Thursday, June 01, 2023

No Matter What

If you're dead-set on becoming a screenwriter, or achieving anything in the biz, then here's a useful mantra to embrace - or add to your existing objectives: "no matter what". 

"I'm going to write a feature script... no matter what."

"I'm going to get an agent... no matter what."

"I'm going to make a film... no matter what."

OK, it may sound a bit twee and Instagram-inspirational. But let's face it, achieving success as a screenwriter is difficult. The odds are stacked against you. The competition is both large and fierce. It's not going to be enough to 'give things a good go'. If you adopt a more focused and determined attitude - no matter what - then you've got an extra fighting chance to make a significant breakthrough. 

But what does this 'no matter what' mantra mean exactly? What's the practical way(s) you can put it into practice? 

Well, when I was starting out, back in 2000, my objective was simple: get paid to write scripts. To do this,  I gave up my day job and went for it, no matter what! But agh, how was I going to pay the bills? What was I going to do to make sure my writing work was of a good standard, and I could get paying gigs? 

I convinced myself that if I could cover the absolute minimum I needed for rent and food, then that was fine. I hustled some script reading gigs, which occasionally led to some script editing, and I also did part-time screenwriting teaching. That was enough to ensure the bills were paid but also helped me to remain focused on scripts, and the wonderful world of story. (Another mantra I made up for myself: If you can't write every day, at least be in the world of story every day.)

The routine of script reading, and writing synopses/reports, gave me valuable insights into what makes a good script tick, as well as providing me with a decent routine to get work done, i.e. get my ass on a chair and write. I pored over screenwriting books, but also self-analysed lots of films and TV shows to further my own individual insights into what works and why. All the while, I tried to write my own scripts, and slowly improved my style and consistency. 

In 2004, I won a BBC new writing award, got my first agent as well as my first TV writing gig. My 'no matter what' approach had paid off, four years later. But that was just the beginning. I had to reassert all my effort and energy to maintain momentum, and start building my career in earnest.

Thousands of script reports (and many hours of produced TV/film) later, I'm grateful of the 'no matter what' attitude. It's helped me to be completely devoted and committed to the cause. Beware, there's downsides: mental health challenges, crushing lows/rejections, and life getting in the way! But in many ways, that's the inevitable price you have to pay if you're going to make it, and continue a career.

So, roll up your sleeves, get down to work, and start making things happen... no matter what.

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