ZEN IN THE ART OF SCREENWRITING: Failure – I didn’t hear a bell, did you?

Jose Prendes has written multiple films and novels, including his latest film The Divine Tragedies and novel, Sharcano, which is as awesome as it sounds and can be found here with his other books. Current whereabouts are unknown… Follow Jose on Twitter: @JosePrendes.

Click to tweet to your friends and followers!

4438857719_a817668c76_oFirst, I’d like to thank the friends, old and new, who enjoyed and disseminated the first article in this column. I am humbled that it lit a few fires and stoked a few others. Please continue to share your inspirations with me. This is what this column is for, to breathe life. A gentle reminder, or sometimes a vigorous push, to help you course correct and keep you in the fight. I turned 36 on the 26th of April, and as I approach my 40s it starts to sink in how long I’ve been in the fight and thought it was a good time to reevaluate my fighting stance, wipe my brow, and check my knuckles for cuts. You see, writing is a lot like boxing. The bell dings and you enter the ring the moment you first put writing utensil to paper. And boy, you come out swingin’ like a son of a bitch. The trick is to duck, dodge, and keep swinging. Sometimes the prize can blur behind a vale of tears, or when a left hook cuts you above the eye and sticky red stuff pours down your face; let’s call this rejection.

Rejection fucking sucks.

Look, I’m not an expert. I’m not a script guru by any means, because there are no real gurus. I’m just a fellow boxer, so allow me to commiserate and share some recent knocks to the head with you guys. A few scripts I submitted to certain festivals didn’t make the cut. And I script I sent to a studio for consideration was turned down, despite the fact that they enjoyed it and left the door open for me to send in future specs. I took this in stride, I’m an old punching bag. I have a wife and two kids to support, and I need a sale, but I am no stranger to rejection. Odds are, if you’ve been in the screen trade for long, you have your own set of scars. Hell, even the cats who managed to knock down the scratching posts get spanked now and then.

So, what does rejection mean? Am I wrong? Were the ones who rejected me right?

I believe in my work. I believed in the scripts I submitted as good and interesting and fun and worthy. Should rejection negate their worth, or my talent, in my eyes? The answer, and I think you know this, is of fucking course not. We must remember that while we bleed and strain our souls onto electronic paper, the end result of that sweaty creation process is sadly not up to us. We cannot force a studio to buy our script; we cannot force a festival to give us the award so that CAA or WME can read our brilliant martians versus Bigfoot opus. Financial pressures and four-quadrant thinking has overridden the industry, and it is no longer enough for the studio to like your script. It has to be marketable and have an audience from ages 1 to 100. That doesn’t mean that your concept isn’t exactly what they want, but folks are a little more weary on pulling the trigger on unknowns, so you get clipped on the chin or get served with a wallop to the temple.

Right around now is when you feel your joints creaking. The constant swinging and ducking and dodging is wearing you down, pal. The bruises are stacking up. The cuts are deep and gushing. Your feet feel like lead and your head feels like warm tapioca. You’re in an endless fight, desperately throwing jabs, hoping to win. But the truth is there is no winning, only thriving. There is no such thing as “making it” in Hollywood. Someone “hot” today, can easily be forgotten tomorrow. You thrive, get a few solid meat and bone hits, or you give up and kiss the mat; we’ll call that honest-to-God failure.

The good news is you can get the fuck back up before the bell dings to end the fight.

Like my good friend and yours, Mister Rocky Balboa, said: “…it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get him, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done… but you gotta be willing to take the hits and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you want to be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that, and that ain’t you.”

Somewhere, deep down in that psyche of yours, you can hear the crowd going wild for you. Now, don’t get cocky, the fight is still roaring around you. You can hear Mickey, in your corner, shouting in his gruff, old man’s voice, “Hey, I didn’t hear no bell!” He’s right. Yeah, so you’re cut, your bruised like week-old fruit, you’re a sad sack of anxieties and feel like you’re a no good hack. You could lay down and die, that’s easy. But you could also float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Look down at your hands. You still got your gloves on, you son of a bitch.

I didn’t hear a bell, did you?

Get more advice on launching your career with this Screenwriting Tutorial FREE Preview!

Watch the full video for Writing the Spec Script that Launches Your Career for $16.99 or Subscribe to see an unlimited amount of videos for only $25 a month!

One thought on “ZEN IN THE ART OF SCREENWRITING: Failure – I didn’t hear a bell, did you?

  1. Gordon

    Is that Ali vs. Cleveland Williams? Or Ernie Terrell?
    I fought in the NY State Golden Gloves four times, and I agree, writing is like boxing. Especially the importance of tenacity.
    Great article!

COMMENT