Love and Adventure on the Periphery of the Screen Trade

Lisa first made a scene on a beach roughly halfway down Mexico’s Baja peninsula. She arrived armed with the attributes I thought a love interest should possess: intelligent, sexy and she could surf.

My girlfriend didn’t like her. And the more time we spent together, the more jealous my girlfriend became.

There were questions: Why was she here? Where did she come from? And just what did my twisted little mind have in store for her?

I tried explaining to my girlfriend that she was overreacting. That she was reading too much into the situation. That Lisa was only great on paper.

That Lisa was just a character in my latest screenplay.

This did little to assuage her concerns. Surely, she claimed, Lisa had been constructed from someone, somewhere. So who, when, where?

We broke up soon after. But my love affair with Lisa – and all the other fictional characters I’ve created – remains as torrid as when it first began eight years ago, when I first typed those two magical all-capped words…

FADE IN:

It was an exciting time. I’d married an aspiring actress and we’d often chat about our collective future in film: if I went Hollywood first, I’d write her into some of my films. If she did, she’d make sure one of my scripts found its way into the right hands.

It was the perfect plot. Until some unforeseen twists and turns – fueled by character flaws and exacerbated by two struggling artists living under a single location’s roof – led to tension, a predictable dark period and, mercifully, divorce.

Aristotle would have been proud.

Depression loomed. And my writing flourished.

Six feature films, a television series and several short films later, this relationship – now by far my longest – still makes my heart flutter.

So what’s the secret? Well, maybe it’s all the role-playing. Then again, my characters are great listeners. They do what I say. They even say what I want them to say, when I want them to say it.

My characters believe in me, and I them. They trust me. They – to borrow a line I wish I had written – complete me.

I love them for that.

But I also love the feeling of a finished screenplay in my hands. At roughly 120 pages, it’s voluptuous, but never too big to bend, curl up, or fan yourself with by fluttering the bottom corner of the pages with your thumb.

Those pages get carefully three-hole punched, of course, with two gleaming brass brads carefully inserted into holes, top and bottom, the physical connection linking each story’s beginning, middle and end, its cover page proudly proclaiming its name in 12-point Courier Final Draft font and, underneath:

by Graeme McRanor

You’d be forgiven if my name doesn’t ring a bell – writers are rarely household names, even if they’ve penned some of the biggest blockbusters in Hollywood history.

I have not written any of the biggest blockbusters in Hollywood history.

In fact, I’ve never actually sold a screenplay. And after all these years, all this time invested, I’m starting to have some serious doubts about the future of this relationship.

After all, it’s never been consummated.

So how can I even call myself a screenwriter? I mean, toss a rock in any circle and you’ll strike someone who has a screenplay gathering dust on his hard drive. Everyone else has an awesome idea for one. Are they screenwriters? Don’t think so.

What makes me different? Why do I keep investing in a relationship that, to everybody on the sidelines, seems so obviously one-sided?

Because I can’t help myself.

I enjoy spending time with my characters, even if no one else ever will.

Women, particularly, do not appreciate my affliction. They do not like being stood-up because of a car chase, a bank robbery or a lengthy-but-pivotal sex scene featuring full-frontal nudity (for the lady).

Nor do they like trying to converse with a guy who just nods robotically while scribbling story ideas on cocktail napkins.

Three years ago, TINA, 30s, an attractive redhead, walked into my life. She’s a laid-back chick who, like me, spends a lot of time living in her head. So, occasionally, there’s very little dialogue.

She suggested I write a script based on my experiences as a model (what can I say, I’m a glutton for punishment). So I penned a pilot and sent it to a fledgling literary manager in Los Angeles, who signed me.

Romance, reborn!

It didn’t last. And I had no choice but to break up with him after he stopped taking my calls.

Tina and I moved in together and had a son, LONDON, bald with blue eyes. Fatherhood’s grand but, since he’s been born, it’s been tough to find time for my writing. So I designated Friday as my official weekly screenwriting day.

In 26 months, I haven’t written a word.

It’s said that parenting is the most important job in the world. I wholeheartedly agree. But it’s also tough on a relationship.

So now I’m a a single dad. And a kid needs nurturing. A kid needs a father.

Then again, so does a screenplay.

I’m talking months, maybe even years of development here. You can’t just bang one out in a few weeks and expect it to be good.

Listen to me, making excuses for them.

But then, it’s not them, it’s me. And, truth be told, the writing’s been on the wall for months now.

We’re growing apart.

So maybe a clean break is best.

Still, eight years is an awfully long time. There’s history. Commitment. And now I’m just supposed to get up and walk away from it all?

FADE OUT.

It’s tough to predict how that love story ends. No matter. Now I’ve got a more important one to tend to, starring my adorable little son, certainly the best character I’ve crafted to date.

Wait a second – that just gave me an awesome idea for a movie. It’s about an ex-model turned struggling writer who gave up on a dream so he could be a good father.

Who am I kidding? Nobody wants to see that film. But maybe I could write a book about it. A memoir. Hey, I probably should. Producers love to option those.

I could adapt it.

——————————————

Story by Graeme McRanor

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