I'm writing a screenplay

It's difficult to ease into this, especially following up on my few posts of 2018 so far, in which I write about the visual art I've made since quitting my day job last summer, and the juggling act between studio time and, well, all the other stuff. But during the month of March I stopped painting, if that's what I was doing, and started devoting all of my kid-free hours (about 20 each week, minus a few for cleaning, errands, appointments, etc.) to finally putting into script format the screenplay idea I've been mulling over for about two years.

Let's back up just a bit. January was the first month of this academic year of unemployment-by-choice during which I felt satisfactorily productive in the studio. I finished three smallish, mixed media works on paper, accompanied by some three-dimensional/sculptural components (one of which is technically a diptych, and this doesn't include the first piece I deemed a total failure, so five works total if we're counting everything, which we are). I used that new work to apply to four different art-related items on my winter/spring 2018 checklist - a local residency, an exhibition proposal, a publication, and some digital exposure. The work was rejected in all four cases. Which is totally par for the course for artists. But I handled the rejection, something I'm fairly used to, not as well as I thought I would. I'm not exactly fresh out of college or grad school, after all, and after a decade of trying my best to keep my practice technically afloat while being genuinely busy with other aspects of, you know, life, I was feeling especially discouraged.

'Suckers' from the ongoing 'Art from Ephemera', 2016. After all, you can't win if you don't play, right??

Additionally, a couple of things happened that helped me focus my screenplay idea into something I felt I could finally translate into a script. First, Lady Bird was released. I've since seen - and absolutely loved - Greta Gerwig's directorial debut film, but I was apprehensive about it since there was so much talk of the universality of the mother-daughter relationship. It dawned on me that while I've been pretty into stories and art that explore that relationship most of my creative life, it's been from the perspective of loss, lacking, absence. What does that "universal" time in a young woman's life look like when the mother is not part of it? That apprehension helped me focus what my movie idea is really about in a huge way.

Secondly, I retrieved several boxes of childhood stuff from my step-Dad's attic in two batches: when we drove there almost exactly one year ago and when he came here last October. I've taken my time going through all the mementos, writing, and of course pictures. One item I came across was my 11th grade English term paper about Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road'. The process of using index cards to articulate and organize ideas came flooding back to me. I started writing out the various plot points and visual ideas - all pretty disparate at the time and mostly contained in a sprawling Google doc - on index cards and suddenly I had a lot of raw material I could quite literally - and visually (that's key) - organize into a story arc.

I should add here that there also seems to be something happening on a zeitgeist-y level around stories for and about girls.

That quote, by Ian Wojcik-Andrews, who studies and writes about the less common bildungsromane (that's bildungsroman, or coming of age story, but from a girl's perspective) was included in Anya Jaremko-Greenwold's 2016 Atlantic article 'Why Hollywood Doesn’t Tell More Stories for—and About—Girls'. The article blew my mind when I read it, right around the time my story - about an 11 year old girl - began percolating in my brain, and I've returned to it many times since, most recently when 'Wrinkle In Time' was released. To boot, Jaremko-Greenwold also wrote about 'Wrinkle In Time', in advance of its release, in FLOOD magazine: 'Hyper-Girlish Sci-Fi and Trump Parallels in Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time”'. For the record, while I really enjoyed Ava DuVernay's take on the book, I felt the script was a bit lacking in convincing us that Earth could be the next Camazotz if we're not careful: "One of the scariest lines in the book is, 'Just relax.' Just give in, we’ll take care of you. Relaxing is much easier than trying to combat IT. That’s what happened to us as a nation..." But I maintain its importance as one of the rare, but growing pool of stories for and about girls. From the 2016 article, Jaremko-Greenwold writes, "Girls...tend to be slotted into a narrower range of character types (princesses chief among them), making it that much more valuable when films present alternatives young female viewers can relate to." I'm optimistic that this is finally starting to change. Exhibit B: movies like 'I Kill Giants' (directed by a dude, but still).

When not writing, I'm slowly rewatching all the movies Jaremko-Greenwold names in the 2016 article, the early to mid-90s being a bit of a golden age in female coming-of-age stories (I mean, it's relative, right?). So far I've really enjoyed Secret of Roan Inish while Harriet the Spy felt a bit light and generally lacking. Some titles have been easier to find (from the library, because it's free) than others. And not to be all, like, mystical and whatnot, but one morning in late February I woke up with The Sundays' 'Here's Where The Story Ends' in my head. I haven't listened to them in ages. Turns out the lyrics to that song sum up pretty well what I think at this point is the general tone of my story. "It's that little souvenir of a terrible year..." Domestic tragedy and grief aside, isn't middle school just the pits?

PS - I'm averaging ten pages per week so I'm hoping to have a first full rough draft (emphasis on rough) by early June. If I don't, it'll haunt me during the ten weeks I'll be spending full-time with two kids this summer. After that, between endless editing and filling in the holes, I do plan to get back to some visual art-making, but I need to get this story out of my head first.

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