I recall a time not long before the writing of this piece. That gentle, ambrosiac Spring of 2021.
You can almost hear it echoing in the breeze.
I happened upon a popular hangout—Twitter dot com, have you been, it's lovely—and the topic of the day was a mighty profound one:
Sluglines, aka scene headings, in screenplays and TV pilots.
To bold or not to bold?
... no, really. Look it up. It happened. During a pandemic.
Camps were built. Stances taken. Arguments were argued.
Back and forth, a bitter debate goose-stepped its way into the hearts and minds of combatants and onlookers. A war of words where insults (to my recollection) were hurled into the courts of the unsuspecting.
Undoubtedly the most significant debate of our generation, barring the Iraq War, the sale of foie gras, and how many spaces go after a period (spoiler: it's one).
And then, months later—the debate, inexplicably, returned. A reboot, if you will. Or the reboot's less successful cousin, the remake. Mostly sans irony.
It was then I realized, in the foggy malaise of our physical and psychological quarantine:
You, dear creatives, have collectively, and perhaps unintentionally, for both better and worse, lost your absolute fucking minds.
To clarify, before I'm reprimanded by the truly pious, I do not mean you all are clinically suffering from some unfortunate mental illness or breed of neurodivergence, and I'm consistently impressed by those who do have such afflictions and are able to function to the highest degree.
But I'm not talking about you.
What I am talking about, and what I see daily (hourly? secondly?), on social media and elsewhere, is that some have taken science and equitable opinions and common sense and better judgment and said, confidently, "NOT TODAY, OR MAYBE EVER, I GUESS WE'LL SEE." To varying degrees of pure negativity, cynicism, and unjustifiable, pearl-clutched whining.
I shall call you The Mob of Unfortunates.
Meanwhile, many of you—the majority, believe it or not, as I see it—have lost their minds in the most extraordinary of ways. The ones who do whatever they want (legally and ethically), say whatever they want (respectfully), and believe whatever they want (while maintaining reason).
Let's call you, for sake of catchphrase consistency, The Mob of The Enlightened.
Those persistent screenwriters who spent the last decade passed by and "meh'd" until writing the script they, surprise, actually wanted and were excited to write. The righteous filmmakers crowdfunding the most random of ridiculous movies about bizarre, unique, relevant shit they love. The comedians who gave a middle finger to the trite and discovered grounded humor in the humorless (I'm talking in particular about the impeccable Meg Stalter, but I'm sure there are others probably?). The authors ... well, the authors are still even-keel. Publishing is a strange beast for this film/TV development veteran—why is everyone, relatively speaking, so goddamn nice?
These are the creators you want to befriend. To be in the same circle as. You can't tell by casual glance alone, but they're out of their minds. Total loons. In the best of ways. Truly. Rebels without a cause. Steve Jobses without the turtlenecked acrimony. Lowkey innovators of the modern era. Failed artists who realized they needn't be afraid of failing. Steering clear of the exhausting, much-despised "um actchuwally" know-it-all pricks whose words we laugh at behind their backs, they charge ahead—listening, learning, and finding their path because, hey, look at that, they're building their path, one hallmarked stone at a time.
How do I know this? Because I see it.
You can spot them a country mile away. Down yonder, diverged from the crowds. Talking to themselves at chain cafés like sociopaths. They operate outside the cage of expectations. They don't shun rules, per se—write books in their invented language, perform stand-up without jokes, or write scripts without bolded scene headings (I will not be taking counterpoints re: scene headings at this time) ... The true creatives who have mentally separated what they should do from what they could do are a clear-cut, unabashed group of demented antiheroes. The bastard children of normalcy.
And let me tell you something:
They're growing, this once-nomadic legion of outcasts. Faster than I've ever seen.
Look no further than the great bastion of unadulterated truth that is Twitter. Civilization's social network city on a hill. Where, as a writer once eloquently told me, has become, not an exaggeration of human behavior, but an "amalgam of sorts" of who we really are. A zoo for sociological study.
And, sorry to say, for The Mob of Unfortunates: you're not getting far in the world, so lol good luck.
For The Mob of The Enlightened: nailed it [kobe3pointer.gif].
"But wait," they'll say—those self-important few who dance in the playground of reality, having shunned social media and renounced Satan and all his works.
"Twitter isn't real life."
And they'd of course be wrong.
Facebook isn't real life. Instagram isn't real life.
Snapchat and TikTok: I'm convinced they're a brilliant simulation, akin to Westworld (season 1).
But Twitter? Twitter is real life personified—a hyperbolic microcosm of humanity under the guise of the world's largest, most fascinating, most educational, most insufferable networking event. A petri dish of personalities presenting, feathers out, a sampling of what the arts has to offer. And it's a hideous, glorious mess. Take a self-guided tour sometime of, say, Screenwriting Twitter. You'll be both inspired and horrified. Yet there is no greater, no more flawless, example of these two tribes of thought.
Notice I've exempted myself from this barren wasteland of virtual insanity™ (© Jamiroquai, circa 1996). Surely, I, noble preacher of this unsolicited sermon, cannot possibly be included amongst the masses, and that you, the audience, know that's bullshit. Though I broke up with the mundane some time ago (still in a rocky LTR with boring, but heaven forbid not mundane), I'll spare posting infinite proof of losing my mind and rather point to a March day in 2020 when I "invented" the #scriptail, a premium cocktail with ingredients inspired by the best script I read that week. Adorable, right? I know. I should bring that back for all three of its fans because it's a sure sign of someone who doesn't care about normalcy anymore. In a healthy, victimless, very safe way, imho tyvm. Will this advance my career? No. What career? But I happily—merrily, even—take pride in the fact that you can dissolve your filter and create different/off-kilter/semi-entertaining niche nonsense without being a generic lump or an asshole about it. In writing, in filmmaking, on stage, and in life. Cheers.
The fact of the matter, whether you've made peace with it or not, is as follows:
You have not chosen an industry for the fully sane. The suit-and-tie-and-nylons-wearing-9-to-5-cubicle-dwelling-let's-go-to-happy-hour-and-have-some-laughs-on-a-Friday-night-but-be-home-by-10pm crowd is not your lifestyle choice.
This is a job best handled by the slightly unbalanced.
The intrepid who dared admit to their parents and friends and loved ones they're going to tell stories and make movies and write plays and act and crack awkward jokes, then ignored their parents and friends and loved ones when they said:
"A movie director?"
"A stand-up comic??"
*faints atop 1990s-era linoleum*
"In 2021? In the world—in the ECONOMY—we're living in?"
"You lost your fucking mind."
And, God willing, never shall you find it again.
*Feature image by Fran_kie (Adobe)