Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Friday, September 26, 2014

"The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God" released!

The one sheet for the book.

My memoir, "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God," was released July 28, 2014 by TouchPoint Press.

I can't believe I am only blogging about the event now, but a dizzying series of social, professional and familial events have kept me away from the keyboard.  In a way I am glad.  The time has given me the opportunity to absorb the events.

I have somehow successfully worked freelance in the highly competitive and somewhat ruthless film business for nearly twenty-four years.  I have edited commercials, music videos, television shows and motion pictures.   I have written fourteen produced films.  I have won a wide variety of awards.  I have hobnobbed with celebrities.  I was blessed with the opportunity to live my dream, but the publication of this book surpassed them all.

Seeing the finished book for the first time.
Screenwriting is indeed my chosen profession.  From my earliest childhood, I have always loved the movies.  That said, when I first seriously considered the prospect of becoming a writer in high school, the thought of screenwriting never entered my mind.  That goal seemed totally out of reach of a goofy kid with bad 70's hair in Northeast Baltimore, but I still wanted to write for a living.  It was something I seemed to do well.  My English teachers were always very supportive and complimentary.

I started out as a journalism major in college.   Journalists actually got paid for writing.  One even lived across the street from me, and he seemed to enjoy his work.  He was a sportswriter, and I got to go to the press box at old Memorial Stadium while one of his sons did the box scores for the AP at an Orioles game.  That was cool.  Plus, I discovered that reporters got free food and drink.  Sweet!  However, I soon became disillusioned with journalism in college and switched over to film.  Still, I never imagined that I could become a screenwriter.  I never even took a screenwriting course.   I really had no idea why I was majoring in film -- other than the fact that I loved movies.  I never pictured myself working in the film business.  I was also taking computer courses.  I always assumed I would end up as a computer programmer at the Social Security Administration after college.  But it didn't work out that way.  I ended up in advertising instead.

At Smith Burke & Azzam, I learned the nuts and bolts of film production -- although the films tended to be a mere thirty seconds long.  It was a great apprenticeship, and my eventual position as a broadcast producer let me observe and participate in every step of the process:  From script to casting to production to post-production.  The only drawback to the advertising business were the inevitable layoffs when we'd lose accounts.  I was laid off six times in five years (and almost always hired back within a couple of weeks.)  During one of my brief semi-retirements, I wrote my first complete feature film script in less than a week.  I found it surprisingly easy.  My third script got me serious Hollywood attention.  My fifth script got me a well-known agent.

Yours truly at the book release party.
Despite the initial interest, it would be years before I finally saw my name on the big screen.  But it was worth it.  It was an amazing feeling to listen to an audience laugh at your jokes and become absorbed by your story.  In many ways my edgy first film, "21 Eyes," most accurately brought one of my scripts to the screen.  All of the principals share an enthusiasm for the concept and worked together to make it a reality.  Whether you love it or hate it, "21 Eyes" was exactly what we intended it to be.   Sadly, that would not always be the case.  While I am proud of a number of my movies, a few of them were twisted and bent out of shape simply to suit the ego needs of the principals.  Film is a collaborative endeavor, and I have certainly benefited from collaboration.  I can list many instances where actors, producers and directors have enriched the words I put on paper.  A well-known producer was once expressed interest in my script "The Long Drive" and guided me through two rewrites.  The man had great depth and insight.  Everything he suggested enhanced the script.  Sadly, those experiences are outnumbered by cases where the changes have damaged the film.  Rare is the screenwriter who doesn't cringe through the first viewing of one of his films.   After a while, it becomes a little disillusioning to have your name associated with things you didn't write up on the big screen.  It makes you wonder what it means to be a writer.

My mother with a copy of the book.  She didn't kill for
spilling all of the family secrets in the book.
I have no such misgivings about "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God."  This was all me, and for the first time in years I felt like a real writer again.  It's one thing to engage an audience with all the bells and whistles a motion picture can employ.  When you write a book, you have to rely entirely on your own words to hold an audience.  That is the ultimate test of any writer.  Time will tell whether I ultimately succeeded, but, so far, the reaction has been great.

The fact that the book was autobiographical would have validated my writing and my life itself -- if I was interested in that kind of validation anymore.  This book was essentially the product of a near death experience that left me uninterested in any sort of external, earthly validation.  I wasn't telling my story to justify my life, but rather because I felt my experiences might help others.  But, whether I intended it or not, the book did validate me in a way.  It provided outside proof my story was worth telling, and therefore worth living.  The emotional climax of the entire experience came at the book release party held at my church.  People from every stage of my life showed up -- my family and my friends from kindergarten, grade school, high school, college and throughout my whole professional life.  It was a great summation.  And I am grateful to have experienced it.  The older I get, the more I believe what you do is less important than who you do it with, and I have been surrounded by a lot of wonderful people.

So what's next?  I think most writers work through the same deeply personal themes over and over again throughout their career.  I think that was definitely true of me.  In a sense, most of my work tried to disprove F. Scott Fitzgerald's contention that "American lives have no second acts."  Most of the scripts that won me Hollywood's attention dealt with characters beginning the second acts of their lives, living in the shadow of some momentous decision that shook their sense of self.  That was definitely true of me.  I spent many long years contemplating a decision I made in my own life that irrevocably changed my destiny.  Now that I have dealt with those demons directly in my book, I no longer feel the need to deal with them obliquely in my scripts.

With my grandmother.  I gave her a free copy,
but I told her she'd have to pay me to sign it.
I find myself in a strange place today.  In a sense, I have achieved all of my professional goals.  I wanted to make movies.  And I did.  I wanted to become an author.  And I did.  Fortunately, I do have more stories to tell.  I have started writing a follow-up to my book called "Unconditional" about my misguided attempts to find love during the 1990s.  I think it will offer some hard-earned insights into maintaining your values, integrity and self-respect while dating.  And, yes, I would also like to make some more movies, both as a writer and producer, but I am not excited about the prospect of doing anymore commissioned straight-to-DVD projects.  I am aiming a little higher now.  Time will tell if I succeed, and it really doesn't matter to me if I do or don't.  I'm content to put that entirely in the Lord's hands.  What would I really like to do creatively?  I would like to write some songs that got recorded by an established artist, but that's another story....

Speaking of stories, you really should buy my book.  It's pretty good, if I have to say so myself.  (You can read the first couple chapters for free on Amazon.)

Amazon:  The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God
Barnes & Noble:  The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God
The publisher:  TouchPoint Press Bookstore

(Feel free to print a review online if you liked it.  Even if you didn't.)

With my lovely wife and two of my siblings.

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