Everyone Knows Nothing: The Fear of Writing a Good Screenplay, with Martha Polo
Up-and-coming screenwriter and renowned haikuist Martha Polo shares her experience of why she writes bad screenplays.
Alexis: Thanks for agreeing to another email interview. You’ve been quoted as saying that “writing good screenplays is too hard, don’t do it”. What do you mean by this?
Martha: I mean what I say: “writing good screenplays is too hard, don’t do it”.
Alexis: Please could you clarify the underlying meaning?
Martha: Can I be absolutely clear Alexis? You don’t understand the meaning of the sentence: “writing good screenplays is too hard, don’t do it”?
Alexis: I understand what it means on the surface. But clearly it doesn’t mean what it means on the surface. Or else nobody would write good screenplays!
Martha: To be more precise: nobody following my advice would write good screenplays.
Alexis: I apologise Martha if I’m being obtuse, perhaps you could give the reasoning behind the sentence?
Martha: But of course. If you attempt to write a screenplay whose quality could be described as “good”, then the process of writing it will have hardness which can be described as “too much”.
Alexis: By who?
Martha: I believe you mean “By Whom”. Well by any sensible human being.
[Confused, I didn’t reply to this for a few hours — AK]
Martha: I assume by your lack of email reply that I have obfuscated the issue. Allow me to help you. I recently began a re-write of my screenplay TECHNO TECHNO TECHNO: “A 90s pop-rave duo battle against an alien invasion that occurs as a result of earworms in their music, only to discover that their love for each other is the only unbeatable defense.”
The opening scene is the female lead of the pop-rave duo dancing barefoot in a science laboratory. In an attempt to freshen up the first few pages — to catch the attention of the brain-dead gatekeepers of our morally bankrupt industry-I used all of my poetic skills (ingrained during my years as a renowned haiku writer) to send the message: Excuse me Ms. “I’m sorry, but I can’t sell a screenplay like THIS to Netflix” Manager / Producer — I’m not one of the hundreds of thousands of wannabes who aren’t capable of stringing a simile and metaphor with an imagist twist. I am a bonafide WRITER. I can make you smell, taste, touch and see with my words.
But as I got to the end of the first third of the first page re-write, I realised I had 89 and 2/3 of pages left to go if I wanted to make my script truly good: packed with poetic and well-thought-out descriptions. Well that ain’t gonna happen. It would drain me of all life and energy. Kill me dead.
Alexis: Screenwriting is a job, right? And aren’t all jobs worth doing, hard work?
Martha has not responded to my emails since this exchange. According to VARIETY ONLINE, her screenplay TECHNO TECHNO TECHNO has been picked up in a bidding war by A24, with SANDRA BULLOCK and ADAM SANDLER attached.