Sunday, January 04, 2009
ERIC MAISEL post
Just about every day for a year after coming home from her teaching job at the local elementary school, Mary worked on her screenplay. Her story concerned itself with a handful of cold characters, made colder by their wintry Iowa landscape, characters that couldn’t tell the truth about anything. Having written it, she then spent a year trying to sell it. Every door seemed closed to her. Not knowing what to do next, she began a second screenplay, this time about a conflict between neighbors deep in the Brazilian jungle. For eighteen months she wrote it; for another eighteen months she tried to sell it. She went to Los Angeles and took “sell your script!” classes; she networked as best she could; she tried to follow the rules. She knew that her screenplays were not commercial but, not wanting to write cartoons for teenage boys, she continued on her path—her third screenplay took as its setting Paris and a series of strange conversations among lovers. That screenplay also did not sell. She taught, she married, she had children, she continued to write, and she watched twenty years pass and nine screenplays accumulate. Her tenth screenplay was purchased and became the movie you all know about. When asked by interviewers how she could continue writing for so long with so little success, she replied, “I must have great patience.” What she really meant was, “What choice did I have?” But she left that thought unsaid.
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