Wednesday, October 22, 2014

You Can Do What You Think You Can't Do

Chapter Eight   You Can Do What You Think You Can’t Do

As I wrote, the images of the match-girls strike began forming into a newsreel in my head. It was such rich material and I was telling it like a narrator in an old-fashioned book. This is a movie! Why am I telling the story this way?

I ran into the kitchen and saw Harry reading the paper. I threw my writing down on the table in front of him. “This should be a movie!” Harry’s eyes rolled up and he nodded slowly. “But I don’t know how to write a movie!”

“You could learn—we are here right in the heart of screenplay country. Everyone I run into here is writing a movie. You could too.”

I sighed. Another big project but I could do it, if I wanted. Did I want to take on learning a new skill? Not really, but I could try. It still might sound like a book, like what I’d already written, but it could have the bones on a screenplay in it. I could start with her meeting Madame Blavatsky. If my psyche could grin, it did just that: I could see the scene—yes—I was going to try to write the rest of the story this way.  


“So, do you have any books on screenwriting?” I asked the guy at the bookstore on Ojai Avenue.

He led me to a section of books on writing, and then to the screenplay shelf. “Take your pick, they’re all great. I think everyone is buying them because of the contest.”

“What contest?” I asked.

The Santa Barbara Screenwriters Guild Contest. It’s huge.” He looked at me, tilting his head, giving me a big flirty grin. “You should enter it. I can tell you’ve got a movie in you.” He laughed and pointed to the poster on the bulletin board. “You’ve only got 6 weeks. But hey, that’s enough if you know what you’re doing.”

What a salesman, I thought, as I handed him the money for the last 3 books on the shelf. Then I raced home to begin reading.


“I can’t do this Harry.” I threw my books in front of him. “The screenplay style is so stiff and limiting. You have to type each character’s name on a separate line from the dialogue…and any description has to be done in a certain way with the camera in mind. It’s hard to write because you’re so limited—I tried it.”

“Don’t use that form then!” He shook his head. “At least not at first. Why don’t you write it out as if it were a movie unfolding in your head, a story with scenes, and then later transpose it into screenplay form? You could even write it from your point of view—you as Annie!” Harry grinned. “Just get it down, like a first draft; just do it.”

I stared at him knowing he had said exactly what I needed to hear. “You are amazing, honey.” I kissed him; one long sweet and delicate kiss. “I am so blessed,” I told him, as I whipped myself around and took off for my writing room.

I was hoping he’d make dinner that night so I could jump right into this new project. Instead the phone rang. It was my mother. Should I answer it or not? This wasn’t her usual time to call; she preferred calling first thing in the morning, so I should answer it, just in case it was an emergency. I starred at the phone ringing knowing that this could deplete my evening’s energy for work—but what if—what if she was ill? What if it was serious? I picked up--

“How are you Mom?” That’s always a bad way to start a conversation with someone who’s clinically depressed.

She explained in some detail exactly what was wrong, where, why, and how. It mostly came down to the fact that Harry and I weren’t there to fix things. And then it began…

“How could you leave me like this? Will I ever see you again?” she whined. I reminded her that she had come to visit a few months ago and had a wonderful time. Then I suggested she come out for Christmas even though the contest deadline was Jan 15th. Why did I say that? How could I do that?

She unhappily agreed that she would probably need to come to visit me, as we weren’t all going to come see her. I agreed. I said that a little vacation would probably be good for her; she suggested that I should call her more often as she had no friends or relatives…I asked about the relatives that I knew she had and her few friendships, but she sighed, and said I didn’t understand.

“They don’t mean anything to me,” she pleaded. “I don’t understand you, Janet, I don’t understand how you can do this to me!”

 “Do what to you?” I asked.

 “Leave me here…to die. You just don’t care.” It was the beginning. And so it went for the next half hour till Harry called me for dinner. I’d lost my appetite by then and only wanted a glass of wine and to cry. (c) Elizabeth Spring


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