As Machiavellian as Prince Spaghetti

9 Mar

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I never intended to become a screenwriter. Not that I held the discipline in contempt – I’ve loved movies all my life. The technical aspects of screenwriting seemed too daunting and I was aware of my limited story sense, which is crucial to good screenwriting.

Nine years ago I was struggling with the novel. My favorite literary works were episodic, haphazard and anecdotal; Henry Miller and Bukowski come to mind.

I’d finished a third unpublished novel, Basement, about an experimental prison program housing prisoners in citizens’ basements. One late afternoon as I was walking through Times Square, I was wondering how to get Basement published, what tack to take. Lost in thought I bumped into a friend, Janet, a writer and editor. Janet filled me in on what she was doing, that she was the new editor of Street News, a newspaper sold for profit by the homeless and drug-addicted.

She asked me to write for the paper and I agreed. My master plan was to make myself valuable enough that they would allow me to publish excerpts from Basement in Street News.

After writing my first article and a dozen more, Janet agreed to let me run a two-page spread of excerpts from Basement.

Crackheads hawked the paper on the subway and a young movie producer with a few minutes to kill bought a copy. He gets turned on by Basement and gives me a call, saying they want to talk to me about optioning my book. This is even better than I’d imagined – the movies.

And here’s where my need for patience really kicked in. That phone call started nine years of learning how to write screenplays and of dealing with dashed hopes on a monthly basis.

(2002)

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