Clint Eastwood Stole My Movie!

 In Blog

I once suspected Clint Eastwood of stealing a screenplay I wrote. I later learned that Mr. Eastwood and I had the same idea at the same time, but he acted while I talked myself into doing nothing.

I enrolled in a screenwriting class at UNC, which had nothing to do with finishing my business degree – which is why I was enrolled in the first place — but I love movies. I took one course, then another, and drifted into a one-year graduate-level scriptwriting project.

The instructor said we would rewrite a published short story into a full-length motion picture script. I immediately thought of the perfect story.

Rope Burns: Stories from The Corner by F.X. Toole is a powerful collection of boxing stories. My favorite involved a woman who convinces a reluctant boxing coach to train her for a big fight.

I worked on the script for a year. I grew to love the characters, Maggie and Frankie; I was proud of how it turned out and I got an “A.”

In the last class, the instructor pulled me aside and encouraged me to buy the rights to the story and find an agent to sell my script. “It’s a phenomenal story, and you did an excellent job,” I remember him saying.

Well, you can guess what happened next. I did nothing.

Fast forward seven years later. Picture me at my kitchen table reading the Sunday New York Times and boom — there is a full-page ad for Million Dollar Baby starring Hilary Swank, directed by Clint Eastwood.

If Mr. Eastwood had stolen my screenplay instead of filming the one that Paul Haggis wrote, the film would have been nominated for eight Academy Awards instead of only seven! (Just kidding. Their version was better.)

I later learned that most books are already optioned by film studios before they hit bookstores. Eastwood likely already had the rights, and I probably did not miss an opportunity.

But what if…?

That nagging thought. What if? What if I made one phone call? What if I emailed one agent? What if my script sold for a million dollars and Hilary Swank met the man of her dreams, me?

That experience taught me to avoid what-ifs. Learning to say yes to possibilities has been a process. Saying yes does not always work out, like when I said yes to stand-up comedy, television advertising sales, and buying a $900 Roland piano which now collects dust.

One day I said yes to my friend, Randy Lane. “I know you are out of radio, working at Lululemon, but would you consider backtracking to coach a couple of shows?” Again, I tried to talk myself out of it, but I am glad that I did not. Eight years later, I am not asking “what if.”

Being open to opportunity can be difficult. We sometimes reject new paths because they are unfamiliar. Our primal or “lizard” brain is self-preserving, where fear is lightning quick to say “no!”

Sometimes you do not say yes. Sometimes you say maybe. Yes and maybe come from your prefrontal cortex, the curious part of your brain that allows you to take risks, put a toe in the water and test things out.

Sometimes the idea that seems craziest, scariest, and the most wrong is exactly the door you walk through to find happiness. And sometimes a hard no is the best answer.

You will not know until you give it a shot.

Photo by Krists Luhaers on Unsplash

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