The Bizarre Experience of a 21st Century Canadian Writer

It was seven o’clock in the morning in the spring of 2016 and normally I would have been standing in a circle with the other warehouse employees, being assigned my duties for the day. Immediately after the huddle, I’d begin by completing the daily safety inspection of my forklift. On this Monday morning, however, I was going to be inspected. At any moment my name would be called, and I’d follow a nurse into the next room to prepare for a colonoscopy.
No one looks forward to having a camera, regardless how small it is, pushed up their nether regions, but if it can reduce the risk of colon cancer, it’s worth the temporary discomfort. I just wanted to get it over with. If the doctor said I was clear, I wouldn’t have to undergo the procedure again for ten years.
I checked my smartphone to pass the time, hoping for an e-mail that didn’t invite me to complete a survey, or remind me of a relative’s birthday. I was hoping for an e-mail from an editor or a producer. I’ve been writing for over twenty years and I’m always waiting for replies for the short stories, essays and screenplays that I submit. I work in a warehouse to pay the bills, I write because it’s my passion.
One of the television and film companies I had recently submitted a script to was in South Africa. Modern technology has opened up markets around the globe for writers; you can contact companies through their websites and then submit your work by e-mail. Before the internet became a reality, researching writing opportunities in Africa and submitting scripts would have been much more difficult, perhaps impossible.
As the nurse called my name, I put my smartphone away and walked through the door. A few minutes later, after changing into a hospital gown and answering a few questions, the nurse wheeled my bed into a room with a large monitor on one wall. With the help of some mild sedation to help me relax, the procedure wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as I had anticipated. So there I was, it was a beautiful spring morning and I was looking at the inside of my colon.
Meanwhile, a producer was preparing to send a response from Johannesburg. It was decision time, either the producer was going to make an offer or reject my script.
The procedure was over in less than twenty minutes and my colon was fine. An hour and half after I arrived at the Colon Cancer Screening Centre I was back at the main entrance, waiting for a family member to pick me up. When I looked at my phone, the first thing I noticed was that I had received an e-mail from the film and television company in South Africa.
As I read the politely worded e-mail, I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of the situation.; it had taken less time for the e-mail rejecting my screenplay to travel from the other side of the planet, than it had taken for the camera to travel through my colon. The wonders of modern technology….

Copyright © 2017 By J. Paul Cooper


3 Great Books For Screenwriters

The books on this list aren’t about how to write screenplays; there are countless books on that subject. These books are for those of us who are learning to write screenplays, and it isn’t practical to leave their day jobs to work in the film and television industry.  These books provide general knowledge about how the American film industry works. I’m Canadian, but that doesn’t change the fact that Hollywood still has the greatest influence.

On The Set: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette (2012) by Paul J. Salamoff

One way to learn about how film sets operate is working as a Film Extra (Background Performer) but depending on an individual’s work schedule and family responsibilities this may not be practical. On The Set is an excellent primer on how the many roles work together to make a movie take shape. This book will help you learn the language of filmmakers.

What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting (2007) by Mark Norman

Although there are many thriving film industries around the globe, for many screenwriters, Hollywood and the American film industry is still the dream. What Happens Next describes how screenwriters were  involved in the evolution of the film industry. I remember watching an instruction video by a screenwriting guru that begins with him driving his European sports car past palm trees, on a beautiful day with clear skies. What Happens Next tells you about the storms.

Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency (2016) by James A. Miller

How do deals get made in Hollywood? Although, as the title states, this book is about the history of the Creative Artists Agency, it also offers a clear picture of how deals are made in the film industry and how agents promote their clients. Before reading Powerhouse I understood that they represented their clients, but I had no idea how many other services they provide.  This is a fascinating look at how the players in Hollywood interact with each other.

Reading about the history of the film industry and how deals are completed is fascinating, but it doesn’t replace the essential learning experience of any writer, and that is actually writing. I enjoy watching interviews with famous writers on YouTube, visiting their websites, and reading their books, but if I’m not committed to sitting down and doing the hard work of putting my thoughts on paper, I’ll never reach my goal of becoming a full-time writer.  I hope that you’ll find some time this week to write, because you have unique stories, and unique points of view that only you can share with the world.

Copyright © 2017 by J. Paul Cooper