Tuesday, May 19, 2009

heart attack

I've long had this upsetting theory that shows like Two And A Half Men and movies like Click work because they're mediocre. Like, maybe being crappy enough is the key. Is that the problem? But no, we've all written crappy scripts. That's not how it works. Plus, you can't fake mediocrity as I like to say. John Waters says, "I tried to sell out but nobody was buying."
I had drinks with an executive last week and I asked her about this. The Click phenomenon. What makes Click, click? She said it's heart. Heart being shorthand for deep emotional content. We go to movies to feel something. What she said is basically; it doesn't matter if the script is good or bad so long as it has heart. Curious. And the reality is heart is not easy to do. I've been writing for fifteen years, I've been teaching for five and heart is not easy to do. So... what does this mean? That Click isn't a bad movie? Sort of. It's not my thing. The concept feels vulgar and insulting to my intelligence. But I'm almost certain that if I watched it I'd feel something at the end. No, not rage, but that choked up feeling. How do I know? Because I watched the similarly retarded Ghost Town on an airplane, half paying attention, headphones askew, in a Xanax fog and at the end of that film I felt choked up by the resolution. WTF!? Ghost Town! I know!
The fact is, the writers of Ghost Town achieved the ever elusive heart. The fact that they had a clear marketable concept and perhaps a couple of major actors attached helped, but it's the heart of the thing that turns those red lights green.
So how do you get heart into your script? That is not an easy question to answer. It takes skill, craft, luck and an eye for emotional detail. It takes sensitivity, life experience, a willingness to suspend cynicism and world weary pretense. It takes effort and hard work won through trial and error. It will not be easy. Get to work!

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