Monday, August 29, 2011

Hood on Failing Big posts a piece by Sean Hood, screenwriter for the much-reviled Conan the Barbarian remake, on what it's like to pen a failing film. Excerpts:
A movie's opening day is analogous to a political election night. Although I've never worked in politics, I remember having similar feelings of disappointment and disillusionment when my candidate lost a presidential bid, so I imagine that working as a speechwriter or a fundraiser for the losing campaign would feel about the same as working on an unsuccessful film. ...

By about 9 PM its [sic] clear when your "candidate" has lost by a startlingly wide margin, more than you or even the most pessimistic political observers could have predicted. With a movie its [sic] much the same: trade[s] call the weekend winners and losers based on projections. That's when the reality of the loss sinks in, and you don't sleep the rest of the night. ...

But one thought this morning has lightened my mood:

My father is a retired trumpet player. I remember, when I was a boy, watching him spend months preparing for an audition with a famous philharmonic. Trumpet positions in major orchestras only become available once every few years. Hundreds of world class players will fly in to try out for these positions from all over the world. I remember my dad coming home from this competition, one that he desperately wanted to win, one that he desperately needed to win because work was so hard to come by. Out of hundreds of candidates and days of auditions and callbacks, my father came in… second.

It was devastating for him. He looked completely numb. To come that close and lose tore out his heart. But the next morning, at 6:00 AM, the same way he had done every morning since the age of 12, he did his mouthpiece drills. He did his warm ups. He practiced his usual routines, the same ones he tells his students they need to play every single day. He didn't take the morning off. He just went on. He was and is a trumpet player and that's what trumpet players do, come success or failure.
Read the whole thing. If you've tried to make a go of it in the fiction market, you more or less know how Hood feels. There's nothing quite like writing and revising your heart over a story only the receive rejection after rejection saying, "Great piece, but it just isn't quite what we're looking for." Such failures sting, and when you stumble over and over again the temptation to throw in the proverbial towel grows quite strong. Hood wisely finds inspiration in his father's perseverance, but there's another motivation worth considering. Few get involved in this field because of its limitless pecuniary opportunities. No, we write for the sheer joy of it. We write because it fills us with delight. And no number of rejections slips or poor reviews or abysmal box-office grosses should remove the simple pleasure of putting pen to paper.

(Picture: CC 2010 by Yan R.; Hat Tip: Rock, Paper, Shotgun)

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