I am very lucky to have had the good people at the Saul Zaentz Incubator pair me with two extraordinary mentors. The first is Josh Penn, producer of the film Beasts of the Southern Wild. The second mentor is Stacie Passon, writer and director of Concussion.
For most of my career, mentorship has meant studying written works. For screenwriting, William Goldman, Robert Bolt, David Mamet. For literature, Jorge Luis Borges, W.G. Sebald, Virginia Woolf and so many more. In poetry, Auden, Browning.
Yet, now my mentors are real people, hustlers (in the best sense of this word), taking action and making for themselves a career. It is a relief to be sitting beside such people. They are proof that the abstract does indeed become concrete, that an idea can culminate in a play of light on a screen. We never see the sweat in our bookish mentors.
Are mentors a kind of Virgil, guiding us through hell? Well, not really. The hell of writing–not knowing– is the very thing that makes it noble. And though Dante was clever to wrap his mentor into the layers of his fiction, the analogy is not apt. Here’s a better one:
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Writers know what Jacob knew, one must wrestle the angel alone. Still, we are grateful for some good advice and the spirit of companionship.
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