I just watched Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs on DVD. A postmodern Hamlet, so to speak, at least in terms of the number of dead bodies strewn all over the stage at the end. I kept running into the title in my reading (the fact that I'm reading Sharon Waxman's book Rebels on the Backlot about the rise of the independent film might have something to do with that; she points to Tarantino as one of the primary influences on film in the 90s) so I finally decided I'd better see it. What a violent, disturbing film. I can definitely see it as an antecedent to Pulp Fiction.
I'm also reading Roger Ebert's new book of film reviews: The Great Movies II. I really like his approach to film. Reading a review and then watching the film and then reading his review again has proved to be really helpful to prying open a new perspective.
Our screenplay The French Inquisitor inches along. So many decisions. Yesterday, Steven and I made plans. He will write an expanded treatment exploring character motivations in each scene (which will be approximately as long as the screenplay itself), after which I will write the first draft of the screenplay, after which he will overwrite the dialogue (since I tend to write too much subtext into the dialogue). While he's writing the expanded treatment, I will begin developing our next screenplay or television pilot, the only stipulation being that it must be conceived as a low budget production.
I feel very good about the process, and about the work we are doing. It's slow going, but it's going to be worth it. We rushed our first play, A Tale of Two Cities, and then we ended up in endless rewrites. This time, we're building a structure that is solid from the ground up. The good news is that our readers report they were "engrossed" by the treatment.
McKee's process really works. He advises waiting until your listener remains hooked all the way through a telling of the story before moving on to an expanded treatment and screenplay. I'm glad we did just that.
I've pretty much concluded that those who survive and succeed in Los Angeles have to work more than one job at once. I'm not just teaching: I also play the role of story consultant, English tutor, and research assistant.
Thank god that I love teaching as much as I do. It's such a pleasure to go to school and interact with kids who are so grateful. This isn't what people expect to hear about the life of a teacher, based on the media's perception of teachers, but it is my experience. Perhaps it's because I've stubbornly chosen to teach where I want, rather than where I should retire. I've taken major risks, both personal (like coming to LA when I should have been sitting on a tenured job in Ohio) and financial... in order to do what I really want to do. And the result? A great deal of joy for me in the classroom.
I've decided to remain at the seventh-grade level next year. I have my objectives down, I have freedom to change my class scope and sequence as I see fit, my kids seem to love my classes, I maximize my output. And, most important, I'm not bored -- even though I'm in my fourth year of teaching the same class. Go figure. And my familiarity with the course means that I minimize preparation and gain maximum output: thus, I have the time outside of school to write. Not to mention, watching a myriad number of movies and TV episodes on DVD as I train myself for the next stage of my directing career.
I'll know when it's time to take that next step. Not yet. Right now I'm spending lots of time alone, reading, absorbing, preparing.
Sir Knavely is beginning to adjust to my life as a writer. As I watch movies, he stretches out on the couch in front of me, his long, lean body at peace, fur ruffled nicely, occasionally talking to himself (or to me, I can't quite tell). Tonight I discovered on the internet that his name was used by Christopher Marlowe in Act IV of his play, The Jew of Malta. So whadda ya know! He's got a literary name. What a noble cat he is. A kingly Tom.