Yes, I lost the screenplay competitions I entered, but I don't consider myself to be a loser. I tried.
What those competitions taught me is that I have to keep learning. I now know what I have to do to make all of them better. According to experts, one thing that will dramatically improve my screenplays is adding more conflict. Apparently I, along with numerous other non-winners, didn't include enough of it. So I have to go back and add more conflict.
In every good movie, conflict requires the protagonist to experience spasms of guilt, fear, or some other deeply emotional pain in order to become a better person or to successfully achieve what might be considered to be an impossible goal. And yes, even comedy requires those same types of conflict.
Probably the strongest example of a woman experiencing one of the most excruciating forms of conflict I've ever encountered occurs in the 1982 movie, Sophie's Choice, starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Peter MacNicol. If you have never seen the movie, I won't relate the details, but it tugged my heart so hard that I felt it nearly rupture in my chest.
Sophie's Choice was agonizing to watch. The atrocities that occurred in Nazi concentration camps couldn't have been more aptly portrayed if Alan J. Pakula (who wrote the screenplay based on William Styron's novel, Sophie's Choice) had invented a time warp that sent the audience to live in an actual concentration camp. But it was the choice, the awful choice Sophie had to make, that was the crux of the movie, that was the most painful part of the movie to watch, that ripped my heart out of my chest, that caused me to lose my breath.
In all honesty, my screenplays don't make that connection to my audience. The funny ones are funny, and the touching ones are touching, but they fall short of connecting to anybody who doesn't know me.
And therein lies the challenge. If my viewers can't completely immerse themselves into my movies, I haven't done my job as a writer.
So I'll go back and revise, revise, revise. And while I don't think I want to plunge so deeply into my audience's souls that I will create another Sophie's Choice, I want to leave viewers with a sense of joy, a sense of wonder, or at least a desire to want to see another one of my movies.
The journey from screenplay to film is a long one, but every step I take, every lesson I learn, every ounce of effort I put forth takes me one step closer to achieving my dream.
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