THE WISDOM OF A SCRIPT DOCTOR
My son, Christian (the award-winning playwright) once introduced me to a former screenwriter/script doctor who had somehow persuaded the Trinity authorities to allow him to take up residence there. I think he made a donation or some such. Anyway, he was living in the kind of chambers that are normally reserved for faculty.
He didn’t write any more but traded in currency and was hugely successful at it. He was an extremely intelligent man. I think he also conducted occasional Master Classes on writing though he didn’t lecture on a regular basis.
Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland—by the way—is where I went to university, and where my son, Shane, went too. It’s normally called Trinity for short, or T.C.D. It was founded towards the end of the 16th Century so its buildings—subject to a few recent exceptions—have a wonderful feel about them.
I cannot recall the name of this individual so I’ll refer to him as SD (script doctor) for convenience. A script doctor is someone you call in when a screenplay is in trouble (a chronic condition given the paranoia that pervades Hollywood).
I spent several evenings—spread over a period—talking writing with SD and didn’t emerge the happier for it despite his well of expertise and considerable hospitality. He was a strange, embittered man with an almost entirely negative view of life—not without charm, but hard to like. Whether I emerged wiser and a better writer from his informal tutelage is an open question. I rather think not. He was once of the most discouraging people I have met in my life—and the one thing a writer does not need is discouragement.
He also commented that no one over 50 could write for the movies because at that age one had lost touch with the young. Given that I had just passed my 50th birthday at the time, that particular remark didn’t exactly make my day.
Still, SD said one thing about writing thrillers—whether books or movies—which I have never forgotten. He said that, in essence, all such stories boiled down to getting one’s hero into trouble in the first part; getting him into even more trouble in the second part; and getting him out of trouble in the third.
And here am I thinking writing is difficult.
Actually, there is a great deal of truth in SD’s remark.