Fire Away

One of the entertainers I most admire in the world just followed me on Twitter. This is someone who not only makes me laugh but whose world view and attitude, and the philosophical underpinnings that drive them, inspire me. Someone on my shortest list of people I’d want to have dinner with. I got a quick ego boost when I saw his name pop up, an even bigger one when I saw how few people he follows. But then, the moment I next went to tweet, dread set in. 

What if I lose him, I thought? What if he followed me because he liked one Vine he saw, that Penn retweeted, but then, if he sees a ramen tweet, or if a joke about The Knicks falls flat, maybe he’s gone.

When he wasn’t following me, fine. He didn’t know who I was, didn’t connect me with my movies, whatever. 

But now, now that he’s in,  I face rejection. And not just garden variety rejection. Narrow, specific rejection from someone I put on a pedestal.  How am I supposed to deal with that? 

Guess I’ll never tweet. 

Or I’ll really workshop the next tweet. 

Maybe, yeah, this is it, I’ll test market the tweet, send it as a Facebook status first or email it to a few friends. And then, if a high enough percentage of them laugh, I’ll tweet it. 

That’s definitely a way to go. Crafty. Safe. 

And absolutely crippling. My entire creative journey has been about writing without fear, expressing myself without regard for what any one person will think of it. I get an idea, work on it to the best of my ability and fire away. And yet here I found myself, ready to tweet something–a tweet, mind you, something so small, insignificant and temporary as to barely exist–and holding back. 

And isn’t that something we all do to ourselves sometimes. Don’t we all sort of set ourselves up for defeat, tell ourselves disempowering stories, hesitate out of fear?  I think we do. And I think one of the most important steps an artist can take is to get to a place where s/he’s not scared of losing her audience. 

The person you’re scared to lose might be your wife or your father if you finished that short story you have hidden in a secret folder on your laptop, or those guys sitting in the front at the comedy club who will laugh at your dick jokes but might boo you if you get political. Or maybe you’re worried that if the YA audience knew you really wanted to write thrillers, they’d never read you again. 

Whatever. Whomever. Fuck ’em. They will go on the ride with you or they won’t. But the ride is yours. And the time is now.


As for me: I’ll tweet away. And if he unfollows, he unfollows. I won’t shed a tear (but I will curse. Very loudly).

Published by

Brian Koppelman

I'm co-creator/Executive producer of Showtime's Billions. Some of the films I've either written/produced/directed are Solitary Man, Rounders, Ocean's Thirteen, Knockaround Guys, Runaway Jury, The Girlfriend Experience & the 30/30 Documentary on Jimmy Connors. I'm also the host of the podcast The Moment.

8 thoughts on “Fire Away”

  1. Great post Brian, thank you!

    I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Ever since I started following and interacting with the “industry” people in twitter I stopped tweeting about things that I used to tweet about and I started playing it safe, an interesting link here, movie fact there, a couple of screenwriting questions…an ass kissing tweet to a hollywood manager etc.

    And I hate doing that but it’s hard to just say fuck it.

    Even now, 20 minutes ago, when I read this post of yours I had a tweet ready, reply to you that said “I guess I can start tweeting again about how much the knicks suck “…Which is total bullshit. I don’t hate the knicks, I don’t care about them, I don’t follow any kind of sport besides tennis. Maybe the Knicks are kicking ass right now, I have literally no idea.
    It was just a bullshit tweet that I figured would make you smirk or a second, click favourite and that’s it, maybe a RT – success, yay.

    And that’s the perfect example of me, on twitter, right now. Just meaningless ass kissing calculated bullshit. Thinking about it makes me want to pick up a hammer and break my fucking knee so I could focus on something else besides how sleazy, petty and disgusting I am.

    But it’s hard to just say “fuck it”…I said fuck it a lot of times in my live and although I enjoyed every single one so fucking much there was a moment, later on, when I regretted saying fuck it and not just keeping my head down and going with the flow. And every time it gets harder.

    One more example that makes me feel dirty when I think about it. I am a moderate but very passionate libertarian. As someone who was born and spent most of his life in a communist turned extremely nationalistic society freedom of speech, press, individuals rights, minority rights etc is something that’s really, really important to me. That’s also the main reason why I a) believe in American exceptionalism and b) Fucking love that country of yours.

    And again, since started following all the industry people, even though there’s nothing really that could be described as extreme in my POV, I stopped talking about it, stopped even sharing links that criticise NSA for example, all out of fear that I might offend someone.

    So what I’m doing is betraying who I am for this slight chance that someone will…what? Like me? That you will be so charmed by my generic, safe, fake and “obviously tailor made to be liked by Brian Koppelman” humour that we will become friends and I’ll have my first proper industry contact?

    Truth is I probably don’t even want to be a friend with a person who would be a friend with someone like that – “like that” being me, on twitter, now. An obviously dishonest and desperate little fuck that just wants to use someone successful to ease his way in – that’s basically how I act. It’s not just “wanting to be liked” – there’s an endgame there, for all of us on twitter, following you guys and it’s disgusting.

    And no need to freak out, I don’t mean you specifically, “Brian Koppelman” represents Hollywood people in general.

