10.11.2005

Curse of the Bitchy Leprechaun

In film school I knew a Legendary Story Structure Professor who’s the Obi-Wan Kenobi of screenwriting, beloved not only by current students, but also by the many Million Dollar Screenwriters he’s taught over the last forty years. He has a theory that you can structure the story of your own life into three logical acts, just as you would a script. To find your way out of a rough patch, just figure out what act you’re in.

Unfortunately, my personal story arc is so convoluted I’m no longer even sure whether I’m still the protagonist. For all I know, I could be the antagonist, living under some ancient family curse ever since one of my Irish ancestors dug up the wrong potato patch, ousting some bitchy leprechaun from the comfort of his rock. For generations thereafter, all aspiring Big Hollywood Screenwriters in the family would be doomed not only to fail spectacularly, but also to come within a hair’s breath of success, time and again.

Since "Julie Goes To Umatilla" doesn’t sound like a very exciting storyline, I’m left with no choice but to go back and try to fix the one I started here in Hollywood, beat by beat. Then and only then will I be released of my bleak fate and ready to accept stardom, glamour and happiness as my one true destiny by the time my credits roll.

ACT I: Suffering a lifelong case of middle child syndrome, Little Julie first seeks the spotlight as a raindrop in the school play, where she remembers a good many of the lines to B.J. Thomas’s “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” while costumed in pink tights and Reynolds Wrap. Her reliance on verbal skills surfaces by the time she completes high school having avoided any classes in math, science or gym. She goes to college, dabbles in acting and improv comedy, and ultimately pursues a globetrotting glamour career as a successful travel writer.

INCITING INCIDENT: She meets and marries a Croatian Cruise Ship Maitre D’ who ultimately fails to support her secret desire to run away to Hollywood, since doing so would surely decrease his ability to shop at the Gap, drink vodka in the morning and remain unemployed the rest of the day. Cutting him loose like a big Slavic albatross, our heroine heads west with a two hundred-pound Neopolitan Mastiff named Bunny, where she’s received by many old friends and relatives.

ACT II: The friends and relatives either move away or die, as does the chronically ill dog. Julie soon learns that, though she was one of ten finalists whittled down from thousands of applicants to a major screenwriting competition, she didn’t win. What remains of her travel writing career goes irreparably south when she lands a spot in a demanding studio television apprentice program, where an inadvertent insult perceived by one of the sluttier executives ensures that our heroine is passed over for a staff writing job.

MIDPOINT: Julie once again seizes control of her destiny, gaining admittance to the M.F.A. Screenwriting Program of one very Big Deal Film School.

Reveling in campus life, our heroine grows her craft within the warm embrace of all but a few No Talent Bitches among the otherwise warm and wonderful student body. Nurtured by Doting Faculty and Famous Industry Mentors, she writes the Hilarious Funeral Comedy that ultimately attracts both her Very Supportive Manager and her High-Powered Entertainment Lawyer. She then embarks on a year-long Evian Tour of every lot in town, drinking pricey bottled water while entertaining many colorful reasons why her movie will not ever be made, not no way, not know how.

LOW POINT: When her part-time teaching position is eliminated, she’s cast out into the dreaded world of office temping. On assignment at a Legendary Hollywood Trade Magazine, she’s sent directly to the basement, where Some Wormy Janitor Guy offers instruction in the operation of an industrial shredder. Sixteen boxes of water-damaged documents are to be fed into the jaws of the machine one page at a time—yielding multiple blocks of allergen-rich waste paper, each roughly the size of a bail of hay. All goes well until a flying sliver lodges beneath her lower lid, and Julie is sent home to ponder the tattered shreds of her own life.

Which brings us to Act III, when our heroine...Okay, this is where I keep getting stuck. Any idiot who’s ever seen a movie, let alone written one, knows I’m supposed to reach deep down inside myself and somehow manage to pull off the impossible. Luke Skywalker would line up the damn little radar button right along now, destroying the Death Star for good. I’m pretty sure my mission is to write another brilliant screenplay in my free time, but the truth is I’m not sure I’ve got a new one in me right now.

I tried to consult my Obi-Wan for advice, only to discover he’d had a heart attack followed by emergency surgery. My first reaction, since everything is about me, was this must be part of my Irish curse. Then I remembered that Luke also lost his mentor, but heard his voice loud and clear at the all-important dramatic climax. I feel confident that should I ever get that far, my teacher will be right there whispering just the right words in my ear. The trouble is, while you learn all kinds of things in film school about cinematically resolving your own life story, one thing they can’t give you is the details.

27 comments:

  1. Ricardo8:58 AM

    Great post Julie, I hope act III starts developing soon and it kicks ass, and I think it will.

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  2. Kenobi, actually

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  3. Kit, Kit, Kit. It may be time to check out my earlier post, "How Not To Be A Film Geek."

    Only teasing. Thanks for writing and proof at leisure. JGTH

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  4. K.C. Baxter9:00 PM

    "Which brings us to Act III, when our heroine...Okay, this is where I keep getting stuck. Any idiot who’s ever seen a movie, let alone written one, knows I’m supposed to reach deep down inside myself and somehow manage to pull off the impossible."

    Where our heroine uses her travel writing experiences to write the best new rom-com of this century.

    Get crackin'!

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  5. Just poking in to say hi really, I read you regularly :)

    I'mjust envious that you even have a chance to chase your dream out there. Awesome.

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  6. Glad to hear the force is with me all the way Down Under. I'm sure you'd do much better here than I, as I'm sure you've heard Hollywood has a very powerful Aussie contingent. You'd be running with Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watson in no time. You'll want to steer clear of Russell Crowe, though, especially when he's got a phone in his hand.

