Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Michael Kang: A Filmmaker on Writing

Today's post is by new workshop leader Michael Kang, who'll lead the Writing the Television Pilot workshop beginning February 17.

Writing is lonely and painful.

But you must already know that because you came here to read what other writers had to say about writing. You came here to find solace and comfort and hopefully discover that you are not alone. You write because you have to write. You write because as much as you avoid it by checking Facebook and pretending a status update is as creative as crafting a novel, you love to write. You love to sit alone for hours hearing voices in your head and pretending that there is an order to the world.

You love coming out of your cave lit only by the warm fire of a computer monitor and handing over a ream of paper (or bytes of a PDF) and saying to someone “This is me. Please love me. Don’t make me go back into that cave.”

Of course no one ever loves you, not the first time you come out of that cave. The best you get is “Eh, it’s pretty good.” And you are inevitably drawn back into that cave. Even when your best cheerleader lies through his or her teeth and says, “it’s amazing, now come have dinner, you haven’t eaten in months.” You go back to your cave even though you can smell the crispy flesh of a roast wafting from that liar’s kitchen.

You tinker. You play scrabble. You do searches on people you didn’t like in high school. You find out the steps to making a perfect soft-boiled egg. You digitize your CD collection. You start a different story. You play guitar and sing very badly. You take the dog out for a walk. You stare at the computer. You write. You lather. You rinse. You repeat.

Why? It’s that moment when something clicks in the story. And then you find hours, days, weeks have disappeared in a flurry of madness that some call inspiration. Usually, it all leads back to that one moment when you changed something so simple and so obvious like the punctuation mark on the end of the first sentence or the gender of a side character or the use of second person singular vs. third person omniscient when everything started moving – really fast. You were just trying to keep up.

And in those hours that are neither morning nor night, you look up to see that the cave has changed; it’s become a very lofty palace with central air and TiVo. You are too exhausted to enjoy this. You are sure when you wake up it’s all going to be just a very intricate trick of the mind. Nothing has changed and you will be here once again.

And then you come back the next morning after your first cup of coffee and an eviction notice has been posted to the door of your palace. You worked all that time for that one moment where you were satisfied but not really sure if you were truly satisfied. You finish your coffee. And then you crawl off to find another cave. That’s why you write.

Michael Kang is an independent filmmaker currently recovering from a three-year stint in Hollywood. He will be teaching Writing The Television Pilot hence the overly dramatic First Person Plural entry. He has taught screenwriting workshops through The Asian American Writers Workshop, The Poet’s Theater and InDuLoop. He is currently teaching Broadcast & Film Writing at Towson University. His film "The Motel" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is currently available on DVD through Palm Pictures. Michael has received numerous awards for his work including the Humanitas Prize, N.E.A. Artist’s Residency Grant at The MacDowell Colony and the Geri Ashur Award in screenwriting through the New York Foundation for the Arts. Michael also received a fellowship through the ABC / DGA New Talent Television Directing Program. He has been a freelance screenwriter whose projects include a feature film script for Wayne Wang and a television pilot script for HBO. Michael’s second feature film “West 32nd” premiered at The Tribeca Film Festival and is currently available on DVD through Pathfinder Pictures. Michael is currently in post-production on his third feature film "Knots" about a dysfunctional family business of wedding planners.

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