Write the Good Fight

when-life-gives-lemons-apply-pressure

When life gives you lemons, apply pressure and kick ass!

When I write, sometimes I really am punching the keys.

It’s not easy: you want to tell a story, but you can’t articulate. Not just writing a screenplay, but anything. I’m talking about conversations, career choices, coping with rejection, coping with success, responding to the silence when you were expecting an answer.

An example? Almost two years ago, I’d just finished a 12-week screenwriting intensive sponsored by New York Film Academy LA. I’d won a scholarship, I’d learned so much about the language of writing in (motion) pictures, and I hadn’t even finished 10 pages of my screenplay (spoiler alert: I still haven’t). I was frustrated.

Fast forward, six-months later: I’m hunched over the kitchen table in my studio apartment, determined to write a one-scene-wonder monologue for my acting reel and somehow – call it inspiration, call it saturation – I knew what I needed to write: a story about a man who takes away the painful memories of others. One week later, I had written the first draft of my pilot. My mentor, Dan, kindly informed me that I had actually written *half* of a pilot, so time to expand.

Type, type, backspace, type. Done.

Well, not really.

END FLASHBACK. Back-to-the-Present: I don’t know how many drafts it’s been, but my sci-fi pilot, The Relief, has transformed. I’m seeing things I didn’t see before, and I don’t flop out of my seat in panic when new imperfections complications arise.

I look to my fridge. These words, comforting, spur me on:

“It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to exist.”

The Relief - SciFi Pilot by Ross Denyer

Well, now it does exist. Won’t ever be perfect, but it might be memorable.

So, What's Happening With Your SciFi Pilot?
As of today (2/11/2016), THE RELIEF has finished as a Top 10 Finalist in the 2015 ScreenCraft Pilot Launch, 12th Place in the 2015 Emerging Screenwriters Competition, and has progressed to the Quarter and Semi-Final rounds with Fresh Voices and Stage32.
What Else Are You Writing?
My other writing projects currently include: the femme fatale short story “Turn Off” (also a Quarter-Finalist with ScreenCraft), the 1/2hr animated action-comedy “Nostalgia Squad”, and a feature screenplay based on one of the great, unsung military miracles of World War II.
And then...?
Win a contest with “The Relief”, gain traction with my other projects, acquire literary representation, and above all, keep punching those keys!

Right on, Write on…

Leap of Faith

xo-prelude-to-a-kiss-LACMA Why do we set our hearts on something, and then wander in another direction? Maybe we aren’t ready? Or maybe, we still don’t believe we’re ready.

I’m about to turn 27. In June, I celebrated my 4th anniversary in Los Angeles, the city I decided would be my home after graduating with a theatre arts degree in May 2011. Even before I was old enough to verbalize it, I wanted to be a storyteller. I thrived on imagination, on pretending to be something other. This is something all children do well, perhaps because the world is still so new to them – nothing is set, or permanent. Everything changes. Maybe that’s why I enjoy working with children: they remind me to step outside of my certainty, which despite their reverence for me being a “grownup”, is really not very certain at all. But like actors, grownups are often good at pretending everything’s under control.

ross denyer turns five years old

22 years ago, celebrating my 5th birthday in style!

The past few years, I’ve been very uncertain. I always told myself it would be a tough business, and so many people told me the same. But no amount of preparation equates to the experience: you will be rejected, constantly, even if you do good work. Often times, you won’t even be given the opportunity to show if you can do good work. I’ve kept track of all my auditions, writing down not only the technical stuff down like where/when/who and whether or not I booked it, but also how it felt. It’s remarkable to look back on some of these notes (and to be transported back into those rooms) and remember these intense blips of joy/sadness/longing/frustration/(hopefully well-hidden) desperation! In my first couple of years in Los Angeles, I auditioned a lot (over 100 times, which as an unrepresented non-union actor is a statistic I’m proud of), and I booked a lot too, including my very first audition (that was an incomparable thrill, I truly felt like a child again!) But for various reasons, the past two years have been a bit more of a wandering, which I now believe was necessary: I needed greater stability, and (perhaps more importantly) I needed to trust myself.

In the process of finding those qualities, I became more involved with tutoring and for two years, I worked at an educational center helping young children to read. My tutoring expanded into other companies and freelance, and continues to be a source of financial stability and deep personal satisfaction. But while I was at this tutoring center, during the summers, the hours were long and intense, and my ability to film something or even get out for auditions was stunted. It’s true that in the past two years I found time for other creative avenues – I co-produced and directed a web series in New York, I won a scholarship to a screenwriting workshop and wrote a sci-fi pilot…and yet, I was afraid that I’d strayed from my reasons for coming to Los Angeles.

wanderer-above-the-sea-of-fog

“Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog” (1818), by Caspar David Friedrich. Metaphorically, I think we’ve all been here.

My love for storytelling has led me back to the writings of Joseph Campbell many times. In The Power of Myth, he says:

“The achievement of the hero is one that he is ready for and it’s really a manifestation of his character. It’s amusing the way in which the landscape and conditions of the environment match the readiness of the hero. The adventure that he is ready for is the one that he gets … The adventure evoked a quality of his character that he didn’t know he possessed.”

At the end of May, I quit my job of two years at this tutoring center, just before its busiest summer season. In June, I struggled to adapt to that loss of stability, which included losing many other regular tutoring clients for the summer season. I submitted to auditions regularly, sought stability where I could, and questioned my potentially foolish decision to take “a leap of faith”. But in July, just a few weeks ago, things started to change: I was getting auditions, and I was booking them. After months of barely even getting in the room, let alone getting the role, I won three parts in the same week. Last week, I was on set for two different projects every day. And I was so happy, because it felt like my desire had reconnected with my existence. It wasn’t until I was sitting down for dinner with friends, and they asked me about my recent adventures, that I realized what had changed: “for whatever reasons, I just feel ready now”. Joseph Campbell was right.

xo-santa-monica-beach-ross-denyer

A still from the short film ‘XO’, in production. Pictured on Santa Monica beach with actress Tara Brown.