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  • Writer's pictureDavid Hal Chester


Updated: Dec 14, 2023

It's been a while since my last post. Almost every waking minute, until a few weeks ago, was spent on polishing a screenplay which is, as of this date, being produced in Los Angeles. It's my 10th produced screenplay and I'm going to take a moment here to pat myself on the back.

Six years ago, I had no credits to my name, other than finalist mentions in various screenplays and one short film I was super proud of. Those finalist mentions in particular gave me glimmers of hope and I kept pushing forward, dreaming of the day when I would be hired to write a screenplay.

The first assignment was a gift and a surprise. I wasn't sure it would ever happen. As the next and the next assignment came in, I was continually surprised. Is this really happening? But it kept happening. Finally, as the numbers grew, I felt it was imperative that I reach 10 produced screenplays because one cannot argue with the number 10. But, of course, arriving at 10, even 1, was a very challenging road.

I have a story to share which may, at first, not make sense to you. Over the summer my Japanese partner dragged me on one of the many pilgrimmages we've made throughout Japan. He is compelled to climb up any mountain or slope if there is some small shrine atop it, so he can say his prayers. I have joined him without fail, although there is nothing about me to suggest that I'm a hiker. That said, this time he took me to a place known as Izurusan Manganji Temple, in an area known as Tochigi, about two hours north of Tokyo by train. The day we arrived it was rainy and gray. Not a great day for hiking. My partner was not remotely phased. So, we started our ascent. As we kept going higher and higher, I thought, "Oh, this will end soon and we can get back down to the road and have coffee and relax." But it didn't end soon. It went on and on and on. We kept going up, and the thing was: it was not safe. We were completely alone. All other visitors must have had the good sense not to proceed, since it was raining, the ground was wet, and the barely discernible path kept getting washed away. On either side of the "path" there were poles, attached by ropes, dug into the earth, that one could latch on to. But the whole thing was makeshift. It was as if someone casually walked up the path one day and said, "Okay, this looks like a good spot. Let's jab a pole in here!"

Those poles were our only "guardrails" against slipping back down a very, very uneven terrain. As we continued to climb, so many memories of my life came rushing back to me. And not only my memories, memories of other people I knew, from all the stories they had shared with me. It was strange, bizarre and beautiful.

We did eventually reach the top, and yes, there was a small shrine just waiting for my partner to toss coins in it, bow, pray and clap his hands twice, according to Shinto tradition. I have always joined him in this, although I may not share his (or anyone's) religious beliefs. But it is still a peaceful, spiritual moment.

Of course, after that, we had to return. It was no less easy going down. We were clutching at the poles and praying we didn't go tumbling to our deaths. Obviously we didn't, since I was able to share this with you. I am writing this because as I climbed my way to the top, I realized the climb was what "climbing to the top" in show business is like. Very few people, if anyone, will help you; you think it will get easier, but it doesn't; you have a moment where you've "arrived" and all is beautiful and clear, and then, most likely, you will tumble back down and have to do it all over again if you want to get back to the top. Some people can stay there for a long time; most of us cannot.

Also, all my experiences with so-called agents and managers and producers came rushing back. I remembered just how cruel some people had been to me; how many had lied to me; how many took advantage of me, and how few had made an effort to open a door for me. AND YET...I did it. I climbed to the top. I SURVIVED, intact. But before I took that first step, I had to silence the voices in my head as they rattled off the list: I'm too old; I'm too fat; it's too late; I don't have what it takes; I've never had what it takes; it's best to back out now before you embarrass yourself. In fact, start running now and maybe no one will even know that you were trying to elevate yourself from nothing to something. All those voices were screaming at me, I mean SCREAMING at me. But I thought, "Yeah, no; I'm still going to do it."

When we finally got back down to the main road, I had an epiphany. "Oh. That climb is what life is: one, long hard uphill struggle, punctuated by moments of beauty, terror, happiness, fear, joy, sadness -- everything. I felt everything on that journey. If I'm lucky, and brave enough, I might get to experience it again. All of this is to say: FACE YOUR FEARS and proceed. It's so easy to turn and run. But don't. And when you get to the top, let me know. Or if you need encouragement to keep going, let me know. You'll get there; I did.

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