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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Why Shawn Doesn’t Want to Go To Hollywood

People in my family think because I write screenplays and teleplays that I want to go to Hollywood. This is furthest from the truth.

While I have learned a lot about the entertainment business I have no interest in packing my bags and moving to California.

Yes, when I was younger I wanted to work in film and television.  However, as I got older and learned the horrible truth about the entertainment industry I wanted nothing to do with it.

Plain and simple, Hollywood is NOT a place that’s kind to writers. Hollywood shits on writers. Oftentimes, a writer is persona non grata on a movie set.

A writer like myself may work his ass of on a script getting it right only to have that work destroyed by a cabal of executives, producers, agents, and even actors. The most well-crafted script by a writer after revisions can be reduced into an incoherent mess when it hits the theaters at the local multiplex.

Sure, a writer gets a five figure or a six-figure check sometimes. But my stories have more value to me than money.  

Very rarely does a script make it through the Hollywood pipe one hundred percent intact. And in those cases it’s because someone with a lot of leverage like a director or an executive producer has written that script.

How do scripts get butchered? Because once the writer sells their script to a production company, it’s their story. They can do whatever they want to it. Usually, all the rights to the film version of that story are theirs once the writer signs on the dotted lines.

And in most cases after a script is sold to a production company, the director and executive producer usually re-write that screenplay to meet their standards.

That means key scenes might be cut out, Major plot points may be retooled to fit within the runtime of a movie. Even characters can be redesigned and restyled from a writers’ original vision.

I’ve heard of too many scripts that featured Black characters conveniently turn into White characters after the script was sold to the prodco.

And there was nothing the writer could do about it.

As a writer who takes pride in my work, I want nothing to do with Hollywood. If I had to work there I know that my work would be compromised to meet the Hollywood standard. And to me preserving the messages in my stories is more important than achieving fame in Hollywood.

I couldn’t imagine and All About Nikki TV series with a white blonde, blue-eyed actress in the lead. Or an All About Marilyn movie re-written with 30 pages removed like one screenplay contest reader wanted to do. Having a script of my work that’s produced that’s dilluted, compromised and watered down is worse than not having it produced at all.

I know there are very few opportunities for Black screenwriters out there, but I don’t want to compromise my artistic integrity to get one of those jobs. If I did get a chance to produce one of my films or TV shows I’d rather work outside of Hollywood rather than deal with that beast. I believe working outside of Hollywood is the only way to produce a quality Black film or TV show that won’t feature coonery and present Black peple in a negative light. I want to provide quality job opportunities for Blacks in film and television and I believe that can’t be done in an institutionally racist place like Hollywood. 

Sure I publish screenplay books. But I do that so young brothers and sisters can learn the craft of screenwriting. We desperately need more Black men and women behind the camera, and I believe if Brothers and sisters see the storytelling modeled for them, they’ll learn how to write their own scripts and make their own films. With YouTube and social media becoming more popular with the next generation, we soon won't need Hollywood anymore. 

I love writing. But I want nothing to do with Hollywood. It’s the last place I’d ever want to go to. Seeing how that place changes Black people like Halle Berry, Tyler Perry and Spike Lee, I’m afraid of what kind of person I’d become I ever went there. I don't want to ever get to the point where I can justify degrading my own people, participating in degrading racist behavior, and compromising my moral values for a little bit of change.

The cost of success in Hollywood is One  Soul. And I believe mine is too valuable to sacrifice for that bag of crumbs. I know I have to answer to God one day and I'm accountable to him. 

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