It is one of those interesting tales in Hollywood that deserve to be told. Some of you may know her by her pen name “Diablo Cody”, but she is in fact Brook Busey-Maurio. Well, Hollywood has its fair share of commoners making it big, the dreamers reaching the top, the rags to riches fairytale stories. This one is about a bit of passion, a bit of luck, a bit of talent, and doing the right thing at the right time. Oh, and also, that you can end up doing anything that you believe in, no matter in which direction you begin.
Diablo Cody started off her career doing secretarial work at a law firm in USA and later proofreading copy for advertisements aired on radio. You can see a possible screenwriter in the making, right? It gets interesting after this. Cody signed up for amateur night at a Minneapolis strip club, and reportedly having enjoyed the experience, she quit her day-time job and took up stripping full-time. Not the road path you would take to become a screenwriter, right? But some people can juggle around with a lot of things. While professionally a stripper, she also began writing articles for weeklies and magazines. Along with it, she began blogging about her nights at the strip club. Her blog started growing in popularity and soon a book deal followed. The book titled Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper is a memoir by Cody on “her brief career working as a stripper and the various sights and oddities that she encountered”. With the book done, her manager encouraged her to write a movie screenplay. Now can you see how being a professional stripper can still get you to write a movie screenplay? The screenplay was written, a delicately and at times humorously handled story about a teenager’s unplanned pregnancy. The movie was released in 2007 to much critical acclaim. It was called Juno. Juno received four Academy Award nominations the following year, but won only one – Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay to Diablo Cody. It had to be! The story was complete, the stripper had turned into an Oscar winner.
Diablo Cody has been the screenwriter for Jennifer’s Body and Young Adult and the TV series The United States of Tara since then. She was nominated for Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay for Young Adult which stars Charlize Theron. She has even done uncredited script revisions for other movies like this year’s Evil Dead. She has stepped into producing roles, and now she has moved to direction as well. Her directorial debut will release this year, Paradise, also written by her. Her stories continue to remain women-centric, something which does come as a relief in an otherwise male-dominated screenwriting space. While Cody still has to again match up to the standards set by Juno, one must not forget she’s only 35, having been only six years in this industry. There could be a lot more to come from here, it does feel that way. On that not-so-brief background, here’s a wonderful piece which Cody wrote for Vulture. It’s a delightful read, something that feels has been written by the person sitting next to you and not by an Oscar winner. It is simple, and so true, and somewhere you too would find a lesson or two.
The 7 Things No One Tells You About Being a Top Screenwriter (as told by Diablo Cody to Vulture)
1. You will be held accountable for your words.
Writers drink, and therefore we often exhibit poor judgment. In 2007, whenJuno came out, people were wearing rhinestone-embellished trucker caps and I was making bad decisions, too. I said a lot of stupid things in interviews because I figured no one was paying attention — who cares about screenwriters, generally? But my big mouth got me into trouble countless times. As a “visible” writer, you have to learn to conduct yourself like an actor. Say what you’ve been coached to say. Don’t talk shit about anyone. Behind closed doors, I’m still a drunk train wreck, but in interviews, I try to channel Sandra Bullock or someone else the public finds charming.
2. You will be a big deal for about ten seconds.
Since I “broke through” (ugh) six years ago, countless younger, funnier, smarter writers have flocked to Hollywood and TOOK MY JERB. That’s the nature of this business. Just ask any of the actresses who were on the cover ofVanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue in the nineties. Believe me, they all want to murder Emma Stone right now. You will be replaced. Keep your head down and work as much as you can.
3. You can make money doing things nobody knows about.
I occasionally do uncredited “secret” rewrites on scripts. I like that, because then people who would ordinarily avoid my projects are tricked into buying tickets for films I’ve worked on. I entertain frat guys without their consent!
4. But you have to say no to people constantly.
I turned down a pretty great job last week, and I thought long and hard about it because, Oh God, what kind of spoiled asshole have I become that I wouldn’t do this? But when I thought about the time commitment that it required and what it would pay me and how it could take me away from my children — I just couldn’t do it. My 27-year-old self would hit the roof if she knew I turned it down.
5. Meetings get way better.
I have friends who are lesser-known writers, and they get very nervous before a pitch because they feel like they’re in service of the people that they are pitching to. Whereas sometimes when I go in and pitch, it’s like being an honored guest. The assumption is there that they’re probably interested in what I have to say. People don’t look out the window. Also, you get to park right in front of the studio instead of having to go way off to P6.
6. Everyone you know will suddenly aspire to be a screenwriter.
I’ve never heard of a dozen people applying to dental school because their friend or family member became an orthodontist. But if you become a screenwriter and have success at it, at least five of your non-writing acquaintances will spontaneously decide to try writing a screenplay. And you know what? I don’t blame them. I genuinely believe I have the best job in the world, other than Katy Perry. Besides, it’s not like I know what the fuck I’m doing. Go ahead, guys! Take a crack at it!
7. The guy who refused to date you in college comes asking for a job.