Friday, October 14, 2005

Gods and Mobsters

Screenwriters are gods, though only in the sense that we create worlds and realities. Our godliness is, frankly, a bit dim when it comes to the power structure of Hollywood, and our creations don't really have free will, and I think this metaphor has already worn out its welcome and is spending all its time around the snack table, eating all the pineapple and cheese sticks, and the Metaphor Cannon is calling its union representative because this metaphor crashed the party instead of being fired into it by the Cannon and enough already.

There is an orgasmic moment of creation that occurs sometimes when writing a screenplay. The first time it happened to me was midway through the rewrite of Script #5, when I went back and looked at the protagonist's role in the story and realized that some major piece of info about him had to be provided at the beginning of act 3, a Big Reveal that would cause the audience to look back at everything he'd done for the first two acts and say, "Oh my."

When I figured out what the Big Reveal would be... wow. A big rush of endorphins, and because I was at work, I couldn't jump up and down and scream "Wahoo!" and run around like a chicken with its trust fund cut off, so I sat there doing the positive opposite of seething, just gloating and reveling in the fact that I'd created something that was so obviously perfect and good and right for the story, and man were people going to drop their jaws when it happened and they realized the implications for the remaining twenty-five pages of the script.

Of course, time passed and the day's fervor drained away, and I began to fear that when I reexamined the Big Reveal, I'd find that maybe it wasn't as cataclysmically awesome as I'd thought at the time, because frequently when I look back at stuff I'd written a while back, my brain tries to escape from my head in order to avoid the inevitable cringing and embarrassment of realizing, "Jesus, I wrote that crap? And I thought it was good?!"

But when I looked at the Big Reveal again, and again, it made sense. It worked within the context of the story. It gave a plausible backstory for the protagonist, and gave him a hidden motivation for every single thing he did in the first two acts, that underlay his apparent motivation. And now I practically live for those moments of creation, when things fall into place. It's the emotional complement of being the audience on the other side of the Big Reveal; now I know how it must have felt when George Lucas realized that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father. (Or whoever really came up with the idea, because George? gets a knee to the groin if I run into him.)

* Mobsters have nothing to do with this post, I just like the title as a parody of Bill Condon's excellent film Gods and Monsters.