Happy New Year!
One of my friends asked me in an email when I expect to see our current screenplay go to production. My response ...
I started The French Inquisitor back in April 2000 when I was still teaching in North Canton, Ohio. For about half a year, I tried to develop the concept into a screenplay, but it didn't work: I needed skills I didn't have. So I went to work to gain those skills.
A little arithmetic. Add together the past four-plus years of writing, the talents and skills of my co-writer Steven Huey, the experience of adapting a novel into a play, the books on screenwriting I've absorbed, the significant writing seminars I've taken, and the advice I've been given by veteran screenwriters ... and only in April 2004 were my co-writer and I able to begin to write the story I envisioned way back at the beginning.
Nothing is easy in this business. From what I've learned about the business, here's my best guess about the path The French Inquisitor will take in getting to the big screen. Assuming ... we complete our screenplay by August of 2005 ... and then acquire an agent who shares our love for the story ... and then find a powerful actor or actress who wishes to attach himself/herself to it ... and then sell a version of our original screenplay ... and then convince the producers who bought the bloody thing to actually schedule a production team, rather than putting the screenplay on a shelf marked Acquisitions We Won't Produce ... and then watch the gods smile favorably upon the production process ... Yes. Each of those steps are land mines that sink uncountable screenplays each year ...
This is just a little taste of the kind of business in which I've chosen to invest almost every moment of my energy and spare time learning ... and time is money. Learning the business of filmmaking from the inside out is a gamble every bit as big as Wall Street or Vegas. Probably bigger, since I'm gambling with the years of my life.
If I were sane, I'd leave Los Angeles and run a business and raise a family and live out that side of the American Dream. Uhm, no thanks.
So to answer your question, if every step of the process works, you'll see The French Inquisitor on the big screen sometime after the year 2008. Will I ever become a starving artist? Artist? Hopefully, yes. Starving? There's a reason I've chosen to teach -- besides the fact that I love doing it. It helps me avoid reaching the starving part.
I'm not just here in Los Angeles hoping to make it. I'm following a plan that will eventually give me a second career in film. Veterans say that it takes about 8 - 10 years to develop into a professional screenwriter. If I date my beginning in April of 2000, that means if I'm lucky, I'll be able to pay my way by April 2010, about five years from now. Since I'm in my twenty-first year as a teacher (I started in an Arizona parochial school the day I turned 20 and have only taken off one year, when I studied in London in 1988-89 under Rotary), I'm hoping to retire from teaching to become a writer/director/producer sometime between teaching years 26 - 30, thus launching my second career.
Hey, everyone has to do something with their lives after they retire. Some people become education professors. Some golf. Some work at McDonalds. I intend to sidestep my way out of teaching into writing and producing.
I used to listen in amazement to the number of conversations I heard in the teacher's lounge ... a lot were about money and retirement. I'm choosing to plan now for my next career, and I'll leave when I'm ready, not when I've filled in my time card.