Michael Chase Walker: An Open Letter to Aspiring Screenwriters

The-Shining-Top-Ten-Thrillers_thumb Congratulations ! With screenwriting you’ve quite possibly chosen one of the most difficult, challenging and frustrating crafts in the world today. No doubt that challenge will take you from bleeding through your forehead, to handling your own psychology and flaws, testing your cultural wherewithal and ultimately mastering its complicated and demanding structure and artistic demands– a quest that Robert McKee warns will take, at least, ten years or ten screenplays, or, what Malcolm Gladwell describes as an arduous 10,000 hours of perfect practice. In the end you should have a body of excellent work, or, if not , you will have learned more and become more than you can possibly anticipate. Any art form is more about your process and determination than it is about selling or finding an agent, producer, or financial reward. In essence, what you choose to write and how you go about mastering it, is writing you, every bit as much as what you choose to write about. Accordingly, the first quality any producer or agent wants is excellence, professionalism and expertise. They do not want to waste their time with amateurs, wanna be’s or immature talent no matter how promising. They are not looking for ideas either, because that’s what they perceive themselves to have in abundance, Ideas. As one high-powered producer recently said, “Ideas are a dime a dozen. I’m looking for someone who can solve problems on paper and not merely point them out.” In essence, don’t tell me what the problems are — FIX THEM! Anyone with even a modicum of experience in the motion picture industry has seen even the best and highest most commercial concepts fail, because the screenwriter failed to solve the problems. And every screenwriter of merit has failed many many times for many reasons– creatively, personality-wise, or through the rigors of development hell. Some of the best screenwriters of our time even refuse to write original screenplays because the likelihood of getting them produced has never been more impossible. Financially, they avail themselves for Adaptations of a published book or play, with a major director and star attached. Agents and studio executives aren’t really looking for the next best thing in screenwriting either unless they come out of the very best Ivy league University programs, or Off Broadway with an award-winning produced play, book, and other major credits. That being said, it should not stop or dissuade you from your goal, but merely point out what you’re up against. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me personally. Best, MCW

Reading Captain Underpants Or In The Night Kitchen

In the Night KitchenMaurice came out to me in 1985 when I was the Director of Children’s Programs at CBS Television and anxious to create an animated television series based on his book. When we became friends at the 1985 premiere of his brilliant “Where the Wild Things Are” Opera at the Ordway theater in St. Paul, Minneapolis, he spoke at length about his lifetime fascination with his parents’ and siblings’ posteriors. As they were not a demonstrably affectionate family that hugged or kissed openly, he confessed, he was preternaturally compelled to embrace them from behind to express his love and unwittingly receive their affection. He explained to me it was the psychologically driving force for most of the characters and situations of his books: rebellion, “wildness”, and love given, taken and received in alternative ways. He was one of the most open, courageous, ingenious, and brilliantly subversive artists I have ever known. As with “Captain Underpants” or Mickey in the Night Kitchen we are presented with wild stirrings and unconscious motivations of unbridled childhood urges and forbidden passions which are the well-spring of every child’s imagination. In this day and age when children’s books are handed over to insipid celebrity home movies, vapid morality,  and simpering pieties, I fear we will never again experience his towering, defiant and brilliant insights to the nature and unfettered genius of childhood again. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lori-day/reading-captain-underpant_b_4951921.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment&ir=Entertainment

The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street

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As Rod Serling so brilliantly admonished us in The Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” those pesky monsters are just as likely to be the fear mongering fabulists, hysterics and well-meaning moralists who can’t quite seem to get out of their own way before setting the torches and mobs ablaze. Sadly, and what is truly pathetic here is, there are facts, timelines and witnesses to this case and they exculpate Woody Allen completely from the charge he molested his adopted daughter, Dylan. What is even more disconcerting is there seems to be little logic, deduction or even common sense to those who wish to turn this into a cause celebre for feminist, religious, moral, or anti-Hollywood issues. The answer is,  “none of the above”. Those of us who studied the case as it unfolded clearly saw Ms. Farrow’s attempts to charge Woody Allen with molesting Soon-Yi at first ( which may or may not be justified),  but when the facts would not bear it out, she turned to the Connecticut DA where her family had more pull  and redirected the timely charge towards their adopted daughter, Dylan, for custody reasons. This is a legal case and it has been thoroughly investigated and adjudicated according to law. Any attempt to suggest otherwise says more about the feckless groups and self-serving individuals trying so desperately to suggest otherwise.

NO, You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.” http://theconversation.com/no-youre-not-entitled-to-your-opinion-9978 via @ConversationEDU

Of Actors, Artists and Addicts

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Artists by their very nature require a certain solipsistic attitude. It is the very fiber of their craft to say nothing of the time, devotion, and “alone” time just to perform and perfect their instrument. There is nothing evil or wrong in it,  although it doesn’t make them particularly great neighbors, parents, husbands, church deacons, etc.  Hoffman was very upfront about his addictions and often commented had he  been famous or rich much younger he would have been dead that much earlier, too! The reason many artists are addicts is because the two can be intertwined psychologically and even genetically. The very thing that drove them to addiction drives them to be artists and vice versa. It never goes away and is only accelerated or abated by various social economic and psychological conditions. To ask if he loved, or lived, or transcended himself is perfectly fine, but to answer or judge them for not being otherwise causes so many more complications.  Hoffman presaged his early death and spoke about it as though it were a premonition of sorts. As with the late Cory Monteith, one of the inherent problems seems to be in their post-rehab treatment. An addict becomes sober and  detoxes for a time, but when they relapse they go right back into their old dosage and inadvertently kill themselves. I think that’s imminently more addressable, for the rest of us,  than the deeper, more ontological questions as to why they’re addicts, artists or even actors in the first place.