Thursday, August 30, 2007

Learning my place (until they pay me like a writer)

I am not a writer. I am a writers' assistant. Have to keep reminding myself of that.

One of the weird things about being a writer and working in a room with writers when you haven't been hired as a writer (can I say writer one more time in this sentence? yes I can...but I won't) is that it's hard to know what your place is.

And I don't mean that in a bad way. Not really. The guys I work for have been great. They're young, they're cool with having me in the room and just shooting the shit, and they seem open to (or at least not completely annoyed by) me blurting out ideas once in a while. I don't think I could ask for a better situation. That, in an odd way, brings its own problems.

Case in point: I had a great half-hour last Friday with one of the writers. R, the writer my bosses bring in to work with them, wasn't in at all that day. P left early because of personal stuff going on. It was just C and I.

I walked into the room after lunch to learn that P had left and just talked with C for a while. Eventually, I said something like, "Well, I'll let you get back to it unless you need me for something," and stood up to leave.

C started talking about a place in the script where they had been stuck and made changes. He wanted to see what I thought.

Awesome, I thought, as he gave me the new story beats. I told him I had issues with a few things, but overall liked the changes much better. We started getting deeper into the story and talking things out and it really seemed like we were going somewhere.

Then, naturally, his cell rang and I checked my voicemail while he was talking and blah blah blah, we had conflicting meetings...and then the day was basically over.

But it felt like I was actually a real writer working on something that was going to get made and made me want to do a little happy dance except that of course I would never do something like that because that's just silly. Right.

So I had happy feelings all weekend, and then Monday started slow with me at my desk most of the day. When I finally did get into the room, all of the wonderful changes (there were one or two, really) that C and I had made were gone. They'd gone back to the earlier beats and dropped everything we altered.

Ridiculously, I felt somehow betrayed. No one had asked my opinion before changing anything. And hadn't we both agreed that the other beats worked better?

I also felt stupid. He'd asked my opinion, I'd said that the other beats were far better, and now they'd gone back to the original ones. Would they think I was dumb? A bad writer? I'd backed the wrong horse and now would be a lowly failure, doomed to never get a writing job because I'd momentarily thought "Fine, fuck it" main character was better than "Try even harder" main character.

Eventually I regained my senses and came to a realization: they are not paying me to write, they are paying me to keep their schedule, keep the beat cards organized, take notes and look pretty. Probably with less emphasis on the last one. A lot less.

That does not mean that they don't value my opinion and/or want me to stop speaking up. All it means is that I probably should learn not to be as invested in whatever little ideas I come up with for this script, because--newsflash!--it's not my movie.


John Reha said...

...and to an extent, it's not theirs entirely, either.

From what I gather about animation, it's an extremely studio-controlled medium due to the costs involved. Those thing you worked out could have just been x-ed out by an exec who didn't want to spend his money on that scene.

Then again, it could also have been a pow-wow between the writers, and they decided they needed the beats just such a way to make the ending work, or dozens of other reasons.


This is a GOOD THING, no matter how you slice it or look at it. Kudos!

Amanda said...

thanks for the comment...I had been sort of conflicted over whether I should mention company names or not...If I'm too vague it seems pointless to bother writing about it at all, but you're right that I should be careful in who might read what.

as for your post...I second John. It's great that you got asked your opinion! don't worry about feeling you said, you're there to schedule, etc., and you're there to learn. They know that.