Why write?

If you are unfamiliar with script format, please read this quick key.

FADE IN: – The image fades in

SUPERIMPOSE – There will be text on the screen

(V.O.) – Voice Over

FADE OUT: – Usually means the end of the scene

The very beginning.

The very beginning.

FADE IN:

SUPERIMPOSE:

“Most scripts (one estimate is 99 percent) receive a recommendation of pass. Readers are interns, students, recent graduates, or aspiring screenwriters, who may receive $25 – $50 per script.” (47)

“Only a relatively small number of writers actually make a living from screenwriting and typically writers have little clout in the industry” (45)

“Estimating the number of scripts that do not emerge as finished films is nearly impossible” (48)

WRITER (V.O.)

Why would anybody want to be a screenwriter?

This isn’t some sarcastic poke at the industrial process of mass producing ‘good’ content by Hollywood, this is a serious question, why? Why would anybody subject themselves to this?

This is an honest to god concern of mine. If you were to ask me what I wanted to do with my life I would tell you that I would like to reach a point in my life where I could write and direct my own feature films. Each night I try and write at least a few new pages of material. And when faced with the facts of the industry, is this truly something I want to do?

You have a 99% chance of not having your script get a good recommendation by someone who values it at about 25 bucks. Then your script is bought but then it can be lost in the endless waves of other scripts that studio bought and never made.

Keep in mind, we are only talking about if ONE script gets through, you can’t live off of selling one script. Despite how much money you make you need to sell more than just one script if you want to live off of screenwriting. But you need to go through this process over and over again.

But of course when the script is bought and production starts all is safe and well right? Except that it is very likely that the story that is made is not the one you sold. It is all to common that “creativity is tempered by clout and power, and decisions are made within the parameters of the box office” (60). Executives, directors, editors and others can and may change the story. So even if you’ve sold the screenplay and it’s being made, what your name is on when the credits roll may not be your work.

It’s unfortunate but that likelihood of a solid script being put through the Hollywood system and finally being made into a picture has staggeringly low chances of happening. That is if that story which is made even resembles what you wrote.

YOU

But wait! We live in the era of the independent filmmaking! Where anyone can pick up a camera and make their own movie! Why put yourself through this torture when you can go the independent route!

WRITER (V.O.)

And normally I would be right there supporting you, except that even the independent market can be a brutal and savage world for writers. Let’s take my cousin, BRIAN MULVEY.

Enter BRIAN MULVEY

WRITER (V.O.)

Now Brian wrote a script called The Highway that had about two years of writing behind it. Keep in mind Brian had no training, no prior experience professional or otherwise, he was just a guy who loved movies and wanted to write a script.

Against all the odds, Brian got his script noticed. He found a producer who loved the idea, loved the script and immediately started to help Brian enter it into some festivals and contests where he won a few in the hopes of finding backers. Everything seemed great! Brian was on his way to making his first movie!

This is called the midpoint, or the twist. This is where in any script a writer would change things, right as the life of our plucky protagonist is getting good, it all falls apart.

At this point, the producer had given Brian a contract, but Brian hadn’t signed it yet. Instead he waited to show it to his father, a judge, to determine what he was signing. Lone and behold, the contract wasn’t a fair split of 50-50 that Brian had been promised in regards to control over the scripts content. Instead the contract pretty much guaranteed the producer an exorbitant amount of control over the script leaving Brian next to nothing.

So Brian told the producer no thanks.

BRIAN

No thank you.

WRITER (V.O.)

And their relationship ended there. With that Brian lost his potential backing and any contacts with her.

So why am I telling you this story. Well it’s to make the point that despite this not taking place through the Hollywood system, even on smaller productions, this kind of savagery is still present. Despite whatever level of story telling you start at with screenplays you will be faced with people who will do whatever they want to make sure they make the biggest dollar off your screenplay.

How I usually write

How I usually write

So why be a screenwriter? You’re work will most likely will be ignored, if not it might be changed for the sake of someone else’s tastes and motives. In reality it’s just a pointless endeavor.

FADE OUT:

WRITER (V.O.)

And this is what is called, a false ending. You convince the audience that what they see is the end and just leave it at that, waiting for an opportunity to show them the true ending.

Our story of Brian doesn’t stop here.

Right now Brian is working a full time job and trying to film the movie himself. He is finding friends, local students, literally anybody who can help him film for a weekend before he goes back to his job each and every Monday. Again, Brian doesn’t have any experience with film work, writing, producing, anything. He is teaching himself every skill he can, taking classes, trying to fill in the gaps of what he doesn’t know.

And that’s why he’s the best example for people who want to be screenwriters. It’s not about selling scripts though yes that is nice. What a writer is trying to do is continuously make stories. If one script doesn’t work out, write another one. If no one buys your scripts, film it yourself. Part of being a writer isn’t about selling stories, it’s about being resilient enough to keep writing stories until you can make a living from it.

And in the spirit of this post being in screenplay format, I thought I would end it with a cliché, as my dad always told me.

DAD

In order to succeed in life you have to follow a simple three step process. Find what you love. Get very good at it. Figure out how to make money from it.

FADE OUT:

THE END

Roll Credits

Quotes taken from

McDonald, Paul, and Janet Wasko. The Contemporary Hollywood Film Industry. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2008. Print.

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