    So it’s a constant fight in my mind between “fuck it” and “you know what Stefan, if you think they will like you if you tattoo Karl Marx on your back and give them a handjob while singing “L’Internationale” – bite the bullet and just fucking do it”

    And with this post of yours I think that “fuck it’ just won…

    p.s. Funny thing is, between all that tweeting, strategizing and thinking about it what I’m not doing is fucking writing. Which is more important than all that other bullshit.

    1. Hey man, I understand every word of that. Saying fuck it as an artist is way different than various fuck its we’ve all said that got us in trouble along the way, right? And I know you know that. I’m not saying go up to your boss and tell him what you really think. I am saying: find a way to express yourself creatively without fear. That’s the forum where fuck it definitely applies.
      Go for it, man.
      And make tennis jokes. I’ll get those for sure!

  2. Brian,
    You continue to top yourself with your blog posts. This is absolutely awesome, thanks for posting!


    P.S. Please don’t be intimidated by my following you on Twitter

  3. Brian,

    I found your most memorable Vine to be: “All screenwriting books are bullshit, ALL. Learn from reading scripts and watching movies.”

    I found that to be both a service and a disservice to aspiring writers, especially newbies.

    Yes some of the books are a mind fuck, but all of the books are not bullshit. Yes, many of them ape each other to a fault perpetrating the same myths, but there are now so many of them that a few are actually useful. And as many a writer has said: “if I learn one thing that improves my writing from screenwriting book X, it was worth the price.”

    I usually tell newbies to read Syd Field, and to read it this way — “read it fast, don’t take any notes, and then throw it or give it away.” I want them to at least get the idea of some basics. Then I’ll tell them to read Linda Seger “How To Make A Good Script Great,” so they’ll learn that it is not all just being “clever” and wise ass on the page. (I see so-o much of this.) Then I will tell them to get scripts on the web, or the grapevine, or the usual sources, of a handful of movies they like, in screenplay, not book form. Then I tell them to get at least 6 scripts of movies they’ve never seen. (It’s helpful not to have the movie already in your head when you are studying craft / how to.) If they are lucky enough to have contacts that can get them copies of scripts that have recently sold, I tell them to get those too.

    Then I tell them to read and study those scripts and look for what they can learn in craft. I tell them to also take pages of their writing and compare it to the non-production draft scripts. What usually happens is they learn that they over use description and action. They usually learn that their scenes are often too long, and their dialogue excessive, or sometimes “to the eye.” They often learn that they dilly-dally into scenes, rather than “coming in late, and leaving early,” which really means “don’t show us the boring meaningless shit we don’t need.” And of course they’ll learn to correct some formatting errors. (In fact How NOT To Write A Screenplay is a useful book.)

    I think it works something like this: A new writer — who has the innate ability to become a working screenwriter — will have the ability to find which books are useful, and what parts of those books are useful. I.E. they’ll have the smarts to know what to learn from, and they’ll have the smarts to instinctively, or consciously, leave the rest.

    Screenwriting books are then useful, and very much a “be an informed consumer” kind of thing. Knowing which ones to learn from can save the learning writer months and years of trial and error, or just plain poor story telling. It is perhaps a Catch 22 — in order to get signed and sell a script, you have to be smart enough to figure out which books are worth a damn, and what to take from them and what to leave behind. And of course aspiring writers will also be studying good movies and good scripts and learning pieces of craft from them primarily.

    The above path is what I took, and it is what got me to the ability to get signed by ICM.

    It’s late and I am bleary eyed, and I probably shouldn’t send this cos it’s rough, and not indicative of the writing I can do, but, fuck it.

    1. I just gave an interview where I pointed out that some writers I admire, Billy Ray, Akiva Goldsman, have told me that they got something from McKee. Here’s my thought: there may be something of value in some books for some people. But the gestalt of the screenwriting guru industry is harmful not helpful. And that given the choice between recommending reading a bunch of these books or none, none wins every time.
      I find that writers, esp those starting out, are too easily convinced they are wrong, don’t know anything, need to learn the rules. And to reinforce this, creates the opposite of the kind of mindset needed to do the work.
      I like your idea of giving writers screenplays or movies they have never seen. That’s smart.
      Wish you’d have signed your name. I always use my real name.

  4. Being praised, or at least recognized, in some way, is a basic human desire. If you’re a newbie in this business — or, Hell, if you’re just IN this business –, it’s magnified ten-fold, that appreciative nod your way being the difference perhaps between being read and getting a “break” and being ignored and NOT getting a “break”.

    It’s so dangerous to put stock in that, though. You risk becoming something you’re not and, because of that, losing that one-of-a-kind part of you that makes your work undeniably Yours.

    This is what I do, and there are two things, basically: 1) I don’t think. I just do. If it’s a mistake, well, I’ve made bigger and survived, so … there you go, and

    2) I don’t read reviews — and this goes for my books more than anything else right now. I’m aware of the Five Stars and all that (a friend I have gives me a heads-up if there’s anything quotable I can use marketing-wise), but I DO NOT READ THEM! Period.

    I just believe that the thoughts of strangers shouldn’t affect what you do or how you do it. Best to go about your business unaware of the praise or the criticism.

    As for me, I just knuckle under and get it done. 🙂

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