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Category Archives: Screenwriting

Posts about writing for the screen, big and small.

Divergence

Where will you go when the road splits before you?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

I have to admit, it’s been years since I’ve thought about this poem.  As a literature nut who has straddled two worlds for most of his adult life, one would think I would have kept this particular piece a little closer to my heart.

At times, it seems like it’s a never-ending battle.  What do I want to be when I grow up?  The problem with that question is that I am, in fact, grown-up.  And all I can say that I am for certain, is indecisive.  I am not unique in this, nor am I the only one who has ever, or will ever, face these kinds of choices.  Left or right, fight or flight…such ponderous questions inspired one of the most well-known and memorable poems in all of literature.

My paths in the woods are career paths, specifically technology and entertainment.  I’ve walked this line for years, content to keep one foot on the tech path, and one foot on the entertainment path.  I write in my spare time, and work a full-time job in Information Technology.  I have a degree in computers, but I also am earning a degree in film.

It’s a curious combination, since scientifc, technologically minded people tend to be more left-brained, and creative people tend to be more right-brained.  Yet I’ve managed to straddle this line for over a decade of professional life, and the end result thus far has been a spectacular display of mediocrity.  Let’s take stock, shall we?

On the tech side of things, my career has been remarkably bland.  Oh, I have proven myself to be a hard worker, a self-starter with a talent for effectively managing processes and procedures and implementing improvements that save time and money.  I flourish in environments where I can contribute, and where my ideas are heard.  I have a good handle on technology and its practical applications in the business world.  Yet my I.T. career has been one stellar support job after another.  It is only now that I’ve earned a position that is more specialized and focused.  I’m comfortable here, to be sure.  And I’m drawing a terrific salary (especially in light of the few years in my twenties when I left I.T. for awhile).  Yet, things are stagnate, because there aren’t enough hours in the day to fervently pursue an I.T. career, manage home life, and continue with my “other half.”

On the creative side of things, there is no career to speak of: just a series of side projects, many of which have languished in “development hell” for years.  The efforts I have put forth, when I do put them forth, have been great, and very well received.  My virtual series, Frontiers, was at one time one of the most widely read fanfic series on the internet.  Yet, we’ve been releasing Season 3 since 2008.  I’ve begun several film projects that ended up being cut short due to various complications.  I’ve written several promising prose series that have a pretty big reader base, but they are stalled out early in the run.  Yet here and now, I’ve got a great web series off the ground, I’m planning my next short film, and things more moving with my classes.  But things are still stagnate to a degree. Why? Because there aren’t enough hours in the day to fervently pursue a career in writing or film, manage home life, and continue with my “other half.”

It takes a special kind of talent to straddle two sides of the fence.  It’s given me insight into reconciling different and opposing viewpoints over the years, making me something of a peace maker.  It’s allowed me to coax reluctant people into joining me on whatever damn fool crusade I’m embarking on.  But when it comes down to it, you have to take a side.  To walk that line forever is foolish and impossible.  One cannot serve two masters, at least not reliably.

I’ve never been more capable of venturing down one of those roads or the other.  Never been more prepared.  Will I have the steadfastness to choose technology and let go of my more creative nature?  Or will I have the courage to leave the relative safety of the familiar and embark upon that road less traveled?

In the end, it’s never really been about which I would choose.  It’s been about how long I could keep them both up.  How long I could kid myself into thinking it’s possible to keep it up forever.  How long it would take me to find the courage necessary to finally, fully commit myself. 

For me, there’s only ever been one thing I love, one thing that keeps me up at night, one thing that makes me giddy every day before work.  And my only regret, is that it’s taken me this long to realize it.  I’ve always “known” mind you – but the true epiphany, the true, self-permeating realization that I cannot possibly do anything else…that’s a little more recent.

I always thought that making this choice would be some epic event.  But it isn’t.  It’s a calm, quiet, private moment where something inside of me finally says, “Yes. Yes, you idiot, you’ve finally accepted it. Now go on and live your life. You’ve got a lot of wasted time to make up for.”

Two roads diverge in a wood, and I —
I will take the one less traveled by
And that will make all the difference.

 

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Character Profile: Jason Shepard

“These kids aren’t my problem.”

It’s hard to imagine such a calloused and self-centered individual had such humble beginnings, but such is the case for Jason Shepard.  Born into a single-bedroom apartment (literally; his mother couldn’t afford insurance and had him at home), Jason grew up without luxuries like toys, disposable diapers, or medical care.  His mother worked three jobs to provide for them, after his father walked out soon after he was born.

Jason attended a poorly rated public school, where he was mocked behind his back for his limited wardrobe and the lack of a hot shower every day.  The constant taunting led to many fights and an ever-increasing build-up of anger and frustration.

Yet at home, Jason seemed content.  He enjoyed spending time with his mother at least once a week, and spent the rest of the time plucking away at a guitar she had bought him at a yard sale.  It was his most prized possession, and on it, he taught himself how to emulate the sounds around him.  He spent hours listening to the rock stations on the radio and picking out the tunes, then playing them himself.

