Trying to break into the business can seem like an impossible task. How do you go from wannabe graduate or talented newcomer to someone with a commission or a regular writing gig? It’s difficult because there are so many other equally talented (and a lot more gifted) writers than you out there who are also trying to get their break. Still, the aspiring writer’s frustrations turn, not to focus on himself, but to rail against the system, and to bitch about producers, script editors and the crap that’s on TV or at the cinema.
And then comes that moment. Your first break. Someone gives you a shot. You’ve got a commission. Congratulations! But now what? It’s like someone has suddenly poked you in the chest with a challenge, hoping you’ve got what it takes to supply them with high quality material that’s suitable for production. So you do what every writer does in this position. You panic. Or at least, you begin to doubt you’ve got the goods.
Then, you hand in your first draft, and it gets ripped apart. It’s just like every other script they’ve seen, and even worse than the stuff you were moaning about on TV last night. You’ve piked it, basically, and you’ve fallen short of the required standard. However, all is not lost. You haven’t ruined your chances. You’ve just made a bad first attempt. Now you have to listen to the producer/script editor’s notes and try to turn the script into something that they actually want, or raise the standard to a sufficient level so that it’s actually a top piece of writing.
This is the real challenge. This is what it means to be a professional writer. It’s about raising your game from what you perceived was an acceptable standard to something that will challenge your confidence, talent and ideas. It will separate you from the ‘good and got what it takes’ from the ‘wannabes who’ll never quite make it’. It’s the vital approach and application of your professional practice and your natural storytelling instincts. Being able to separate the shit ideas from the good ones, and getting excited about how to shape the story into something worthwhile and entertaining.
When some new writers get their first break, they can buckle at the weight of expectation and pressure. It’s how you respond to this pressure that will define you as a writer, and help to further your career. You pretty much only get one shot at a first break. So try not to panic. Make it a good one. Discover your humility but harness your storytelling talent, and you’ll learn never to rail against the system again.
On another note, some time last Friday, the blog reached 200,000 hits! That's really great, so thanks to everyone for reading and contributing to the blog. There may be fewer posts over the coming months due to the script competition and other work demands, but there's a healthy slate of screenwriting blogs to choose from nowadays, so we're all in good company.