I’ve been writing a lot in the last two days. Not PHISHING unfortunately, but emails. Not the good kind. “Hi. How are you? Let’s get together for a beverage. Love you. See you soon.” No. I find myself yet again in the middle of a grab for power over a body of work that I’ve spent over seven years and thousands of dollars and my personal time developing.
Since I’m actually in the middle of it, I won’t suffer anybody the details; can’t, as I don’t have two years of honest reflection behind me. Let’s just say, I’ve thrown down the gauntlet, and I don’t know where that will lead. I have done so, not out of conceit, or ego, but because it is the right thing to do; that is what I learned from my work on this project and I would be dishonoring the memory of the people who fought so hard, if I did not.
Sort of as an idle test, about a month ago I offered up a creative idea to another group. It wasn’t an original idea, but I went out on a limb and presented it. The words I received back were to the effect, “Great idea. We’ll proceed with it in the fall.” When I responded that I would like to be involved in its development as I writer, I received back “Thanks for the idea.” That’s it. “Thanks for the idea.” Thanks for the idea?
I read Michael Golamco’s blog in the New York Times a couple of days ago about his experience bringing his new play YEAR ZERO to the Second Stage Uptown. His excitement is palpable.
“When I go into production on a play, it literally changes my life. I’m suddenly in a rehearsal room with other people — actors, a director, a creative team — every day. I suddenly have a morning commute. The solitary process of storytelling turns collaborative.”
Collaboration means working together. That presumably is how it works in the professional world, my friends, and that’s how we’re trained in professional training programs, as evidenced in Mr. Golamco’s happy report. I have rarely had a collaborative theater experience in the last ten years, outside the three staged readings last year.
I’ve diagnosed it this way: there appears to be an insidious cross-over between industries in the Los Angeles contiguous counties between theater and film. For example, one young man asked me in class Thursday why I was allowing the other students to have a voice in casting the revised scene from PHISHING that I brought in. “That’s not how it’s done in the real world”, he said. His brother is a screenwriter apparently, working in the indie film market. Apparently this brother is constantly outraged over his Producer’s casting decisions, and that they don’t take his voice into consideration.
After I stressed to the class the importance of not doing things my way, encouraging them to get a degree of higher education, I also told them that in regards to collaborative casting, “I could get upset about it, or I could make sure that I know how to write my characters in dialogue, so that even when I am not asked my opinion, my scripts become producer, director, and actor proof.” Then I led them on a critical thinking assignment designed to deconstruct and analyze a title page, a cast of characters, and dialogue.
A writer may presume that she chose to write specific words for a purpose. My experience has shown that most readers do not operate from the same perspective. My only conclusion is that if readers are not visualizing the words that I write in the way that I intend them, I must write better. Also, never expect collaboration. And do not offer ideas and credits because you are nice; make sure you have weighed the personal and political ramifications for doing so; for when you give something away, you can’t take it back; it’s gone forever.
Suggested for her tombstone: “This is on me.” Dorothy Parker