Actually, I shooed it away. I didn't really want to, but I had one of those come-to-realize moments, and there I was.
Basically, I met with a budding producer who had a treatment for a movie, and, he said, some interest in it, but he needed a script. I liked the material, it was intriguing and interesting, right up my alley, and I was willing to take a shot. The notion was, he thought he could sell it, and we'd both make out pretty well if that happened.
Yes, it's all smoke-and-mirrors down in LaLaLand, and I've hiked along this road before, so I didn't have any great expectations; still, it's like playing the Lottery–can't win if you don't buy a ticket, so I started cranking.
Because the project was near and dear to his heart, he wanted to stay in the creative loop and I thought that wasn't a bad idea. You normally don't want anybody looking over your shoulder, but sometimes, it is better to find out before you get too far on the trek and realize you've taken the wrong route. Been there.
I wrote and sent a few pages. Got back a lot of notes. Addressed them, yea and nay, went on. Sent more pages, got more notes. Same-same. And like Luke in the Millennium Falcon, I started to get a bad feeling about it ...
Far into the draft, I sent another chunk along, and got a long set of notes that finally gave me the sigh-and-headshake-realization: Nothing I wanted to do was going to be what he wanted. Because he had a vision of what it was going to look like, some favorite darlings–quite a few of them–and he wouldn't let me kill any of 'em off.
No, that's crucial! Got to keep that in!
Wait, wait, that over there? That's crucial, too! Can't lose it.
Hang on a second, those sequences? Gotta keep 'em in, it all falls apart without 'em! In fact, why don't we go back and pump that up, make it longer?
Why not? Because you can't stuff ten pounds of rice in a two-pound package, I said.
Here's the problem, I realized. He didn't understand that to keep all this stuff in would make the script 250 pp long, and nobody would read it. He said he did, but he really didn't. A studio would look at the manuscript, heft it, and toss it. Yeah, if he was Jim Cameron, they'd snatch it up, but he isn't. (Whatever you think of Cameron and his work, he has, um, a track record: The #1 and #2 highest-grossing movies of all time. If he wanted to do the Chicago Phone Book as his next project, investors would beat each other to death with sacks of money to get a chance to invest in it.)
Some of the darlings with which I was dealing didn't make sense; the don't move the story forward, and can't be shown or explained in dialog that wouldn't run for several pages. You can't, I said, do that. A studio won't stand for it, and if they did, viewers wouldn't come to see it.
Could I give him what he wanted? Sure. But I wouldn't, because in good conscience, I'd be wasting everybody's time, and frankly, I wouldn't want my name on the title page of a script that just stood there and gobble-gobbled.
I liked this guy. He is smart, well-educated, knew what he wanted, and we got along great personally. The core idea is great. But the movie he had in his head wouldn't work on the screen, and wouldn't get that far anyhow. Even if he wrote it himself, and had the screenwriting chops to pull off a decent script, it still wouldn't be the movie in his head. I learned that one a long time ago: what I put on the page was never as good as what I saw in my mind's eye. How it works.
I saw it coming. I tried to soldier on, hoping it wouldn't go the way I thought it would, but it did. More often than not, if you get a bad feeling about something, you should listen to it.
Sometimes, you have to cut your losses and move along.
Not the droids either of us were looking for ...