last! Who needs sleep, right? You’ve got to admit, waiting it out might not be the worst strategy in the world if it means I am making good use of my time. But I know some of you will disagree, so I leave you with the promise that I will confront them next time, when I really do need to go to sleep and can’t afford to sit and write for another two hours.