Would You Write For The Rest Of Your Life If You Got Nothing In Return?
by Danny Strong
Film Courage: You had early success in your screenwriting career as you had your first screenplay optioned for a few thousand dollars in the beginning?
Danny Strong: Yes.
Film Courage: And then you wrote for six years and you were able to sell RECOUNT to HBO. So most people would have given up in that six year period. Especially now when everybody wants things instantly. Why didn’t you give up?
Danny Strong: That’s a great question. I mean the early success wasn’t really success [Laughs]…I would say. I wouldn’t really call it early success. I don’t even view it that way. I view it as six years of no one wanting my stuff and it was some random person who was very kind who was interested in the script. But it wasn’t as if it was all of the sudden “I made it and it’s happening now!” So it really was a six, seven year journey into selling my first project which was recount and why I didn’t give up I think is because I had something to say and I loved writing these scripts and they were important to me and I loved working on stories and it just was artistically, extremely fulfilling where my acting career was very frustrating. And I worked…I worked on some terrific shows that I’m really proud of, but I wasn’t actually getting to act very much. So even when you’re working…you know I would do episodes of Gilmore Girls and I would do four episodes a season and I would work on it a day or two and that would be one of my only jobs for six months. So it’s really about seven days on set over a six month period. So what am I doing the rest of the time? I’m auditioning and trying to get new jobs but that’s an hour a day maybe?
So really it was a creative outlet for me of taking my creative energy and putting it into something where I can actually just go do it.
Where as an actor, you have to be picked to go do it and then you rarely get picked. So I just found it fulfilling but I also was getting rejected left and right, script after script and agents, managers, production companies, everyone didn’t want my work for six, seven years. And I got to a point where I asked myself this is not going well. What do you want from this? What are you doing? And I sort of asked myself would I (and it’s one of the key questions in the movie REBEL IN THE RYE) would I do this for the rest of my life if I got nothing in return and I thought “Yeah…I would.” And I just kept writing and then eventually, it wasn’t as if six months later…crack the champagne! It was maybe three years later that I sold RECOUNT as a pitch to HBO and then just kind of went on from there.
But there was a certain peace in knowing that it wasn’t about selling something or success (even though I really wanted it. I wasn’t a Kumbaya moment but there was a peace in knowing that well whatever happens you just keep writing. So I just kept writing and that’s what I did.
Film Courage: You included that in two parts of the movie [REBEL IN THE RYE] that premise [keep writing even if you get nothing in return] and that’s a real eye-opener that most people may not be ready for.
Danny Strong: Yeah. And look what J.D. Salinger did, right? He stopped publishing at the height of his fame and then continued writing for 45 years for nothing in return and he wrote every day and he just did it because he just wanted to write and I think to me that’s what makes this story a profound story is the journey of the artist and he goes from being a young many who all he wants is success to being an older writer which all he wants is to just create his art and nothing else. And that’s the journey. That’s the Aesop fable of this movie.
Question for the Viewers: Would you write for the rest of your life if you got nothing in return?
The world of J.D. Salinger is brought vividly to life in this portrait of one of the most renowned, controversial, and enigmatic authors of our time. In mid-20th century New York, a young salinger (Nicholas Hoult) struggles to find his voice, pursues a love affair with a famed socialite (Zoey Deutch) and leaves for the frontlines of World War II. Publishing his masterpiece, The Catcher in the Rye, brings him overnight fame and notoriety, leading him to withdraw from the public eye for the rest of his life. Co-starring Kevin Spacey and Sarah Paulson.