WriterDad: The Origin Story (Part 1)

So my worst fear has already been realized — all is currently silent in WriterDad Manor, and while my wife and baby snooze, I’m working on the blog instead of my script. Oh, well. Just this one time. From here on out, no blogging until the day’s quota of pages has been churned out.

Right.

ANYWAY… how did I get here, living in a rented townhouse in a remote corner of the San Fernando Valley with a spouse and child and credit card debt and two aging cars and furniture for our little patio (paid for with said credit card) and more or less everything else that’s supposed to come with suburban life? Wasn’t I supposed to be a Hollywood legend by now or something?

If you could hop into the Wayback Machine and ask this question of teenage WriterDad… the answer would be yes.

In this respect, my story is probably almost exactly the same as that of anybody else trying to break into the film business: an awkward, vaguely socially maladjusted geek obsessed with STAR WARS, Stephen King, vintage sci-fi novels and horror flicks catches the movie bug while watching HALLOWEEN for the first time in eighth grade, then proceeds to permanently hijack the family camcorder in order to pursue his dream of becoming the next John Carpenter. High school is largely spent churning out would-be classics such as TERROR PHONE and NIGHT OF THE OUIJA BOARD, and along the way Dad buys him a copy of Syd Field’s SCREENPLAY because it’s increasingly obvious that our hero knows as much about crafting a story as he does piloting a 747 with engine trouble. Lack of talent aside, dreams of becoming a writer-director fill his head; our hero lives, eats, sleeps and breathes movies and moviemaking, with the occasional break to pursue his other dream — to master the bass guitar and become the next Geddy Lee, only taller and with a slightly smaller nose.

He gets accepted into NYU film school but can’t afford to go. The media study department at the University at Buffalo offers him a scholarship and he takes it. What famous filmmaker has graduated from UB? Who cares? They’re offering money! (Later I found out that Brad Gray, Alan Zweibel — and, scoring an 11 out of 10 on the coolness factor, pharmacy major/future Black Sabbath front man Ronnie James Dio — attended my alma mater, making me feel better about my mercenary choice.)

Our hero becomes obsessed with Woody Allen, Michael Mann, Paul Schrader and Quentin Tarantino — he’s ready to make Art. Instead he makes a bunch of crappy little films on Super 8 and, later, 16mm. He has access to a Steenbeck and a Bolex and he’s not afraid to use them — at least until his senior project comes back from the lab and he realizes that he’s just spent hundreds of dollars on blank film. His screams of horror echo across the icy vastness of Buffalo in the dead of winter. He starts to think that maybe he should concentrate on the “writer” half of the writer-director equation instead — if nothing else, paper is cheap and you don’t have to thread it through a temperamental film gate.

Our hero applies to NYU for grad school. Doesn’t get in. He graduates from UB, moves back in with his parents and wonders what the hell he’s going to do with his life. He spends a lost post-college year at home, working the night shift at the local TV station, drinking beer, feeling vaguely sorry for himself and channeling his Gen X-style angst into a novel called THE SHADOWS OF TWILIGHT, the best thing about which is the awesomely pretentious title. The experience of writing the book cures him of any lingering desire he had to be a prose novelist, and he resolves to focus on screenplays exclusively.

He applies to USC and UCLA and doesn’t get into those grad schools those, either… but he gets a flyer for UCLA’s Professional Program in Screenwriting, a yearlong course that costs a fraction of the grad program. He hits up his grandmother for the tuition money, signs up for the program, gets a second job loading newspaper vending machines at the crack of dawn and saves up as much cash as he can for his big move out west at the end of the summer.

Just before Labor Day, 1997, accompanied by a buddy who’s volunteered to keep him company on the journey (and, presumably, to keep him from chickening out along the way and returning to his parents’ home), our hero packs his Honda Civic and pulls out of upstate New York, bound for Los Angeles and cinematic greatness. Or so he hopes.

Next Post: I dispense with the tiresome third person and tell you what happened when I moved to LA.

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9 Comments on “WriterDad: The Origin Story (Part 1)”


  1. This origin story is strangely lacking in radioactive events, but other than that, I’m hooked.

    Wait, please tell me you had a subscription to StarLog and Fangoria magazines. And Bantha Tracks.

    Also, when is TERROR PHONE coming out on DVD?

  2. writerdad303 Says:

    Never had subscriptions to Fangoria or Starlog, actually, but my dad would always pick up the new issues of both for me when he’d buy the Sunday paper at a local newstand after church.

    Astoundingly, I never subscribed to Bantha Tracks. I have no idea why I didn’t.

    TERROR PHONE should be coming out on DVD right about when hell freezes over. 🙂

  3. Jeff Says:

    Good heavens! You’ve just written my life story minus the actual ballsy move to El Lay!

    Oh and I have three kids with twins on the way in January so… think that second draft of my revisionist Western will be done by then? Lord let us hope so!

    Nice blog sir! Lovin’ it thus far!

  4. kzwriter Says:

    Hey, WriterDad. I was directed to your blog by the Screenwriting Manifesto. Looks great! I’m the father of two – 5 and 7 – and am trying to write my second script, after a first that sucked rocks the size of St. Louis.

    Congrats on your option – as a person on the other side of having done that, I’d love to hear the story of how your script was optioned.

    Thanks!
    kzwriter

  5. writerdad303 Says:

    Jeff and kzwriter,

    Thanks for the kind words! You guys make me feel like a poser on the dad front. 🙂 I’ll definitely be writing about how my script was optioned — right after I finish Part 2 of my general back story…

  6. William Says:

    Hmmmm, maybe you’re my Left Coast doppelgänger?

    Avid Stephen King reader, check.
    Rush/Black Sabbath obsession, check.
    Not getting into Tisch, check.
    New baby, check.

    Maybe your scoring an option will somehow rub off on me by association.

    Dave – I had a subscription Fangoria and went to the conventions here at the Roosevelt Hotel on 45th Street. I met Thor and Johnny Ramone. Man, was I a demented teenager.

    I feel better for admitting that.

  7. writerdad303 Says:

    William,

    Are you or were you ever obsessed with Iron Maiden? If so, you might be on to something…:)

  8. William Says:

    Piece of Mind baby! Eddie 4 evuh!

  9. writerdad303 Says:

    Up the irons! 🙂

    I’ll warn the wife that there are actually two of me/you wandering this world…


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