Hard to Stay Mad

by Stephanie

I don’t typically cry at movies or TV shows. I’m slow to emote. Yeah, sure, I shed a tear or two at The Notebook, but who didn’t? And the series finale of Lost didn’t exactly play fair. Beyond that, I’m like Chandler from Friends in the One Where Chandler Can’t Cry–I simply cannot be moved, so it’s a big friggin’ deal when I find myself weeping in front of the television. It was about 12 years ago the first time I can remember it happening. I was 16, and the film American Beauty had just been released on DVD. I sat, cross-legged on the floor one foot away from the screen and I hung on Kevin Spacey’s every word. There are so many reasons why it deserved the accolades it received. If you’ve seen it, though, you realize that this is not the sort of movie that makes people run for the Kleenex, but as the credits rolled, I sat in a numb sort of silence, tears running down my face. The acting, the writing, the directing—the sum of it all had sucked me in, and the story spoke to me in a way that I didn’t entirely understand. If you haven’t seen the movie, skip this video clip, do not pass Go and do not collect $200—go straight to Netflix and watch the whole thing right now. If you have seen it, here’s a reminder of how awesome this movie is.

Damn. Give me a second, I forgot how good it was.
Ok. All better now.

Anyways, fast forward to Saturday. My boss loaned me the box set of the television series Six Feet Under because I had never seen it (oh the luxuries of premium cable that I cannot afford). The only thing I knew about the show besides the funeral home premise was that it was known for its remarkable series finale. Two months and 5 seasons later, I reached the end of the series and spent no less than two hours of my weekend a complete emotional wreck. This was not one of those graceful, pretty crying sessions. This was one of those snotty, puffy-faced, blubbering sob-fests (all of my female readers know EXACTLY what I’m talking about). I had fallen in love with these characters and the way they wrapped up the show was phenomenal. In a word, I was affected. I’m a sucker for death themes, apparently. Since this happens so rarely, I immediately flashed back to that night watching American Beauty. I immediately put on the special features because I wasn’t ready to let go, and I discovered that the same guy penned both the show and American Beauty. Alan Ball, the man is a genius.

It got me thinking about my own writing, and the direction I want to take it. I cling to these moments of inspiration and try to squeeze out every drop I can from it. I am a million miles away from the place I want to be in my writing, particularly in my screenwriting abilities, but the thing that all my favorite scripts have in common is the way the words have affected me and made me feel while I was watching them come alive on the screen. That’s what drove me to screenwriting in the first place, but I think one of the biggest obstacles in writing my own material is my fear of going to THAT place. You know the place—that place where life is a little messy, that place where vulnerability lives, that place I avoid at almost all cost. Writing devoid of feeling will never succeed in making people feel anything, but when I sit down to write, all I can think of is how I can spit out shiny, perfect pieces (my theory is that this is one of the reasons why I can’t seem to crank out the volume I desire because I am most certainly not a perfect writer. It’s a vicious cycle). Perfection is a boring goal. I think in this next season of my artistic journey, I want to push myself to get my hands a little dirty. To explore the grey a little deeper. To ignore the fear that keeps me from exposing to the world that I’m not some emotionless cyborg. That, I too, shed a tear at The Notebook.

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