Monday, February 14, 2011

What Iron Chef can teach us about writing

(Disclaimer: I wrote the below before interest from LA started to manifest itself, so forgive the negative tone in some spots. It's how we all feel at some point, so I'm not editing it for now.)

I've been thinking about my own conflicts of writing daring artistic endeavors vs. writing silly popcorn ventures that will make me rich. It's something every artist fights over internally at one point in their life, despite how overconfident young writers are acting nowadays. Studying the craft is a key point, and some compare it to being a "doctor" in that you have to study the craft etc. etc., which is ridiculous. No one will die from reading your sorry excuse for a screenplay. They may wish they were dead, but I have a more accurate simile.
A gourmet chef.
Now, being a big fat lardass, I have a fascination with shows like Iron Chef, No Reservations, and the like (I draw the line at Gordon Ramsey, BTW). They're rule breakers and lovemakers, they're artists who defy the expectations of what you think a meal should be and they demand only the best in life as a result.
Well, before they get that far, they have to learn how to boil pasta or rice. They have to know how to bake bread. They have to either go to school for 4 years and study or get menial work in the kitchen. They have to wash dishes, cut potatoes and take out the garbage for years and years regardless until they get a lucky break and can claim a stove of their own. All to endure long hours, ALL nights and weekends, standing in a sweltering hot boiler room of brutish manly yelling and bullying in the name of "bonding" or "improving your craft". So that one day, they can make a business deal to get their own place cooking food their way, in a sweltering hot room with no windows until they're too old to cook anymore. Which is a decision to be made for them, of course, against their will.
At least as a writer, I get to sit down. But the choices are clear - either keep banging my head against the spec market wall until I fall down, because I've already crossed the "too old and fat to sell" line, or go broke filming the damn thing myself and showing it to pretentious dweebs at film festivals. There's also the reading option, dispensing useless advice to the young scribes who haven't learned how to prepare the proverbial sandwich, for money.
But like a dishwasher who has great ideas for how to reboot his favorite Cajun dishes, we are driven to keep trying whenever we imagine how much joy you're going to bring to the crowds who fill up your hole in the wall in NYC or LA one day. How they're going to remember your weird but enlightened spirit. How tasty your work is!