DIARY OF A LOST SCRIBE
Here’s to You – the Unsung Heroes
by Carlo Dall’Olmo – President and Board Member of PSA
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
Table reads are an important tool to a writer’s growth. There I said it. Happy? No? How come? Not deep enough? Not poetic enough? Well, it’s too bad cause ‘that’s a fact Jack’ (to paraphrase Bill Murray in Stripes). Table reads just are. They give writers an opportunity to hear their words out loud and get immediate feedback. Why then am I not taking advantage of it? PSA does 2 a month and from what I understand, writers love the feedback. Writers who have gone to the tables reads all have the same feedback – it’s very helpful. I could wax poetic about how busy I am (after-all I run PSA plus have a full-time job on top of that). I would be lying of course. If this is your thing, you find the time for it. Bottom line, I’m just not secure enough yet to commit to monthly scrutiny. I envy those writers who eagerly offer up their pages month after month in hopes of improving their lot. That is not me – at least not yet.
I started PSA some 12 years ago as a way to get back to writing. I was the kid who used to sit in the movie theaters either alone or with friends watching films and dreaming of the day that I could see my work on the silver screen. I would go to coffee houses and debate the films and filmmakers – arguing as if my life depended on it what the real theme of the film was. I wrote every day – pounded out script after script hoping that THIS one was it. We didn’t have table reads back then – just a friend (if you could find one) to read your work. A friend who understood your passion and would give honest (but not too honest) feedback. In college, I of course, enrolled in film classes (both screenwriting and film) and went a step further graduating with a degree in screenwriting. I was on my way – or so I thought. Something happened though along the way…life stepped in and gave me another direction. Years went by before I knew it and one day I woke up and found myself in Chandler Arizona, lost and looking for a way back. Not a way back to where I was physically but more emotionally. You see, I had lost that certain something. I wanted to rekindle that feeling I had in my youth – the comradery of the arts where everyone was going after their dream and encouraging everyone else at the same time. PSA was born of that desire.
Now established and running itself, some of our best events are the table reads put on by two very gifted and dedicated members: John McCarney and Jessica Spring-Brown. If ever there were awards to be handed out – these two would definitely get them. Yet I don’t go. Groucho Marx once famously said “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” I’ve laughed at that quote many times. It’s funny but also true. Today I read that quote as someone who understands me. Maybe he is right. Maybe I am more like Groucho as it relates to my own writing than I would like to admit. Maybe I get more in the way of my way than my writing does. It’s definitely something worth considering. Why would I start a group and NOT take part in all it has to offer? Especially when the offerings are of such benefit? Maybe it’s because I AM that member that Groucho spoke of. Afraid to hear my words…afraid to put myself out there for all to judge. More content to call myself a writer in secret than in proof. Maybe I’m just not ready yet. I’ve only been writing for 30 years…maybe I’ll figure it out in the next 30 years.
Table reads work. There is no question they work. If they didn’t, writers wouldn’t request them. Offering the table reads, though, isn’t enough…it requires commitment from the writers and moderators as well. My hat’s off to those who use the table reads. Those who improve their craft after listening diligently to the suggestions. I wish I was there, but I am just not ready. Will it take an act of God? I doubt it. Maybe just an act of courage. Maybe it will just take time for me to realize what I’m missing to finally submit my pages. Either way, I feel the community we’ve created through PSA is definitely doing its job. I have not felt this committed to the craft in quite a while. Here’s to all the our PSA writers who strive to reach high achievement knowing that if they fail…they will never be among the cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
Carlo Dall’Olmo is a screenwriter and the founder/organizer for Phoenix Screenwriters Association (PSA). When not writing or running PSA you can find him on the sidelines cheering on his 14 year soccer obsessed son.