In 2007 I was ending my time working with Turner Studios. I wanted to move back to LA and work in Film. I decided to join the millions of others sitting in coffee shops with a Mac attempting to sell their first screenplay. I was always writing some sort of movie or short story since I was in high school. As Owen’s friend Larry said, “Writers write, always.”
I decided to write my first screenplay based on a bit of my stand up, a few funny stories from my life and on a handful of people I knew in my life. It all pieced together pretty well. There were a few scenes I still needed time to mesh.
Clearly I was building my script off inspiration. I was absorbing it from any outlet I could. Then one day decided to look at another, a dream. One night I was deep into a dream that I woke up remembering very little about. Although one sentence stuck with me. I couldn’t tell you why it resinated so strongly, but it did. I wanted to add it to my screenplay, I knew exactly where to put it. But then I had a bit of an internal debate, was the idea truly mine?
I won’t lie, I’m not a dream doctor. I can’t explain the science of how they work. Where the dreams come from. Why we see them. So could I honestly say that something that played in a dream was truly mine? An idea existing in the part of the mind that a person is not aware of, existing in the mind but not consciously aware of… is it yours? Dreams to me were always a show I was watching, but I never considered myself the writer. So when I see something that makes me smile or laugh in one, should I be patting myself on the back? I had never thought about it before.
I’ve always thought that dreams are always shaped by our own individual experiences and memories. So that alone should confirm ownership of any and all fodder produced. But then, what if something played out came from something you watched or read before and buried away in your head, only to be plagiarized later in a slumbered tale? In my mind (sorry for the pun) that’s stealing.
So back to the dream where I used the line in my script. I googled it. I asked a few friends if they had heard it before. I felt I vetted it enough that it was safe to use, and I placed it in the pages. A few months later I presented the script in person at a writer’s showcase. Essentially it’s a brief synopsis of story and a few script samples. I read a section that included the dream-line. In the end, I sold the script. I also was approached by one of the buyers as they left who commented on that specific line. She loved it. I suddenly felt that line was the reason I just sold it.
My smile as I drove home turned into a bit of over-thinking. What if my subconscious was more talented than I was? What if all my good stuff was in my dreams and awake I was the K-mart of comedy? I had to find out. I’m surrounded by actors, writers, comics, artists and all sorts of creatives. I asked them this very questions. I got the same answers back over and over. They all wrote down their dreams. Whether is was deep journaling or just something funny or useful they remembered throughout the day. They used their dreams for inspiration. It came from their brain and they 100% felt they owned it. Well, except for one person who went on for an hour or so about how the government was controlling our dreams through city water and I shouldn’t be drinking it.
So since that time I’ve decided to write down everything I deem good, even some bad stuff. So this morning as I woke up I remembered a dream about an outdoor theatre where people could perform nightly for free, I wrote it down. This is because since the first time I worried about stealing from dreams, I’ve 100% embraced them. I feel like I’m fully utilizing my potential as a creative by putting my subconscious on the payroll. I’m finally living the dream.
Except the one where you go to school naked. That dream I’m completely avoiding.