Tonight, in screenwriting, we gave our five-minute presentations: Synopsis, major conflict, what’s at stake, theme. About half the class went this week, and the rest will go next. Several of tonight’s presenters were people in my study group, and having heard their stories for the last month, I was struck by how these stories are evolving. The ecoterrorist class-warfare story of September is now a black romantic comedy. The teen drama, conceived as Woody Allen for the high school crowd, became a gritty “Kids” with maybe a little less nihilism. It leaves me amazed and amused by how much fun this is, a grown-up version of Barbies: “You’re an anthropologist. No, you’re a veterinarian. No, you’re … a man! A gay man? No, an old man! That’s it.”
I was also struck by how, once you tell a story, you’ve given it away. It’s no longer yours, because it belongs to the audience now, too. The ecoterrorist class-warfare writer thought he was making sharp observations about the divide between our good intentions and our final outcomes, but we laughed at his premise, so now…hey, maybe it’s a comedy! It is! Now it’s about the ultimate absurdity of love, plus maybe a dead body.
Moral: If all those kids waving flags in Bruce Springsteen’s audience thought “Born in the USA” was an anthem and not an anguished howl of post-Vietnam pain, well, dammit, it’s an anthem. Deal, Bruce. This is why they pay you the big bucks.