Monday, March 10, 2008

Think About It.

So, I haven't posted in awhile. And it doesn't bother me at all. I like not posting. In fact, I have a hard time even reading most screenwriting blogs. In fact, they really piss me off.

I am tired of people believing everything they read or are told without the slightest ounce of thought to the contrary.

I am tired of people looking for easy solutions to problems that can only be solved by doing the grunt work yourself.

There are so many screenwriting blogs out there that preach "How To Screenwrite" like there was a set of Commandments etched in stone, sealed off in some dank dungeon of some studio vault (my guess, is Ted Turner probably bought and/or owns the rights to this tablet) some where that decrees this is how you write a screenplay!!!

There are a handful of blogs that delve out pure gold. Unfortunately, most simply stare at the gems presented in front of them, settling for the ability to describe what they look like, instead of actually taking these jewels and placing them within their own stories.

What is worse...

Misconceptions abound. And self-proclaimed experts on "the craft" spout nonsensical tripe that is completely irrelevant to the crafting of a story that reinforces this lazy thinking.

Think for yourself people.

Time is wasted arguing issues of format.


Formatting is easy.

It is cake.


Which is probably why people use formatting as the lynch-pin of most arguments on what makes a good story. It is easy to spot abnormal formatting. It is also easy to make an arbitrary list of rules of what a screenplay should and shouldn't look like. And it is easy to pass a judgement based on a list of expected criteria.

But screenplays that become movies are never held to these same set of make believe standards preached so widely on the internet and in books.

They are held to a much more rigorous set of trials. Things like...

*) Who will want to play this role?
*) Can a producer secure money to get this made?
*) Is there an audience?
*) Who is reading your script? Male? Female? Young? Old? Religious background? Ethnicity?

All this plays a factor that you as a writer have absolutely no control over. And they play a much larger role in the life and death of your spec screenplay than formatting.

  • I have had readers from production companies give me coverage that was off the charts excellent that also had notes stating that there was too much swearing in a script that had absolutely no swearing what so ever.
  • I have had readers complain of the usage of "could of" in a script that did not contain that combination of words.
  • I have had a script that received 100% positive coverage from females and 100% negative coverage from males.
  • I have had meetings about scripts with producers that started the meeting by saying they loved the script, but haven't had the time to read it... and then preceed to talk about why they love the script.
  • I have had producers give recommendations, send my scripts to other production companies as a favor.
  • I have had genre scripts rejected because the company's reader didn't like the genre that particular company specialized in.
The list goes on...

...some reasons more ridiculous than others.

The point is... not every story is for every person.

I never see this addressed on ANY screenwriting blog. If you get 50% of people to like your screenplay you are actually ahead of the game. Most sites treat screenwriting as all or nothing. If one person hates your screenplay the deal is done.

The truth of the matter is, it is quite the opposite.

Readers have their own set of preconcieved notions about screenplays, about story, about genre, about films, and you as a writer have to get lucky on so many levels that I find it mind-boggling that screenwriting blogs can seriously argue how detrimental the usage of "We See" or Secondary headings is to a script. They don't even show up on the radar.

Work on story. Work on craft. Work on your voice. And, of course, learn the format... but I think it is safe to say that 99% of the people out there reading screenwriting blogs know screenplay format.


I know, I know. Look at the hypocrite, with his own screenwriting blog, blogging about screenwriting. Shit, I'm an ass, right? Nah. (Well, not because of that).

This blog has, and was created, to be a sounding board for my own thoughts and ideas. It was a way to make my thoughts tangible and work through my own problems I was having with the screenwriting medium.

I never set out to "teach" people. Just to learn for myself. I'm selfish like that.

Along the way, I realized that the writers I was reading were using "tools" that most books strictly forbid, in a way that made me connect with the story I was reading. It made me think twice about these rules that are supposedly set in stone.

I don't care if you folks out there in the internet void agree or disagree with me. All I care about, is that you stop and actually ask yourself why you believe the things about screenwriting that you do.

Is it because you figured this out through your own pursuits? Or is it because you read it somewhere on someone's blog... and hell, it's Craig Mazin, or John August, so it's gotta be true, right?

Think about it.


Anonymous said...

Good morning from a grey and wet England.
Thank you so much for this post.
I come from the world of fiction writing, and I can recognise the factors you describe - they are EXACTLY the same for any fiction writer, in any genre, who is submitting an unsolicited query letter/pitch, and/or synopsis to a literary agent or direct to a publisher.
Or even a manuscript you have sent to an agent who has ASKED you to mail it to them.
In many ways I am fortunate since I create commercial genre fiction, and can therefore identify a certain demographic, but yes, your point is spot on.
Too much focusing on belly button fluff, and not enough on story development, story craft and hard work.
Poor recognition that the business aspects of our work rely on other people- our customers if you will, although I know some people find that term offensive.
After many years of digging at the coal face using a slightly bent silver tea spoon, I am happy to read articles and blogs on the craft, but in every case, I know this is one person's opinion and take it as such. At best, their words can spin me off into lateral thinking so that I then challenge my own work. I value the time authors like yourself spend on creating the posts.
As for the market?
I believe it was the crime writer Barry Eisler who made the comparison between a writer and her agent, and a self-employed entrepreneur looking for a venture capitalist who will be willing to invest in their product and their business. i.e. You. The writer.
Why should this venture capitalist invest their time and money in you as opposed to the 1000s of other writers out there?
Which publisher IS going to buy the product?
Who IS going to hand over their hard earned cash to buy this book you have create?
Why should they? What have YOU got to offer them?

I personally find this a useful analogy. Even if it does offend the 'artistes', but then again, I WANT to be published and my work read and enjoyed by other folk.
Have a good one, and thanks again for the post.

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