Dance Like No One Is Watching (Even Though They Are, And They're Secretly Judging You)

Is this you?
I was recently asked if, and under what circumstances, it was okay to tell a fellow writer that they didn't have the writing chops necessary to make it in the industry.  My opinion at the time was uncharacteristically wishy-washy.  Who am I to be a dream killer? 

I'm not talking about bending your script over and critiquing the crap out of your work.  I'm always down for that.   I'm talking about crossing that fine line and growing a pair big enough to tell an actual person to their face that they should abandon their dream.  "Sorry buddy.  It ain't never gonna happen.  You're just never going to be good enough."

I didn't think I had it in me.  And I've seen some pretty bad writing samples. 

Never fear.  I've exorcized the wishy-washy demon, and am now fully prepared to pull a Simon Cowell on the next screenwriter who dares to ask if I think they stand a chance.

What brought about this massive change of heart?!  What could possibly have convinced me to accept my destiny as Dream Killer? 

Tutus. Yes, tutus.

I recently spent three and a half hours attending the little known 10th ring of hell the yearly right of passage that goes on in suburbs everywhere called the local dance school recital.  I apologize to those of you who have witnessed one because right now your genitals are crawling up into your intestines out of empathy for my suffering.  But for those of you who have never had the pleasure, I'll explain. 

Every dance school puts on an end-of-year show where all of their students from beginner to advanced get to torture perform for their families, friends, and anyone else stupid enough to agree to go.   Trust me, if your cousin's kid wants you to attend one of these events, run like hell.  Yes, you'll simply love and adore the few minutes your cousin's brat is on stage, but for the rest of eternity the evening, you'll wish you'd stayed home playing with that do-it-yourself lobotomy kit.

So there I was, ready to kill myself enjoying the performances, when it hit me.  Everyone on that stage dreams of making it big just like every screenwriter dreams of seeing their script on screen.  Now I know next to nothing about dance, but after three and a half hours in that endless hell auditorium, I am damn sure I could pick out those few dancers who stood any chance in hell of making it with 110% accuracy.  Did I mention it was three and a half hours?

Typical monkey brain sucking cuteness
Okay, that's not quite fair.  The preschoolers need to be taken out of the mix, because they're just too young.  They could rip off monkey heads with their teeth and suck the bleeding brains out of the neck cavity and still be adorable, so it's impossible to rate their talent (except that one kid who saw the audience and ran off stage screaming - You kid, made my night, and have one hell of a future ahead of you).

Once you eliminate the cute 'n cuddlies, you're left with the older kids, teens, and young adults.  And at that point, it's a no brainer.  Even a blind man could see that only a small handful of performers stood out - some as exceptionally good, and unfortunately others as painfully bad.  (I mean really, if your kid wears tights ten sizes bigger than the rest of their class even though they dance 20 hours a week, you might want to encourage another dream or stop feeding them donuts dipped in bacon grease.)  The rest of the pack are just plain mediocre.  (Except for the one kid I was there to see.  That kid was so brilliant that I'm shocked the performance wasn't mistaken for the second coming of Christ!)

Now the stand-out good ones?!  They all have a shot.  Clearly they have the talent and the passion, and if they can avoid burn-out, one or two might actually make it.

And the stand-out baddies?  God, I hope they have a back-up plan.

It is very easy to spot talent (or the lack thereof).  Same too with scripts.  And I actually know something about scriptwriting, so why would I hold back?!  I would never crush a kid's dreams (although it does sound kinda fun), but a screenwriter?!  You're old enough to hear the truth.

Sorry.  After three and a half hours, the nice Single Screenwriter has left the  building for good.

I can hear you screaming at your screen now.  "But... but... but the mediocre ones!  Is it not possible that one could be a late bloomer and one day grow wings?" Sure it's possible, in writing and in dance, but look at the kids for about three and a half hours.  Some of these kids have been dancing hard for 10 or 15 years, and are in very advanced classes.  I know writers like that.  If you're still mediocre after all that time?  It's doubtful you've found your calling.  And those good kids who have been good all along, now make your mediocrity look downright ugly next to them.  Sure you can try, but you might wanna hang onto those sparkly costumes and fluffy tutus because they'll come in handy when you're turning tricks for food.

See, the thing is, talent is easy to spot, even in a beginner.  But all the technique in the world won't raise you out of mediocrity if you don't have it.

And talent combined with technique?!  That's effing magical.

If you're new to screenwriting, your script will most likely be very weak, but if you've got talent, people will see it.  It will blind them enough to block out the kid with three left feet next to you with his hand down his pants.  Shaky or not, I'd never tell you to get out of the game.

But if you've cut your teeth on many a script, you better have talent to back up the technique, 'cause after my three and a half lost hours, I'm more than ready to tell you to toss in the towel.

If you don't want to risk knowing that I think you should pack up your toys and go home, don't ask.  (You'd be shocked at how many actually ask.)  I have embraced my inner Dream Killer.  Beware.***

***That being said, most people who actually have the discipline to finish a script, have some level of talent.  So go ahead and ask.  I won't bite.  Unless you're wearing a tutu and giving me flashbacks.  If worse comes to worse, you can always trade in your laptop for a nice pair of tights.  I happen to know where you can get several pairs -- cheap.