Friday, November 30, 2012

Be a Star: King of the Movies

They call it 'paying dues' because very few entertainers make it big quickly. A rising star must take less than glamorous jobs, build a track record, and then maybe he or she will get their break…the call…the invitation to join the elite club. So it’s fitting to point out that in the movie game, countless artists paid dues in horror films. Let’s take a look.

Director of the Spiderman movies Sam Raimi gained notoriety with Evil Dead.

Johnny Depp played one of the victim’s in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Peter Jackson of The Lord of The Rings fame grossed audiences out early in his career with a zombie film called Dead Alive.

A twenty three year old Jennifer Aniston played Tory in Leprechaun.

Jack Nicholson’s first film appearances were in the low-budget scares Little Shop of Horrors, The Terror, as well as others produced by Roger Corman. Corman, by the way, is well respected in Hollywood for his ability to trigger avalanches of profit with minimal investment into horror/campy film productions. Ron Howard studied under him.

Long before he was Hannibal Lecter, Anthony Hopkins creeped us out in Magic and other 70s mid-list horror films.

Jamie Lee Curtis – Halloween.

In Steven Speilberg’s case, it was a horror movie that launched his career. With a critically acclaimed TV movie named Dual finally under his belt, Speilberg got the nod from Universal Studios to direct the film adaptation of a runaway bestselling novel known as Jaws. For what it’s worth, during the production of the film, Speilberg thought his career was doomed because they could never get the mechanical shark to work.

Gerard Butler played the title role in Dracula 2000.

Kathy Bates was well respected for her work in theatre around New York for about twenty one years but when the plays she starred in got picked up for film production, she usually didn’t get the part. Then along came this little character named Annie Wilkes that she portrayed with such chilling credibility, it made audiences soil themselves. The performance locked her in for the “Best Actress” Oscar, a first in that category for horror.

And, bringing this all home to the writing life so we aspiring authors can really feel it, we all know who wrote Misery, the story that gave Annie center stage. When people talk about writers, Stephen King’s name inevitably comes up. He’s probably the most famous author on the planet. Most of us, I think, would offer some kind of acclaim to his work one way or another. So, with someone as good as King, lets compare his road to the top with some other success stories.

King started writing at the age of eight. It took over eleven years before his first publication would come, a short story.

After acquiring a Bachelor of Arts in English and a teaching certificate from the University of Maine, writing didn’t pay the bills for Stephen at first. He didn’t find a teaching position right away. Odd jobs kept him and his family afloat and he supplemented that income by submitting short stories to men’s magazines.

Once he procured a teaching gig and five years after his first publication, King got a call for the novel Carrie. So, from the start of his writing obsession to his big break, that’s a total of at least 16 years. Now, this is Steven freakin’ King we’re talking about here! If he paid his dues, aren’t we all going to as well?

Oh…and King definitely got discouraged. Before having a clue that he’d get a contract for Carrie, he threw it in the trash, ready to quit writing, but his wife consoled him and dug it out. If you get a chance to read King’s On Writing, I think you’ll be amazed at what this guy went through before he got the call.

Just like so many other stars…Willie Nelson, Lady Gaga, Jamie Foxx, Kathy Bates…

Writing is the entertainment industry…and it’s mucho competitive.

I hope this series has been a shot in the arm for you. God knows I sometimes have to quit licking my wounds and kick my own butt into gear. And it usually starts with me remembering: I love writing.



Patricia Stoltey said...

Reminders like this are helpful, Dave. It's so easy to get discouraged.

Anonymous said...

What an encouraging post. Yes, it's good to remember that there really is no such thing as "overnight success". Most of us have to do the grunt work first.

Marilynn Byerly said...

The sad thing, these days, is that any author who writes for the large publishers rarely has a chance to grow their career because each book, especially the first, must do very well indeed, or the author's next book isn't contracted.

And, even more counterintuitively, the publisher rarely promotes any book which isn't written by someone already very well-established and successful.

If King were starting now, he would have trouble selling his second book since CARRIE had very poor sales.