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  7. K.C. Baxter5:21 PM

    "Obi? Is that you?"

    No. Then that would be, "use the keyboard, Luke...




















    er, Julie."

    If you write as well as you blog, all you need is the unique plot or the logline that will get their attention.

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  8. oh hulia - alas you are a good writer or as one poster insinuated, someone writing your blog is a good writer! one other note, a curse is the worst when a curse is your curse, dont curse yourself, doll. you rock.

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  9. K.C. Baxter12:48 PM

    "one poster insinuated, someone writing your blog is a good writer!"


    ?????!

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  10. That one's a mystery to me, K.C.. Perhaps an obscure reference to your beautifully crafted commentary?

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  11. "That one's a mystery to me, K.C.. Perhaps an obscure reference to your beautifully crafted commentary?"

    Um, okay but...

    "If you write as well as you blog, all you need is the unique plot or the logline that will get their attention."

    ...it's all there and straight-forward. All text, no subtext, no filler, no neo-Freudian allusions. I did not imply that you are a screen-persona for Nora Eprhon or any other screenwriter nor did I mention Sybil or any other schizo-permutations.

    At any rate, you are half-way there and keep it up. Don't get down on yourself unless it makes a better blog or script (then pick yourself up again after you write it).

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  12. You misunderstand, K.C. (Or I'm no good at making myself clear). S. implied that "someone" writing my blog was a good writer. I don't know to whom or to what he was referring, so when you asked I theorized it might be the aggregate commentary supplied by unknown others, yourself included. If someone impied I'm bearding for the Ephron sisters, I'd be flattered but I definitely missed that. Anyway, all quipping aside, I appreciate the reader support more than I ever expected to. It's really been the best part of putting this thing together. Thanks for your nice words, and for reading.

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  13. K.C. Baxter12:12 PM

    "Anyway, all quipping aside, I appreciate the reader support more than I ever expected to. It's really been the best part of putting this thing together. Thanks for your nice words, and for reading."

    You're welcome and thanks for writing one of the most consistently funniest and entertaining sites.

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  14. You mean there are others?
    ;-)
    JGTH

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  15. Anonymous10:19 AM

    Julie,

    Throw a five yen coin into one of the Venice (California) canals. Put another five yen coin inside the building at 2121 Avenue of the Stars. Place a third five yen coin over the door to your home.

    Give it one more year.

    Your Friend.

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  16. Wow, okay. I'm in. I'll just have to find the yen first. Maybe hang around the JAL terminal at LAX. I love this! In return I promise to keep you, literally, posted. Many thanks, JGTH

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  17. Anonymous5:14 PM

    Julie,

    Give the address of a hotel near your home or where you work and I will send the coins to you under the name Julie Goes. You can pick up the envelope at the front desk of the hotel and off you go.

    Your Friend

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  18. Dearest Anon: That is very, very generous of you. Now you do know that I'm going to have to blog about this, under the title "Julie's Big Scavenger Hunt." How about the Four Seasons Beverly Hills? It's nowhere near me but it'll look classy in the posting. Also the valets are upscale enough to let us pull over and run in without having to pay. Trust me on this, I used to be in the biz. Now I'm just...well, you already know all that. Thank you again for your good will. Who knows, maybe it's all I needed.

    300 South Doheny Drive, Los Angeles
    California U.S.A. 90048
    t 1 (310) 273-2222

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  19. Anonymous7:02 AM

    Dear Julie,

    The coins are in the mail as of five minutes ago. I expect they will arrive at the Four Seasons on Friday (trust me, mail service is excellent from my city). Also, it is not so genelous. Do you know how much fifteen yen is worth? The postage was more expensive.

    Remember: one more year.

    Your friend

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  20. Anonymous6:59 PM

    Julie,

    Just discovered your blog a couple of days ago and I really am enjoying it.

    I just want to say that you are a really good writer and not to lose heart.

    P.S. If it helps you I actually work in Hell-A as well - I am one of the development minions, so for what its work I like your writing.

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  21. It's worth a lot, Anon. Sometimes it's nicer to hear from an unknown voice in the dark than it is your own mom. She's legally required to like your stuff. Many thanks for writing, and for reading. JGTH

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  22. Julie girl, I love ya but you're freaking me out! Please erase your addy and phone number of the web!!!! Never know what slutty execs or weirdo readers out there will do with such info...at the least, you might end up on a Scientology mailing list. For-ever. Trust me.

    I went to the Four Seasons for the first time two weeks ago for High Tea. A girlfriend took me, and it was very cool. If you ever want to meet for a drink or high tea, drop me a line!

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  23. benisek1:07 PM

    Oh, its so good to read stuff about this professor, the screenwriting structure GOD! Best classes I ever had. Can you post a little more about him and your experiences with him? One anecdote I adore about him:
    One day, a student came up to him and said "Im on to you. I know what youre doing"
    HS, amused, said, "what?"
    Said student answered: "You pretend to teach about movies. But really, you teach about life"

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  24. Actually, what's the difference? It wouldn't surprise me were that his response. Yes, I will right more about Obi. Maybe about how I persuaded him to read my screenplay and give me notes. (He hasn't done this for students in thirty years.)

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  25. Anonymous12:51 PM

    Julie,

    Did you get the five yen coins?

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  26. You know, they didn't have them for me at the hotel. They said they might have been sent back because I wasn't registered there. But you probably didn't use a return address. So what I am going to do is try to get them from my manicurist. Do you think that will be okay? Thanks so much for trying. I didn't forget you.
    Best, JGTH

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