Thursday, 6 August 2009

We are what we write III

Actually the title is a bit misleading. I just thought it would be cute to continue this little series. But in fact this one is probably more accurately 'we aren't always what we write.'

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with a producer. Ostensibly it was to talk about possibly script reading and scouting for them. But we got on well and the conversation moved onto talking about our different projects and what we were both working on now. This producer was actively looking for a specific new project and they asked to see one of my scripts.

Now, from our conversation, I was pretty sure that this particular script was not for this person. But I wasn’t about to say no, you can’t read it! So I sent it and sure enough, I got an apologetic email the next day telling me that they couldn’t really get past the first act because they didn’t emotionally engage with it… and so stopped reading!

I could only laugh. Thank goodness I am experienced enough to take this kind of comment (given as it was from a very, very nice person who had built up a relationship with me after only one meeting to be able to be this frank.) I am also extremely confident about this particular script, and it has probably been the warmest received piece of work I’ve written to date. And like I said, I knew deep down that it wasn’t this person’s sort of thing.

But it did occur to me that if I had been a bit wet behind the ears, feedback like this would’ve left me completely mortified! So despite what I said in the posts here and here, sometimes, we aren’t necessarily what we write.

There are determining factors. As above, maybe the script you’ve written is just not for the person you’ve sent it to. And that's not all. I know from my own experience of both giving and receiving feedback on scripts, it's not personal (or never should be at least,) it's just about these particular words on these particular pages. One bad script doesn't make you a bad writer. One aspect of one script, say dialogue for example, doesn't mean you are bad at writing dialogue. It just might mean that for this specific project it is not working, for whatever reason. Another script on another day and the dialogue might be flying.

Stuff like this is important to remember. Because as writers we are going to get hammered again and again. Dare I say it, but probably most of us will have more failures (by that I mean scripts that don't get sold let alone produced) than successes. That's just the reality.

I'm about half way through my Peter Ustinov Jury Dury and some scripts are good, and some aren't. Just like any other pile on any desk, for any other scheme, competition or company. But the ones that haven't worked on this particular occasion does not define the writer.

So I take back what I said in the previous posts. I should've known better. In screenwriting, things are never black and white are they?


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, on average how many people enter their scripts for the Sir Peter Ustinov award?

Jez Freedman said...

Afraid I don't know.