Saturday, March 25, 2006

Determined or dumb?

Courtesy of a thread on the Triggerstreet message board, this is the story of how I got my script written and submitted for last Winter's Writer's Arc fellowship.

I'd written the first 40 or so pages in about 3-4 months (with about 2 more months of "head writing") when suddenly, I had made it into round 2 of the Writer's Arc competition. No more screwing around, I had to finish it in 10 days. This was a hard and fast deadline, with no way to extend it. Talk about pressure. Get this... to add just a smidge more stress... I had already made plans and paid for a trip to LA for the Screenwriting Expo. Plus, I had a meet-n-greet set up with a producer who might have been interested in hiring me for a script based upon an idea of his. (Didn't pan out, he wanted work for free.) So, how many hours a day could I realistically write while at the Expo? Not many. I don't have a laptop, so I borrowed my friend David's laptop (down to 8 days by the time I got it), get FD loaded (had difficulties), I finally get it set up so I can write on the plane; which I do, both ways. Meanwhile at the Expo, lugging the laptop, I go to several classes, see speakers, etc. and I skip the closing ceremonies as I was in the hallway busy hammering out pages. (One guy walked by and said "Looks like you're the only one getting any work done this weekend!") If he only knew...

When I got home, I had to juggle work and client demands (I remodel houses-- mostly for gay men who are positively neurotic about their homes), after I drive 45 minutes each way to get my dog (I'm single remember.. no one to help me with mundane things like oh, say, dinner.} All this, before I can try to finish the script.

Of course, I hit a software problem when I tried to transfer pages to my PC so I could open what I had written in LA and on the plane! Thankfully, I was able to figure it out on FD's site and didn't have to PAY for their assistance (I would have if I had too) before I could begin typing again! GAH! More time (my most precious resource) down the drain!

So, day of the deadline... MUST BE POSTMARKED TODAY! No exceptions. No postmark, I can kiss the contest, and any chances of even placing let alone winning, goodbye. I'm down by at least 20 pages. It's 6AM, I've got the end in mind but not in sight and I'm thanking whatever gods there are that Atlanta has a 24 hour post office. I also throw up a hasty "thanks" because I know how to get there and don't have to resort to Mapquest. Here's how the rest of the day went...

6:15AM, I've slugged down two Diet Cokes, chewed up a bagel and walked the dog. I sit down to write the hell outta this biotch, cause really, what choice do I have?

I don't move from the computer (except for answering Nature's call and letting Sophie out so she can answer that same call) for the next 17 hours. No shower, no lunch, no dinner, no nothing but the words in my head and the on the page. Phone's unplugged and cell phone is OFF. My friends? My clients? Can wait. This? Can't.

11:00 pm. I'm typing (FINALLY) "Fade Out" and the printer is spitting out pages 78 and beyond. No time for proofreading or anything else. I gotta get out the door! Where's my freaking shoes! Aghh, where's the keys!

11:30, I climb into the car with ONE copy of the script, on plain paper and beeline it to the 24 hour Post Office... Through Friday night midtown Atlanta partying (going the speed of "cruising") traffic. If THESE sumabitches don't get out my way, I'ma hafta kill somebody!

11:50, I pull into the Hapeville Post Office having driven down I-75 at over 80 miles per hour and (literally) RUN into the Post Office.

There's a line.

11:53, I step up to the counter, look the Postal Clerk right in his eyes and tell him "I know this is going to sound strange, but you're holding the rest of my life in your hands right now."

PC: "Huh?"

I proceed to explain about the contest, the deadline, I have to make another copy, etc...

He looks ME right in my eye and says:

"I'm sorry, I cain't help you. I get off in 6 minutes."

He glances right at those BIG RED numbers that announce to my sinking heart 11:54:08 PM

I beg. "Please, isn't there ANYTHING you can do?

He says: "I cain't, but those two down on the end might could, they working all night."

So, I bolt down there and repeat my pitch. Miracles do happen kids, one of the two (BLESS that woman!) says "Well, I'm not 'posed to do dis, but if'n you need me too, I can hold back one of them hand cancellers and not change the date 'til you ready."

I could have kissed that woman! But, she might not have liked it. Being straight and all.

Then she says the most amazing thing:

"But, you gonna hafta buy stamps!"

"Stamps? Lady, I'll buy ALL the stamps you got in this building if that's what it takes! Whadda I care, if it's stamps or stickers? Long as it GETS there!"

Besides, I had more pressing problems, I needed two, count'em TWO copies, properly bound with brads and with the correct covers. Did I mention it's PAST midnight? I got ONE copy and not only is there no three hole punch paper, there's no three hole punch or cover stock to be had at the Post Office. So, I belly up to the counter again, and beg the woman to wait on changing that hand canceller until I get back from Kinko's. She waivers. I give her the puppy dog eyes. She agrees. (BLESS HER!)

