Monday, August 28, 2006

Triple A

Approach. Attitude. Application.

A lot of people want to be writers. Scratch that. A lot of people want to be screenwriters. Thousands. Tens of thousands. All writing scripts. All dreaming of that elusive break into film and TV, and some breaking and entering through other routes such as theatre and radio.

So, what’s going to be your approach? What’s going to set you apart from the rest? What are you going to do to ensure that your work is not only read, but is better than all the others? How long are you going to last? How long are you willing to try? Are you going to read a couple of scripts a week (at least) to inform and develop your understanding of craft? Are you a movie fan or a genuine screenwriter? Are you going to be a professional and learn as much as you can about the industry before you put your work ‘out there’? In essence, how much are you willing to learn?

A positive and professional attitude will provide all the answers to the above questions. This attitude needs to be focused, committed and relentless. The industry is a fickle business. What it deems as crap from an untested writer they will think is gold from a more seasoned scribe.

This is the frustration and rejection that awaits; a wall of refusal from seemingly misinformed script editors/execs whose own English barely communicates what it thinks about your work, and yet you’re meant to submit to their decision. So how are you going to react? Sulk and moan? Pout and protest? Or take the sting and try to see their perspective, maybe the script needs more work? Or move on to the next project? Or stick to the day job?

The determination to succeed. The unshakeable belief in your talent. The relentless pursuit of writing good scripts; the inevitable course to a commission, the path to an agent’s door. But we’re all human. The determination, belief and pursuit is difficult to maintain. The rejections wear you down. You get slightly insecure about your work, and whether you’ve got anything of value to say at all.

Keep things in perspective.

When a producer says he’s interested in your script, great, but it means nothing until a deal is done, and a cheque is in the bank. If a company rejects your work and is willing to read other scripts, then continue to send them new projects. If however, they have not asked to meet you after your second submitted script, you need to consider if they are just being polite and encouraging rather than genuinely interested in you as a writer.

Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge every positive response to your writing - so you know you’re on the right track - but don’t mislead yourself into thinking there’s a commission just around the corner or that an agent will definitely take you on now that you’ve got that £200 option fee. Ignore all that. Keep on trying. Keep focused on your work. You’re a writer. That’s what you do. Write. No matter what. Rejections hurt, script editors/execs can get it wrong, deals can take forever to sort out, but no-one can stop you from writing. Ever.


Andy Phillips said...

That's it. Just write something great, and you'll get through. That's what I tell myself all the time.

Lucy V said...

How do you do it Danny - you have triple A by the bucketful, have loads of success (rightly) AND find time to encourage others too. Nice one.

Danny Stack said...

Oh I wouldn't go that far Lucy! But thanks anyway... :0

Anonymous said...

I've heard a surprising number of writers say words along the line of: "This is THE project - if this doesn't get optioned, I'm going to give up! I can't do any better, this is the pinnacle, so if I don't succeed, it's all over, but at least I gave it a good try."

A writer can always do better, you're always learning. There is never "the" project or "the" time -I think there is a certain amount of luck involved too. Some are luckier and/or more talented than others; some get their just deserts, good OR bad. There's no template. You've gotta keep plugging away, non-stop, til you get your break. You gotta keep aiming for something - even if you have lots of shiny gold oscars and baftas and loads of moolah in the bank and the respect of your peers and a trophy wife and a big sports car...

Sorry, getting carried away there.

But yeah: never give up! It's not what screenwriters do. We're like those little yappy-type dogs. With an attitude problem. And fleas. And bad breath. People run away from us but we run after them, yapping: "Love me!" Then one day, someone, a big producer hopefully, says "Ah, this poor lost dog, let's take it to the pooch parlour!"(Or words to that effect,anyway, I'm mixing my metaphors madly here!)


Tim Clague said...

Good sum of advice Dan the man. You can stop blogging now. I think I would add just one extra thing. And that is to keep your scope of writing wide. Don't just limit yourself to feature scripts - just because they were big once in the 50s!!! Imagine if you were around at the dawn of TV. What would you say if offered TV work? That's not for me - too low brow - I just do films. Now consider this. Are you checking out opportunities in writing for games, for webcasts, for viral ads, for short films? Don't limit yourself to what you think you SHOULD be doing. Or what worked for people a generation ago. The world has changed.

Tim Clague on his new ideas rant yet again ;-)