As I recover from the euphoria of shooting the short film over the weekend, I can't help but reflect on the highs and lows of the last few years, from starting this blog in August 2005 (after licking my wounds from the Writers' Academy), going to Cannes the following year, getting rejected by EastEnders, script editing Kings, setting up the Red Planet Prize with the legend that is Tony Jordan, launching Sofia's Diary and successfully getting another crack at EastEnders (my first ever episode will be on Monday, May 18th. Only a few weeks now!).
You'll have to forgive the cliche, but it really has been a roller coaster. The blog has provided a good centre to keep everything in perspective, and to help maintain a positive front in the face of some bad times. 2006/2007 was a difficult period, even pushing me towards considering regular employment for the first time since 1999. Thankfully, that didn't happen and I managed to eschew my respectable, but let's face it, lowly script reading status to focus on full-time writing and script editing gigs.
When you're trying to make it as a screenwriter, you have to be determined and bullish to succeed, not letting anyone or any particular rejection break you down. However, in my experience, this idealistic attitude isn't enough. It has to be matched with a proactive desire to do things differently in order to make things happen. It might be tempting to complain about the system or the seemingly passive nature of the industry but we writers can be just as complacent as we over rely on the usual sources to help make our careers happen: agents, screenwriting competitions, the writersroom, the Writers' Academy, etc. Of course, there's nothing wrong with these outlets but because they're the prime focus for the main herd, you gotta do something fresh and different if you're going to get ahead of the game.
Think about your individual profile. Your unique selling point. What makes you stand out? If you're a solid writer, great, but the irony of screenwriting is that sometimes good writing is not easily recognised. You could be a potentially Oscar-winning scribe but still struggle to get your first ten pages past the writersroom or the Red Planet first round. Such is the subjective nature of the format. However, if you manage to hustle, network or create something about yourself that's distinguishable from the multitude of movers and shakers, then you and your scripts may get more favourably received. The industry likes to react to a positive external influence rather than a passive request for support.
Get out there. Think different. Strive to improve. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Do better. I'm not offering these phrases as condescending advice. I use them as pep-talks for myself. It's this kind of corny inspiration that keeps me going. The last few years have taught me that anything is possible. You just need the will, energy, talent and luck to do something about it. The only person that's going to do you a favour is you. Listen, I've just finished the short film. I've led a professional cast and crew (30 in total) to help me tell a story I wanted to tell. Previously, I wouldn't have dared to do this because of lack of confidence, finance, opportunity, timing, whatever. Excuses. Say it, do it. That's all. See what happens, create the fate. It does make a difference. Go on, what are you waiting for?