by Bri Castellini
La La Land was ok. I mean, don’t get it twisted, I cried at the ending. That’s not particularly surprising- I cry a lot at TV and movies. I’m wired to care more about fictional narratives than actual human people. That’s not the topic of this blog. The topic of this blog is the sometimes inescapable self congratulatory subjects of media- ourselves.
Most hack writing books and teachers will tell young writers- write what you know! And to an extent, that’s good advice. To an extent. But what this has really done is encourage basically every other writer in the world to write about, well, writers. Screenwriters write about screenwriters, about actors, about Hollywood. Novelists write about novelists. Web series creators write about making web series, or wanting to get into the film industry, or living with too many roommates because we’re all poor and want to get into the film industry.
Every once in a while, there’s a really great piece of media about the media industry. 30 Rock. Submissions Only. La La Land. But here’s the thing- most people are not writers, actors, playwrights, artists, etc. So there are only so many narratives you can tell about the artistic lifestyle before people are like “we get it. You eat a lot of ramen and argue about dishes with the revolving door of kooky 20-something roommates, and someday want to see your name in lights. Cool. What else you got?”
I don’t know. I don’t know what else I got. About a month ago I was trying to force inspire myself to write something new, having written ten pages of a TV spec pilot about making a web series and then realizing that it’s the least inspired thing in the world. And I genuinely had this thought- “what else do people do?” For the life of me, I could not remember what else people do in the world, other than write and want to be filmmakers or actors. Sure, the service industry was an option too, but there are already some really great service industry shows out there (Superstore in particular) and I don’t think my perspective is unique enough to try my own hand at it.
I am surrounded by creative people, and on a day to day basis, that’s great. We all get each other, and we’re all doing our best to make it in this often debilitating depressing entertainment industry. But when it comes to developing new shows and projects for us to make together, because all I do is talk about making new shows and projects with people, all I can think to write is- that. Writing about being a writer stuck as a barista. Writing about being a writer living with her creative partners and intermingling friendship and business in hilarious and detrimental ways. Writing about being a writer with two actor best friends. Do you see the problem?
A few years back, I was midway through a creative writing degree at the best place in the world (Pacific University) and one of my favorite authors (Maureen Johnson) wrote a blog about doing just that. If I was smart, I would have bookmarked it and read it once a month, but I was young and cocky, and now it’s lost to the ages (unless I find it again, in which case, I will link to it HERE!).
The basic premise of the blog was an argument against getting writing degrees- especially graduate or doctorate level writing degrees- if your eventual goal was not to become a teacher or professor. Her argument was that if all you ever do is study writing, what the hell are you going to write about? This was, and remains, a very good point.
At the time, I wasn’t concerned. I was in college, I had lots of other shit going on, and I was mostly writing genre stuff anyways, and my imagination wasn’t going to go away, so who cares if all I studied was writing? I’m glad I got my BA in Creative Writing, because I genuinely did become a better writer, but then I moved to New York City for an MFA, and if the goal was to have experiences outside of being a writer, well, I shouldn’t have moved to New York City to become a screenwriter, because once you’re in that world, it’s all you do. You only ever meet people in the acting or writing or filmmaking world, because it’s all about networking and who you know, and knowing someone outside of that world doesn’t do shit for your career, so the cycle begins again. There’s insulated communities, and then there’s the film and television industry.
All this is to say, boy howdy is it difficult to come up with honest, complex narratives (that I could also theoretically produce myself, so genre is mostly out) that aren’t about the thing I do- writing and making indie media. And yet, I don’t have a ton of time to cultivate other interests, because if I take my eye off the ball for even a second, I might miss my one sliver of a shot.
Intellectually, I know I have other interests. My speech and debate pilot has gotten relatively good responses, and obviously my short film Ace and Anxious (about asexuality and anxiety) is doing really well in the festival circuit, at least as a script. But what’s next? I keep asking myself: what else am I? What other stories do I, Bri Castellini, have to tell? (that aren’t too personal so as to embarrass or upset people in my life, that are interesting, that are active and not passive, that are not about an inability to “adult”.)
I guess we’ll see?