I scurry off into the night to the nearest (and only) Kinko's that I know of, which is (of course) 6 blocks from my home. Which, it turns out, USED TO BE open 24 hours. Some time ago, I (obviously) don't know when, Kinko's ceased running ALL of their stores on a 24/7 basis and now just runs one or two, in various locations throughout Atlanta.

Which location? Well, your guess would be as good as mine or the Security Guard's. Unless your guess is "How the hell am I supposed to know that shit!?!" Then, you'd just be repeating me. So, now that I'm back in midtown Atlanta, I decide to go home and jump online to find out where I can go get the copies made.

Did I mention it's closing in on 1:00 AM by now?

Finally, (Kinko's site suxs!) I discover that the ONLY 24 hours Kinko's that doesn't require a 45 minute drive is, in fact, not THAT far from midtown Atlanta, because it's in DOWNTOWN Atlanta. Which, at this hour of the night, is desserted except for the homeless, the winos, the possibly criminal gangsta and the occasional conventioneer, lost, drunk and broke after his trip to the local strip joints.

Sometimes, a girl has to do what a girl has to do... I headed down there to join them.

When I get out of my car (carefully parking it in a well lit place), a wino lifts his head off the pavement and softly burps at me. I politely ignore him, and his horrid manners, to go inside the desserted office building where the Kinko's is located on the second floor. After I sign into the building under the sleepy eye of the "security" guard, I proceed to the counter to get a pass key, where the skinny guy behind the counter proceeds to cross examine me about what weight of cover stock I want. Evidently, they don't keep 110 lbs stock on hand. Would 80 lbs cover stock do? DAMN, MAN, just gimme whacha got! After we get that squared away, I tell him that I need 3 hole paper. They were OUT. (Of course!) I made him drill some for me. Yes, they can do that, although they don't like too... think I cared?

THEN as I wait for the guy to ring me up so I can get the hell out of there, a VERY large (not in height) man comes in and begins to flirt. "PLEASE! MISTER! I AIN'T GOT TIME FOR THIS BULLSHIT!" I felt like shouting but didn't. I merely paid up and beat feet.

Time check? 2:25.

I finally got to the post office, and bellied up to the counter (again) in front of that lovely lovely lovely lady and hand her my crumpled package; a cardboard box with my 2 scripts, properly punched, properly covered and properly number 6 acco brass brad bound. She weighs the package, slaps a boatload of stamps on it, gets the hand canceller which (BLESS THAT WOMAN) is still marked with the correct day, and makes damn sure that the date shows, plain as day, right on the label.


I thanked her profusely for her help as I pay.

Her response?

"Oh, gurl, 's least I could do for someone as determined as you. Good luck!"

(Bless that woman!)

Btw, that script got me into the finals.


At 8:24 AM, March 25, 2006, Blogger Georgi Rimsakov said...

you have a fantastic screenplay that could emerge just from your script mailing experiences!

At 8:37 AM, March 25, 2006, Blogger me said...

if your script was as exciting as this your a winner for sure! when will we get to see that? or read the book or whatever.....

At 9:30 AM, March 25, 2006, Anonymous Alexandra said...

I have to agree, you have the making of another screenplay in this story alone!

I think the gods that be, blessed you with the touch of the Blarney stone and, that Miss Postal Worker was likewise touched by your plight. Phew!

That's the determination that will get you were you need to go, Sweetheart. Good luck.

At 10:51 AM, March 25, 2006, Blogger shecanfilmit said...

I don't see a feature length piece but rather a killer 25-minute short that you could shoot for cheap....

At 1:54 AM, March 26, 2006, Blogger Chris said...

Jeez, makes my Writer's Arc submission Friday sound like a walk in the park. I too spent the whole day finishing up the rewrite. My post office closed at 10p though, so I had to wrap up everything by 8 or 9 to make it downtown with the copies. I was in the computer lab of the law school where I teach (and get free PC and printing access). 7 o'clock rolls around, finalize the draft - no time to proofread for me either - convert to .pdf, go to print a copy . . . nothing. For some reason (I later learned you can't print more than 100 pages at one time), nothing is coming out of the printer. And at 8p on a Friday nite, no tech people are around and no other faculty in their offices where I might print in a pinch. Now I start freaking but, as with you, I thought Kinko's might be my salvation. Drive down to the only one in the city. Get there by 7:45 to find they're closing at 8p and won't even try to print a copy off a disk. It would have taken all of the time it took to put the disk in and click "print." But they're worthless and now I'm *really* freaking out. So I get on the phone to the attorneys at the firm I had just left and just start begging for one of them to come down to the offices and help me print it. Luckily, one of them is home and agrees to meet me at the office. Saved! Get the hard copy printed out, take it up to the industrial lawyer-strenght copier, make two copies with automatic 3-hole punching (the best invention ever), and make it to the post office with all of about 6 minutes left to get it in the mail and on it's way to Melrose Ave. But, as your postal worker said, sometimes determination conquers all and I made it under the wire and also made it to the finals. I wouldn't want to do it again that way though.

