Yes, boys and girls, it’s awards season in Hollywood. For screenwriters, this means one thing above all:
!!!!! – FREE MOVIES – !!!!
At theaters all over LA and NY, and a few selected in San Francisco and a couple other lucky cities, you present your WGA (Writers Guild of America) card for just about any showing and get in free.
Now, this is a joy. Because not only do you get in, but if you’re going in with another WGA member, you can get a whole two other people in free. You can feel like Santa, or God, simply by turning to the most lovely (In spirit, of course) moviegoers behind you in the cinema line and asking, oh so casually – “Are you going to BABEL? Do you want to get in free?” And watch the faces light up like Christmas….
Even better, we screenwriters get DVDs of the Oscar hopefuls IN THE MAIL. Now, that’s the kind of thing that makes you feel like a professional. Free stuff.
There are some really great films up for Oscars and various awards this year. And I’m thrilled that as a WGA member I’m getting so many more awards screeners this year than last. Last year, in a fit of piracy paranoia, the studios sent a bare minimum of free DVD screeners out to writers. CRASH was one of the only free screeners sent out to voting writers last year. CRASH won every major award for Best Screenplay. Coincidence? Oh, I think not.
Studios are arguably moronic, but they’re not stupid.
Suffice it to say the studios realized that after the CRASH sweep, they’d better start sending the freebies out if they wanted the writing awards this year. Result? More DVDs in the mail than I’ve had time to watch.
And I’m sure I’ll get around to talking about all of this year’s fine screeners – I mean films – because there are some really good ones out there. But not this week.
Because I finally saw CAPOTE this week (I know, I know. A year late. It’s ridiculous. I was BUSY last year, okay???)
A Dan Futterman screenplay based on the book by Gerald Clarke, directed by Bennett Miller, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote
This film is a must-see for writers. Stunning – from the first second: the opening image, the cinematography, the pace, the writing…
All of which get dwarfed by that incredible character and performance.
You watch Hoffman/Capote breathlessly as he seduces what he wants out of Perry Smith, lying left and right…
And you’re thinking – “That is one ice-cold bastard…”
And in pretty much the same thought I was also thinking –
“God, I am JUST like that.”
Now, people who know me would disagree. Most of them would, anyway. A few who REALLY know me, like my brother and sister, would say – “Well, not exactly like that, but I know what you mean.”
For all our sensitivity and empathy and wit and charm, which we also do have in spades… there is a ruthlessness about professional writers, combined with the thickest skins you’re ever going to find – that makes us, well, let’s just say – different.
That’s not all there is to me, of course. I love puppies and kittens and I do ridiculous amounts of volunteer work for worthy causes and I stand up to bullies and bigots and you would definitely want me around if your small child needed saving from drowning or a burning building.
But when it comes to my writing? Just back the fuck off.
When Capote says, “I’m here working. That’s all this is. I have work to do.”
That is so me it’s scary.
I really do find myself doing appalling things when I’m working, and justifying it all to myself because, after all, if it’s going to get me that scene or lock in that character, then how can I not? And I don’t just mean that you better not even think of trying to talk to me when I’m writing.
If there’s some part of you that I want for a character? Watch out.
Do not leave your diary unlocked around me. I’m not saying I’d for sure read it, but I’m not saying I wouldn’t, either. Letters? E mails? Lingerie drawer? Depends on what I need. I’ve slept with all kinds of people I shouldn’t have because it’s about the fastest way to get to the heart of someone. Really, I have no shame. Complete and total vampire.
But what I thought was especially stunning about the writing and the characterization is that at the same time that Capote was milking Perry Smith for every bit of humanity he could squeeze out of him – he was also completely and totally and honestly falling in love with the man – not as a mere sexual object, but falling in love with his soul – wanting to know him in a way very few of us are ever known by anyone. How thrilling. How vampiric. How very much like a writer. What we want is to know you. Is that so wrong?
So, fess up now, writers. Did you recognize yourself in Capote? A little bit of the vampire going on? Or am I the only sociopath here?