Thank you for writing, Susan. Do you want advice on how to be a hack
writer? Or how to write on an "assembly line"? (which couldn't
be that easy, what with all that jostling).
Or are you, Susan, instead, asking me how to adapt to the situation that much
of what makes it to the screen (big and small) is not always of the highest
quality and appears to be not given a great deal of artistic reverence?
I think what may be your problem -- and I say this with all due respect -- is
that you, dear lady, have not made an important decision when it comes to your
screenwriting career, one that you might do well to make sooner than later in
order to ease your troubled mind. Sometimes distilling something that
appears perturbing down to its native essence (that's not a bad idea for a name
of a fragrance, now that I think of it). Your discomfort may very well
stem from a deeper discomfort that is caused because you haven't
considered or answered the following question (and let me put it in a classical
To hack or not to
hack, that is the question.
'Tis not for me to say, nay,
never for me to foist such a riddle upon thyself. For I am but a --
(Sorry. I forgot to stop speaking in faux Shakespeareanspeak.) What
I mean is that I'm not for or against what you call hack writing or
writers. Remember that these particular scribes are just trying or
actually accomplishing making a living by writing (which is not always an easy
thing to do). What I do think is important is for you to try to understand
why this aforementioned fact bothers you so much. Please don't think I'm
playing Freud or Jung or trying to get you on the psychiatrist's couch (unless I
meet you and I find you inordinately attractive and have a sudden urge to take a
long, sleepless and busy "nap" with you), but could there be thoughts,
fears, ideas, worries, confusion, etc., that lie hidden in your attention on
other writers? Attention on others has always been a wonderful way for me
to avoid putting my attention where it often needs to be: on myself.
(Don't misconstrue and start putting a lot of attention on me now --
unless you have lots of money or praise or a free car for me and all the other
script consultants sitting in the audience with me.)
So, let's get back to that decision I mentioned. After
you've looked into the "to hack or not to hack" question, thought
about it, written about it, talked about it, or avoided it altogether as much as
possible, then the next step -- when you feel you are really ready -- is to make
a choice. It might present itself like this:
Do I accept the
six-figured deal for my commercial and not very artistically gratifying script
that really doesn't show the depth and maturity of my screenwriting abilities or
do I flatly refuse it?
And demand seven figures.