In the Land of Lies and Perjury

I read some of the highlights from the recent Vanity Fair interview with Angelina Jolie and was a tad confused. Seeing as how I skimmed the article, though, I shrugged off my confusion and started worrying about more important things. Like whether or not I could get away with putting onions in the spaghetti sauce without Aidan or Wes noticing.

Then, I ran across this post on Mama Pop. It’s perfect. It sums up so perfectly why I was confused by the VF interview. To wit:

[Angelina Jolie is] making her screenwriting and directorial debut with the upcoming film  In the Land of Blood and Honey.  She tells the magazine that the screenplay was the result of trying to cope with a two-day stint with the flu.

“I had to be quarantined from the children for two days,” Jolie says. “I was in the attic of a house in France. I was isolated, pacing. I don’t watch TV and I wasn’t reading anything. So I started writing. I went from the beginning to the end.”   Alright.  I’m calling shenanigans on this one.

  1. Who paces while they have the flu?
  2. Can we just cool it with the self-righteous “I don’t’ watch tv” claims?  WE ALL WATCH TV.
  3. Really?  A first screenplay in TWO DAYS?  Either the story sucks or she has a really talented ghostwriter with a rock-solid non-disclosure agreement.
  4. The attic?

These were my thoughts exactly! I have no doubt (or, well, maybe a little doubt. I don’t know her personally, so I can’t vouch for her integrity) that Ms. Jolie poured a ton of time and effort into bringing this movie into existence. I applaud her efforts. It’s good to have a mother accomplishing such lofty goals. Yay moms!

On the other hand, the longer I work on my writing and the more I learn about the craft of storytelling, the more annoyed by celebrity memoirs, novels, and what-have-yous I get. That Angelina claims she hammered out an entire screenplay in two days with the flu is insulting, really.

I mean, maybe it happened. Maybe she’s some kind of a screenplay-writing savant, like a Mozart for screenplays, but I think it far more likely she wrote down a few ideas and scenes while she was sick. Either that or she hallucinated the whole thing (she had the flu, remember).

And yes, she’s been an actress for many, many years. Terrific. I’ve been an avid reader since I was seven, but that doesn’t mean I can write a first-draft novel in two days. Telling a story gets a lot more difficult when you factor things in like story arc, character development, and research. I’ve got to assume she wasn’t able to just wing this one spur-of-the-moment because she had the flu. Otherwise, I might cry.

I mean, if celebrities are more attractive than us, and wealthier than us, what is the freaking point if they’re able to do things we find difficult quickly and while impaired? Am I to assume Angelina doesn’t dissolve into a miserable, feverish pile of nausea when she gets sick?

I agree with Kristen from Mama Pop. I call shenanigans on this claim. I have to. For my own sanity.

2 thoughts on “In the Land of Lies and Perjury

  1. Erika,

    While I won’t doubt that Angelina is puffing up her own image on this one, I don’t see any reason to doubt that someone can draft a screenplay in 2 days. I mean, think about it. NaNoWriMo covers 50k+ words in 30 days, with ~1.7k per day. If you had two rally days (5k each) in a row, that would/could be roughly equivalent to a full-length screenplay.

    Now, if she said that her initial draft was the final product, then I’d shrug it off. But massive creative efforts like NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy show that it is possible to accomplish the complete manifestation of a nascent work in miniscule amounts of time. Certainly, you revise. Sometimes to the extent of rewriting. ;)

    The craft of writing certainly always leaves things to be learned, honed in on and mastered. And yes, being an avid reader will produce a better writer. But you still have to learn. And try. And leave in for 15 minutes, rinse and repeat.

    If you treat your first drafts as stream-of-consciousness freewrites (like I treat every NaNo-type project), you can get some mad speed on it.

    But, I digress. Writing 100-120 page screenplay (~10k-20k words) in two days is certainly possible, as long as it’s not a finished product. In fact, it’s possible to do it in one day, I’d argue. :)

    But I’m just contrary, I’m sure.

    P.S.: Finish Enemy Accountant already!

  2. -J.R., All good points, and I totally agree that this kind of prolific writing is totally possible when you’re in the zone. You know exactly what you want to write. You have time. You have coffee. It’s fun to be on the grind like that.

    However, she had the flu. I don’t know about you, but I am capable of very little when I have the flu. And this interview makes it sound like she had the flu and just decided to, what the heck, tap out a screenplay.

    It just…It’s a great story, but it still seems a little fishy to me.

    Still, I agree. It’s definitely possible to write 10K-20K words in 1-2 days, but I just wonder what her brain is capable of if she can do it with the flu. Spur of the moment. You know?

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