At 5:53 PM, March 26, 2006, Blogger Grubber said...

LMAO, great story WG!!!!! Loved reading about it. Glad you made it, nice to see there are some helpful people in tne postal service!

At 10:48 PM, March 26, 2006, Blogger writergurl said...

Thanks to all who suggesed a script from this experience! I doubt there's enough material there for a feature but I might hammer out a short from it. Thanks for the suggestion!

Chris, dude, I soooo feel you. GAHHHH! Next time brother, next time!

Dave, yeah, see, it's not always bad at the Post Office, it's just the "going postal" that ya gotta watch for! ;)

At 10:49 PM, March 26, 2006, Blogger writergurl said...

Btw, look for a link in the sidebar in the next couple days that will let you read a couple shorts that I've already mentioned on the widdle blog here.

At 11:48 PM, March 27, 2006, Blogger oneslackmartian said...

good god, gurl, that's some serious stuff . . . haha, i can't believe my heart is pounding from reading about your episode

At 1:55 AM, March 29, 2006, Blogger mernitman said...

woa, that really is a blog-scroller! and yeah, it would make a good short.

interesting though isn't it, how when you put out a certain kind of energy, somehow it can come back at you through the right sort of person -- you generate it, they tune into it... that woman goes on the "Good Things About the Humans" list...

At 5:20 PM, March 29, 2006, Blogger writergurl said...

Slack, glad you hung on for the ride.

Billy, yes, that woman DESERVES to be on the list.

At 12:42 AM, March 31, 2006, Blogger The Film Diva said...

JEEZUS WEPT!! Good lord, woman! I almost had an anxiety-panic attack reading that! Why did you submit a script you hadn't finished??!! You're killing me! I'm one of those finish-things-a-month-in-advance folks....

At 4:14 PM, March 31, 2006, Blogger writergurl said...

FD... no, I submitted a short script for the first round, just to see if I could make it into the second round and then HAD to get it done and sent by the deadline. I had it written in my head and with a (ok, it was very spotty but still..) outline completed so it's not like I was totally winging it.

Just winging it some... ;)

At 6:28 PM, March 31, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6:53 PM, March 31, 2006, Blogger writergurl said...

Damn it! The last comment? Blog spam. (Reason for the removal.) Hopefully, it'll not be a recurring thing, I'd just as soon NOT turn on the word verification thing.

Keep your fingers crossed that I don't get more spam!

At 1:58 AM, April 01, 2006, Blogger The Film Diva said...

Well, I hope you learned your lesson -- all-nighters are for honeymooners and college kids.

At 12:35 AM, April 02, 2006, Blogger writergurl said...

Yes, ma'am.


At 7:31 AM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous Devin said...

Wow! I wish you the best of luck in your aspirations. Your ordeal reminds me of a fun movie I saw a while back... Martin Scorsese’s “AFTER HOURS” with Griffin Dunne (

Writing is not an easy thing to do, especially if you are an aspiring writer struggling to achieve a “big break” somehow. Couple this with the sad truth that many of us writers have a full-plate already (working our own soul-sucking 9-to-5 jobs... some of us married with families, or not). In my case, I do have the monotonous 9-to-5 job, with a twist – my wife lives and works 75 miles away from my job (and I’m a City of Cleveland Division of Water employee, obligated to live in Cleveland under a “residency clause”, she’s a high school teacher living and working in Youngstown). So much of my time is spent enduring a long-ass commute to and fro. Thanks to our illustrious, glorious leader (I like to call him “Sparkles McBang-Bang”), it will now become far less economically feasible to be with my wife as much as I would like to be. We both purchased a small house in Cleveland for me to stay at part-time (our “Chateau in the Hood”, we jokingly dub it... not in the best neighborhood, to be sure, but the mortgage is awesome).

I struggle to write anything, stealing moments whenever I can. Be it at 5:00 am over the weekend while my wife’s asleep, at 11:00ish a.m. at work during my hour lunch breaks, or while my wife is occupied with her home-based business (she bakes cakes). It’s uneven... maddening... limited... but at this point it’s all I’ve got. On the two or three days out of the week I spend alone in our Cleveland residence, I do get some work done. Once I fix my computer and get FD up and running there, that won’t be so bad.

I wrote my first spec script last year (just months before our wedding... you want to talk about CRAZY!). I think my wife is still upset at me for that. Hopefully, if I can sell it, she’ll see why I was so driven to write. The idea for it hit me back in 1996. It took me the better part of a decade to get my sh*t together and set it to paper though. Now that it’s out of me, I am onto my next 2-3 projects (the ideas keep on coming!). Hopefully I’ll gain some notice (or place in one of the competitions I’ve entered my first opus into). I could use the encouragement. If not, chalk it up to another pipe-dream. At least I’m doing something creative.

So yes, I can relate to your struggles. I think that’s part of what makes us writers so endearing (and the success of those who do break into the industry and shine that much more admirable and remarkable).

Best Regards – Best of Luck – Keep Dreaming BIG!


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