Unfortunately, one of his mother’s job was working in a local mill, where she contracted a serious lung disease that prevented her from working.  After a friend offered legal counsel, she sued the company and the money won from the lawsuit allowed her to finally give Jason the kind of house and life she had always wanted for him.

High school turned things around for Jason.  His mother – with her health deteriorating – invested some of the money from the lawsuit and managed to make enough to provide for herself and Jason for a long, long time.  No longer ridiculed, Jason reveled in newfound popularity due in part to his impressive guitar skills.

Jason found himself escaping more and more into his music as his mother’s health declined.  He began writing songs, putting the lyrics to paper and then making up the tune as he went.  He also began casually dating Amber DiSoltes, a fellow Senior.  His mother had desperately wanted to see her son attend his Senior Prom, so he took Amber.  She told him how happy she was and how proud she was of him, giving him a strangely long embrace before he departed.

The next morning, Jason returned home to find his mother had died in her sleep.  He was devastated. He was invited to stay with his grandparents, but chose to move to New York instead, in the hopes of escaping his old life and pursuing a music career.  He left Saint Paul without so much as a goodbye, refusing even to take part at his own graduation.

Working as a Taxi driver in New York, Jason met up with Silas Bishop, a fellow aspiring musician.  Silas was playing a gig at a night club with his partner, Nathan “Nate” Reinke.  Their third man cancelled at the last minute, and Jason – who overheard this on a cell phone while driving the two to their engagement – offered his services.

The trio performed a few cover songs, and a few tracks written by Silas and Nate (which Jason picked up on after hearing the recordings just once).  By the end of the night, people were asking for EP’s and demos.  Silas and Nate offered Jason the job permanently, and Damned Azkus was born.

The band met with great success, eventually signing on with Interscope Records.  The band kicked off a brief tour in the Northeast to celebrate.  The album was a regional success, and a world tour was in the works.  Meanwhile, Jason had married Katherine “Kat” Veneziano.  A groupie for the band from age 16, she fell in love with Jason and married when she turned 18.

Twin boys soon followed, and “Kat” ended up leaving the road life to raise the kids.  Jason grew more and more distant, unable to find satisfaction at home or abroad.  He turned to drinking, had several affairs, and fell into a deep depression.  This life wasn’t what he had hoped it would be, and he had no hope left for any other kind of life.

After a late show one night, Jason took a groupie back to the hotel with him. Both were seriously drunk, and the girl, Tiffany, decided she didn’t want to wait until they were back in the hotel.  She climbed atop Jason, and the subsequent coupling resulted in a terrible car accident.  A piece of shattered windshield nearly tore Jason’s hand off.

After surgery, he was told his nerves were shot. He could never play guitar again.  The band was unable to find a replacement and their future deteriorated.  When Kat found out how the accident had happened, she took the kids and left.  Jason was utterly alone once more.  He spent several weeks in rehab only to fall back into old habits.  He landed in jail, lost his license, got it back, and repeated the cycle.

Perhaps it was fate that Jason ended up taking a trip into Virginia.  He had been drinking again, and was pulled over and arrested near Saint Paul. The arresting officer recognized him, and made a phone call on his behalf.  Jason went before Judge Harold Slate and was sentenced to community service, in the hopes of rehabilitating him.

Though he’s had a difficult life, it’s hard to feel sorry for Jason. Most of his current troubles are his own doing, and he doesn’t seem to care or look out for anyone but himself.  Yet deep down, there is a small part of him that is still that sad, lonely little boy who had only a guitar and a loving mother to get him through each day.

Fate has a funny way of bringing things full circle, and of forcuing us to confront the ghosts of a past we thought we left behind.  And so it goes with Jason Shepard, now standing at the beginning of a journey that will bring him face to face with shadows of his past and that will change his future forever.

 

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Enter, the Shepard

Welcome to Saint Paul, Virginia.

Nothing ever happens here.  Until the day Jason Shepard comes home.

“Shepard” is my first major creative effort outside of film school, and my first attempt at a web series.  It chronicles the story of Jason Shepard, a one-time rockstar who has lost everything to a string of bad decisions and run-ins with the law (both of which involving copious amounts of alcohol).  After he is cut a break by a sympathetic judge, he finds himself back home, facing a lengthy community service sentence at an old church on the verge of closing its doors.

Inspiration for this story came from a number of places.  I’ve always enjoyed the idea of returning to what you’ve left behind and facing your past.  It’s not an unfamiliar story, that’s true. But the thing about “homecoming” stories is that they are as varied and unique as the individuals who populate their worlds.

Jason doesn’t have much left at home. No family, and no friends.  Just one lingering connection, in the form of an old high school flame that he walked out on after the prom.  And, one new connection, in the form of an aging and very much atypical church pastor, who seems to think Jason would be well-suited for the task of working with the youth group.

I didn’t honestly expect much to come from this series at first.  It seemed like a neat idea, but I never planned on taking it anywhere.  The nascence really came from my own church pastor asking me to work with the youth at our church.  It sparked an idea that has since grown into this web series.

We’ve just begun production, and have two full days of work under our belt.  As things continue, I’ll offer production updates and insights on this blog, and we’ll take a look at the unique cast of characters that populate this small but fascinating world.

Until next time!

 

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