Monday, January 14, 2008

Spinning Plates

On my computer, in my 'Script' folder, all my current writing projects reside. The list runs up to fifteen. Some of these are dwindling with their development or momentum, and unless a commission or script sale occurs, they will inevitably find their way to my 'Inactive Projects' folder. At the moment, this list contains twenty five scripts or would-be scripts, with a roughly equal number of individual documents (ideas/one pagers etc) lying around with no specific home. The projects elicit contrasting emotions as I casually give them a glance: “that’s good, a shame that didn’t work out”, “what was I thinking?” “eugh, horrible”, “I should re-visit that one”.

As a freelance writer, it’s important to have as many projects on the go as is humanly possible. One or two projects isn’t really going to cut it, or earn you a living. I’m including any TV writing gigs you may have, as there’s no guarantee of rolling commissions (unless it’s in your contract or you’ve been allocated a chunk of episodes). When a producer expresses interest in one of your projects, and may even moot an option deal/payment, it’s easy to get distracted with that attention and expect something to happen. More often than not, nothing will, and you’re left scrapping around trying to generate another opportunity.

Six to one (6/1). That’s roughly (my guess) at the odds you face when generating income out of your original projects. So, that’s six projects to originate, develop and hopefully get producers/production companies interested enough to pay you some wedge. You’ll get meetings, and be drawn into a development dance that precludes you from getting paid until the Big Boss finally gives the ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. And all the while, you’ll think: “something’s gotta stick, surely”. And then you’ll panic: “what if two or more kick off at the same time? It’ll be too much, I won’t cope!” And then all six projects get shot down for one reason or another. Square one. Looking at a blank slate; scouring through your ‘active’ and ‘inactive’ projects trying to see what might be presentable/salvageable for the next run of plate spinning.

Current outlook: cautiously optimistic. Five projects on the go that may, or may not, come good and shape up the year with kick-ass intent. 'Waiting to hear' is a phrase that promises much but often delivers little. Experience has taught me not to rest on my laurels and physically wait for a response on each of the projects so I gotta keep generating ideas, stay focused and most importantly, keep writing. That's the only way it's done.


Carlo C. said...

6/1? Pffftt. Learn to write, noob.


Oli said...

I too have the 'Inactive Projects' folder, but mine goes under the far more twee and far less honest title of 'Completed Projects'.


Spinning a few plates (spec wise) too, Danny.
Your post lead me this question..
I have a TV pilot script in with a quality prod co, after they put out a "submission required call".
They're UK, the call was before Christmas, and I sent mine 31/11/07How long, d'you reckon, is polite, as in "not too green a newbie" to wait to send a polite follow up enquiry email?
Or is the deathly silence of the no reply telling me what I should know?

Danny Stack said...

I'd give it 'till end of the month Sheiky, that should be okay. They'll always take longer than you expect but no harm in touching base after what would be a reasonable amount of time.


Cheers, Danny, that's what I thought, but it's always nice to check with one who knows.

Did you see the Strike TV gig over at Pier's e-gaff?
(link to it via mine if you like...)