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Crazy Stuff You’ve Done – Grist for Writing

I got a call last week from a producer interested in potentially developing a screenplay I’d sent him – “Twain” – based on the idea of two brothers rafting down the Mississippi River for very different reasons. It turns out that the producer had grown up on the Mississippi River, and had a similar dream as the protagonist to raft down river with a family member starting at the headwaters.

This screenplay was co-written with Keith Kowalczyk (we met while at the MPW Program at USC). I shared with the producer how Keith had attempted to build a raft by hand – inspired by his love of Mark Twain – in an attempt to travel the length of the Mississippi River.

While Keith’s raft may have sunk almost immediately, the story had stuck with me a long time and I had suggested it as the basis for our next collaboration. Yes, Keith readily admits that it was crazy to try what he did, but he had been driven by a passion that carried a broader resonance.

There have been periods in my life where I did a whole bunch of idiotic stuff, and I find myself reimagining these experiences and placing them in the streams and tributaries of my own writing. These can include impetuous trips and friendships, unwise personal decisions and relationships, and the bizarre things you find yourself occasionally saying or doing. Of course, there is a whole lot of crazy that comes to us naturally in the forms of our families.

As far as the phone call, I’ve learned from experience not to have any expectations in the process of pitching and finalizing creative work. What I can take from my conversation, however, is a reaffirmed belief in the value of tapping into the crazy stuff you’ve done in the writing life.

Martin Ott

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