Woke up in the worst mood this morning. Actually didn't wake up in the worst mood; as I remember, I just woke up in a regular mood a little earlier than usual. As I made my way to the bathroom to take a much-needed shower, I decided to check my phone to see if, by chance, "The Black List" had reviewed my latest script. A little backstory: "Little Wonder" is a story I wrote eons ago (a.k.a. about two decades ago when I was in college) that retells my move to Los Angeles from Chicago, told using a circus as a metaphor for Los Angeles. Every once in a while, I pull it off the shelf, edit it a little, show it around, then put it back on the shelf. The last time was a couple of months ago when I decided to dust it off and present it to the screenwriting group I'm a part of, who did a phenomenal job reading the script. I completely rehauled the entire script, so I was super stoked to get such great feedback. With all of the craziness that has been going on behind the scenes of my consciousness dealing with my mom's death (which has quietly erupted hundreds of volcanoes in my soul that I didn't even know I had), the feedback and the confirmation that I am at least a halfway decent writer has reignited the tremendous desire to pursue my artistic endeavors full throttle that has been hovering closer and closer for about a year now.
I decided to edit it some more and enter it into a slew of screenwriting contests and fellowships, which ain't cheap. But momma was there for me again; I still have a sizeable chunk of her insurance money and spent a sizeable amount entering it into about fifteen (!!!) writing opportunities. One of them is an organization called The Black List. The Black List supposedly is a prodigious organization that has kicked started the careers of many writers, and an acknowledgment from them is similar to getting a college degree or a Pulitzer Prize; it's proof that in all practical terms, you are "Da Shit." Just for clarification, it should be noted that The Black List, despite its name, has nothing particularly to do with Black people or Black culture... it's just a name. The best screenplays listed on The Black List are put on The Red List, and those are the works that get shopped around studios, optioned, and made into actual Hollywood films and Blockbusters, leaving the writers free from student loan debt, food stamps, and CHEAP KOREATOWN STUDIO APARTMENTS WITHOUT STOVES, OVENS OR PARKING.
Anywhoo, I submitted my sitcom "Miss Fortune" back when I was similarly excited and inspired, and the feedback I got from The Black List was so brutal it almost bordered on assault. Through some billing error, they decided to give me an additional feedback session, which was more brutal than the previous one stating something to the effect that the best thing about the script was that it was written in English and on paper.
I pulled myself off the floor, kept going, pulled "Little Wonder" off the shelf, dusted it off, sent it in, and got the feedback this morning.
Truthfully speaking, it wasn't as brutal as "Miss Fortune," but needless to say, I'm not on The Red List. Yet.
There is a scoring system from 1 to 10, with ten being the best and one being kin to those teenage, religion-based 8mm films they used to show at 1:00 a.m. on public access television back in the '80s. They separate the scoring into six categories. This is "Miss Fortune" scores with a sample of what they thought of the script:
Overall - 4
Premise - 5
Plot - 3
Character - 4
Dialogue - 5
Setting - 4
As written, one often has to go back and reread sections of the script to keep up with when things are taking place in relation to each other... This story needs significant revision to the layout of the plot, the character drives, and the core conflict before series potential can be ascertained.
The critique gets more brutal and dire, and my initial response was to rely on my childishness and bitterness and claim racism or homophobia or just something that would explain why these so-called experts would disgrace my CLEARLY award-winning work. After I dried my tears and sobered up, I concluded, "maybe it could use a rewrite." Particularly after seeing there were so many people... Black people, Gay people, who got scores of 9 and 10. 9 and 10! What the fuck! How do you get a 9 or 10? Well, you write "Little Wonder" that's how!
The scores I got this morning:
Overall - 5
Premise - 6
Plot - 5
Character - 5
Dialogue - 5
Setting - 8
LITTLE WONDER is a neo-noir film that feels like a spiritual kinship with NIGHTMARE ALLEY, mixed with indie quirkiness, which exhibits the writer's voice clearly. The creativity of the writer flourishes throughout the story, which could appeal to managers who are seeking to expand their roster.
Ok. A little better. But I am bummed that it's not a 9 or 10. How THEE FUCK did those people get those elusive scores? I do have to say I feel immensely better just writing about it right now, but this morning there was no denying that I was disappointed with all of the optimism and effervescence that has been floating my aspirations sky-high lately, being pierced and falling face first on the ground.
They did give a lot of useful feedback and specific ways to tighten the script, so I am grateful for that. Plus, I keep hearing this speech that Will Smith, of all people, gave at one point or another. Perusing Facebook, instead of curling up in a ball with a bottle of whiskey and cannabis like I wanted, I heard him say something to the effect that it takes 15 losses for a win; winners are the ones that lose and keep going. That is what separates the winners from the losers; the winners keep going.
I did get an 8 in one of the categories. That's pretty good. I'm going to take that as a win. And edit.
But I can't help but fantasize about those "9 and 10" people. The lives they lead. I can't help but think they all wear tortoiseshell glasses, are light-skinned and taste like butter cookies, hang out with their bourgeoisie Black friends at exclusive restaurants, muse on how Bill Cosy was framed, and laugh when I claim the Hollywood system is madly racist and does not accept fresh new Black Queer voices like mine or the transgressive fiction that I write then they calmly state that THEY have optioned FIVE Black Queer transgressive fiction screenplays to major studios before sipping their Pomegranate Martinis while I softly crumble into dirt and ash.
Or, God forbid, when I finally get a 9 or 10, I'll be sipping my Cucumber Watermelon Flirtini and sneering with them about how reductive Beyonce is and how I just sold my reimagining of "Good Times" and am trying to get Ryan Reynolds to star.
I'll just keep plugging away here in Koreatown, cook my dinner on my hot plate, and just pray I get invited to the Oscars before Will does.