Making It Real by Glynis Ahearn

MAKING IT REAL

There’s nothing like the first time your words get read aloud.  It’s got to be like the first time an actor sees their face projected on a forty-foot screen, or a director sweating out his first feature on opening day.   

It’s horrifying. 

It’s the moment of exposure, where you see what you’ve done, or tried to do.  Since most writers are internal, reclusive types, this exposure hurts, but it’s desperately needed by a generation of writers trying to sell their work without understanding what makes drama tick.

There was a wonderful, smart sound mixer on a pilot last year who not only allowed me to charge my endlessly dying phone on his power strip, but also offered advice: “Remember, whatever you write on the page, all these people have to make it real.”

He was talking about the crew’s practical production over a grueling shoot, but even before you get to production, your actors are your first crew — or as I’m finding in ScriptWrights, they should be.  Performers have to make this real.  If you haven’t made it real on the page, that first live read is going to be a whopper. 

When you see your work performed, you are forced to learn what drama really is.  ScriptWrights is dragging me kicking and screaming into the basics, teaching me that concepts are not characters and ideas are not motivations. 

I’m not the only one who needs to learn this – lately we’re all struggling to watch ambitious shows where characters and drama are shoved to the back or infantilized in favor of Big Concepts.  The problem is, audiences don’t love, hate, cheer or cry for concepts.  They can only feel for other people, one of those pesky human requirements like air, water and a cell phone battery that lasts the damn day long.

Sometimes (okay, always) I dread hearing my work aloud.  Maybe it’ll never be fun, maybe I’ll be like actors who can’t watch their own films or shows, but in this protected environment I already see a watershed change in my writing.  For that, I’d suffer anything.

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