Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Shilly-Shallying Screenwriter

While on vacation in Montana in 2008, I came across a true story that struck me so powerfully I could not stop thinking about it. The story played in my mind over and over, almost like a movie. And the more I thought about it, I realized it was a movie, and that I had to write it.

Although I was juggling all the writing projects I could handle at the time, I jumped into screenwriting with all the enthusiasm of a greenhorn. I purchased a couple of books; attended several screenwriting workshops; joined Northwest Independent Film & Video Entertainment Society (kNIFVES), a film and video support organization; and invested in the latest screenwriting computer program.

Once I knew just enough to be dangerous, I added the word "Screenwriter" to a few business cards I designed on my PC and took off to do some interviews and research for the blockbuster movie that continued its award-winning run in my head.

Early in 2009 I entered a kNIFVES screenwriting contest just for practice before my big "breakout" project. I turned a piece I had written for an Idaho Magazine fiction contest into a 17-page screenplay. After more hours than I care to admit, I completed my "short" (each page in a screenplay converts into roughly one minute of screen time) with hopeful expectations.

A couple of months later I learned I didn't place. That didn't come as a total shock, but my original bravado had cooled and I found I was suddenly hesitant to call myself a screenwriter with such cavalier abandon. Procrastination became my game; and as everyday deadlines took their toll, my Screenwriter business cards found themselves collecting dust in the back of a drawer.

Then just a few months ago, I received a call informing me kNIFVES was applying for a grant to produce Root Bound, the screenplay I had written for their 2009 contest. Ecstatic, my dream of becoming a screenwriter flickered anew. All I had to do was wait until the middle of October!

Anxious to hear whether or not the grant had come though I attended a kNIFVES meeting in Spokane just a couple of weeks ago. No grant news, but the owner of a Los Angeles production company based in Spokane asked me what I was working on. For some inspired reason I shared my Montana story.

As I related the tale, I felt the tingle of passion spread through me as life blazed once again for the cinematographic masterpiece that used to keep me awake at night.

These days I close the door on my office each morning and tell my husband not to bother me. SCREENWRITER AT WORK! And this time I am unwavering in my determination to see the project through to completion.

Oh, and since receiving news that kNIFVES received the grant to produce my screenplay I just dug out those yellowing Screenwriter business cards - they're going back into circulation.

Notable Quotes
The habit of always putting off an experience until you can afford it, or until the time is right, or until you know how to do it is one of the greatest burglars of joy. Be deliberate, but once you've made up your mind - jump in. Charles R. Swindoll

kNIFVES is dedicated to providing an open forum to all Inland Northwest Film, Video and Live Entertainment professionals, amateurs and enthusiasts to promote knowledge, education, training and networking. Whether you are a budding screenwriter like me or already have some media credits, you'll find enthusiasm and support for your project at kNIFVES. Check them out at


Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Mary Jane, this is a good reminder to writers to keep pressing forwrd with the work for which we feel a passion, even when we encounter speed bumps. We never know where our work might lead us. I'm glad you put your screenwriter business cards back into circulation! Can I have one?

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

Very inspiring! Thanks for the shot in the arm.