Tuesday, July 03, 2012
TO BOLDLY GO...
When I've written screenplays in the past I have tended to play it safe. I'm always thinking and trying to second guess what producers might like. Is what I've written on the page going to make the budget astronomical? If it is I remove some of the more expensive stuff. Is the subject matter too controversial? If it is I tone it down a bit. Is there too much swearing or violence? If there is I cut some of it out. Are the characters so larger than life that they would be unbelievable in the real world? If they are I rewrite them. I don't want to scare producers off my writing and I've realised by doing so I'm effectively watering down my ideas instead of championing them.
My award winning feature Faith, a bleak portrayal of life through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old street prostitute, is directly responsible for all the work I have landed this year. None of my other writing has had quite the same impact. I've read other writer's scripts, the ones that got them noticed and continue to get them work, and I've read articles about how writers got their first breaks. Without exception they all have one thing in common.
Producers want to hear the writers' unique voice. They don't want to read a technically good screenplay with no soul, they want to read something that stands out from the crowd, that goes the extra mile. They aren't looking for average writers. They aren't looking for an average run of the mill story however brilliantly it is written. They are looking for originality. They are looking for a writer with something to say rather than someone who can simply tell a story. Faith did that for me. But why?
Faith was written at the end of three and a half very tough years dealing with depression. I poured all of that experience, all of those emotions into Faith. I didn't hold back and it showed. I doubt very much it'll get made, but then that wasn't the intention. The plan was to get my writing noticed and Faith did that. Other writers have similar stories to mine.
James Moran wrote a sitcom set in school where the children were routinely killed off by the ruthless headmaster. It was a dangerous, but highly inventive place to be educated and it got him noticed. That screenplay landed him an agent and plenty of TV work. It's the same with last year's Red Planet Prize winner Simon Glass. His first bit of writing got agents and producers sitting up and paying attention. (*)"I had an idea in my head for a play called Parlour Games, a play that was beyond hardcore and in many ways it’s still my favourite piece of writing as it is absolutely fearless, it doesn’t care who it offends."
So I've decided it pays to be bold. It pays to write something that goes a little further, that shouts to the world what type of writer you are and what you can produce. I've decided it pays to pour everything into a spec screenplay and be dammed with what anyone thinks. A nice, steady, technically well written family drama isn't going to cut it unless it goes further than the other thousands of safe but technically gifted screenplays that hit the door mats of producers, production companies and agents every day.
Bold is beautiful.
(*) kindly borrowed from an interview with Simon Glass on Danny Stack's blog. You can find the full interview here.