Saturday, May 15, 2004

Tin Cup

There's a scene in the movie Tin Cup where Kevin Costner is standing on the fairway of the final hole of the U.S. open. Three times previously we've seen him in the exact same situation, attempting to hit a long shot over a water hazard onto the green when the smart play would be to "lay up" and make the green in two. And each of the three previous times he has gone into the water. But Costner knows he can make that shot and despite the fact that he actually has a chance to win the Open if he plays it safe, he can't back down from the challenge. He hits the shot and it's a beauty, sailing over the water and landing within striking distance of the pin. The crowd cheers.

But then the ball begins to roll. And it isn't rolling towards the hole, it's rolling back down towards the water. Slowly at first, but gradually picking up speed as it nears the edge of the green. Maybe it will stop before it reaches the embankment. But no, it keeps going and plops into the drink.

Costner watches in agony. But he can still salvage the hole if he takes a drop and makes par. Maybe he can even tie it up and force a playoff. That would be the safe thing to do. But he shakes his head and asks for another ball. He's going to play it from the same spot. Because he knows he can make it. He hits again and the same thing happens. The ball dribbles down the green and into the pond. Costner doesn't even hesitate. He asks for another ball and hits from the same spot again. Before it even hits the water he asks for another. That one falls short too. Now he's down to his last ball. He gives it a good solid whack and it clears the water lands on the green and rolls into the hole. The crowd goes nuts. Here he has just blown a chance at winning the U.S. Open, but no one seems to care. He made the damn shot, just like he said he could, and that's what counts.

I watched that scene yesterday and, even though I've seen it several times before, I still get completely caught up in it. I think what I like about it is the way it all comes down to his belief in himself. He knows that he's capable of greatness, even though to everyone else he's just a burned-out loser who works at a driving range in the middle of nowhere. And when it comes down to a choice between laying up or going for the green, he has to choose the longshot. He calls it his defining moment.

Sometimes I wonder if I should stop shooting for the green and just lay up. Why do I have to keep going for the longshot? I'm sure life would be a lot easier if I just took my par and went home. It's not like I have to prove anything to anybody. Besides, it seems like every time I get close to the pin, my ball always rolls back down the hill and splashes in the water. Maybe it's just not worth it.

I heard from Victoria Wisdom the other day. I had sent her a brief synopsis of my screenplay and she sent back a little note explaining that "inside Hollywood" stories are hard to sell. In other words, she's not interested in reading it. I can't really argue with her. I doubt anyone knows more about what sells in this town than she does. But I really thought if she read it, she'd see that it was worth taking a chance on. It's funny because when I wrote it, I actually thought it was a really marketable idea. In fact most people I tell about it think it sounds great. But the reality is there are certain kinds of scripts that sell and this one just doesn't fall into any of those categories.

But damn it, I know I can make that shot. I took a chance with Victoria because I thought this script was worth the risk. You don't want to use up all your favors on a script that isn't going to go anywhere. She did me a big favor by allowing me to bypass all the usual obstacles and pitch my idea directly to her. Unfortunately my pitch wasn't strong enough to stay on the green. But I've got to take another whack at it.

On Friday I ran into a lawyer I used to work with. He asked me what I was doing and I mentioned the screenplay. Turns out he just won a big case for an agency called Bender-Spink and says he is pretty tight with them. Maybe I should send him the script and he can pass it along to them. A half hour later, I hand delivered a copy to his office. Bender-Spink has the reputation for taking risks with unknown writers. They also like to produce their own projects.

I know it's a longshot -- but hell, if you aren't going to play the longshot, what's the point of playing the game?

Just call me "Tin Cup" Dick.