Sunday, December 19, 2010

Red Planet Rant

Red Planet have informed those who made it through to the workshops; well done to all of you (and I do mean that...really I do).

HONEST POST WARNING - RANT IMMINENT! Those of a nervous disposition please bugger off somewhere else.

Another year gone and another year of not making it to the second round of the Red Planet Prize. I have to admit I'm gutted, more than a little put out and very puzzled as to where I go next as a writer after this year's competition. If I sound bitter and resentful I can assure you it's purely accidental and is not the case, I'm just having trouble trying to figure out where I went wrong. People are bound to say, 'Move on, Dom, there's always next year,' but to tell you the truth I'm really struggling to find any enthusiasm at the moment for the competition, or writing for that matter. Let me invite you into my head so you can see where I'm coming from.

When the competition was announced I already had an idea in place, a very solid idea thoroughly worked out, and I immediately got cracking on my ten pages. I was ecstatic to finish them in plenty of time, so I sent them off to ten trusted people and waited for their opinions to flood into my inbox. I was very happy and quietly confident I had a cracking first ten pages, but just wanted to be sure so I could make any necessary changes before sending them out. Those ten trusted people duly replied and all confirmed I had something special on my hands. Not one of them, and I need to stress this point, not one had anything negative to say about my ten pages. I was extremely confident of my chances...that was probably my mistake.

When the qualifiers were announced I was totally gob smacked; I wasn't on their list. At first I foolishly thought they had made a mistake. Then when I had calmed down a bit I thought maybe my ten trusted people had got it wrong and didn't know what they were talking about. Worst of all I began to think my ten pages were actually a giant pile of shit. So I moaned about it on Twitter. Those who had read my Twitterings and my ten pages, sent me messages of support and outrage on my behalf. A week later I was contacted by a big and respected someone, who will remain nameless, offering to read my ten pages to see where I went wrong. I waited nervously to hear back from them and felt vindicated when I was told they thought I had just been unlucky not to make it through to the second round. Unlucky? That didn't make me feel any better, it just made me madder. To miss out because my ten pages didn't tickle the fancy of the person who read them, when they were given the thumbs up by many others, is a slap in the face for all the hard work I put in. I just couldn't understand it...still can't.

This is how my career as a writer appears to be going. I make tiny advances, but that big opportunity is always just out of reach. People like my work, some even rave about it, but I always fall at the last hurdle while others, those who have been writing many years less than I have, seem to get all the breaks. It's hard, really hard, not to allow feelings of bitterness to grow, because those others have worked hard to get those breaks and deserve them. To be bitter of their achievements would be a huge insult to their hard work and effort, and a terribly self-defeating exercise. But I have to ask myself, am I really that unlucky? I certainly feel so. It's so frustrating sometimes, it really is.

I'm not perfect, I make mistakes, I get angry and unlike some bloggers who like to put on a professional front at all times, I have to have a rant now and again to let off steam. Will I be entering the Red Planet Prize next year? I very much doubt it. If I did enter next year with a shit ten pages and managed to get through, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest, and it would only increase my frustrations with the business. I think I'll just submit my work to them when it's ready and not wait until that one time a year the competition is announced to do so. Other than that I have to crack on and hope my luck changes for the better, that someone, soon, sees I have a talent and gives me the opportunity to prove it. But I can't sit around and feel sorry for myself, if I did that I might as well give up writing for good.


Pissheads said...

Hey Dom - I've never met you, but I have to say you don't generally come across as bitter. I may be a producer (rather than a writer) but I know exactly how you feel, having found myself in similar situations to the one you are in now. All I can offer you is this small crumb of consolation, if 11 people have read your first 10 pages and liked them - then you must be doing something right! It may be something you can come back to when you have more credits under your belt. Keep fighting the fight, keep flying the flag and remember it's as much about sticking in and keeping going as it is about talent! Keep meeting commissioners and producers and eventually something will stick - so stay cool and don't give up!!!

Eighthours said...

I read something on Twitter at the weekend from a writer (I think it might have been James Moran, or at least something he retweeted) about how success in writing has nothing to do with luck, and it really pisses him off when people say it does.

I don't believe that for a second. Most successful writers I know have had that "right place, right time, right person" convergence for the first project that goes somewhere. It's quite possible that your 10 pages were really good and simply went to the wrong judge, or caught him on a bad day, or were vaguely similar to something he had just read. It doesn't have to be the case that they were inferior to the work that got through.

While you can research and prepare as much as humanly possible for an approach, and write the absolute best piece of work you possibly can, there's often going to be something else, the ethereal element that I'll call "luck" as a catch-all, that can have a bearing on the outcome. And I don't think it's doing down a successful writer's hard work in any way to acknowledge that.

Good luck for next year, Dom. If you have the talent and the drive to make it, that convergence will happen and you'll get there eventually. (I think I've written this to myself as much as to you, tbh!)

Dominic Carver said...

Cheers! I know James Moran says that hard work gets you where you want to go and that luck has nothing to do with it. As much as I like and admire the man, I have to disagree with him.

If you search the internet for all the good advice on how to make it as a writer I can assure you I have, and still do, follow it all to the letter. Yet I still fall short.

Maybe it's because I voice my concerns publicly and people don't want to work with a moaner, or maybe I'm considered too old at 41 to be regarded as someone worth investing time in, or maybe the force just isn't with me? I don't know what it is, if I did I would know what to do to correct it.

Other writers have blogged about how they think writers who are feeling like this should call it a day and walk away...why should I? I've worked hard to gain the small advances I've made and I have no intention of ever giving up.

It would be different if I was one of those delusional people who think they can write and rage at the world because no one will notice the obvious genius of their one and only script. I've met a lot of those people and tried to advise them along the way. I know I've worked hard to polish my craft and learn from every source I can. I know I can write. People like my work. They have told me so... recently too.

Writing is not for the weak.

Dominic Carver said...

Actually I'm beginning to wonder if it's the same thing as not having a girlfriend. You know what I mean, that thing where women can smell the desperation on you at a thousand paces and even though you know you're a decent person and would make a great boyfriend, they still go out of their way to avoid you.

Once you get a girlfriend, in a relationship, or married, you become desirable again.

I fear it's the same with writing and right now I stink of desperation. I think I'll go and shower.

Janice Okoh said...

I think the girlfriend/boyfriend analogy is right. Just relax, enjoy what you're writing and it will come.

You also don't know how close you got to the top 20. You could have been in the top 50. It's all so subjective. And there are so many writers of the same high standard otu there. However, there are bloggers about who have got into the top 20 and I'm sure they'll let you look at their work if you ask so you can compare.

And what about all those people who are interested in producing your shorts? From what I read on your blog, things are happening for you.

Comps are great but it's all a fluke if you win. It's difficult not to pin hopes of a career break on competitions but it'll drive you mad if you do.

Just relax and keep an open mind. Enjoy the journey, not the destination. (this is what I try to do and I don't get frustrated any more)

Dominic Carver said...

So, what did the BBC Writersroom have to say about the same script?

"Powerful, high energy opening..." That'll be the the first ten pages then, but what about the rest of it?

"I love the re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland as an excursion into the criminal underground and the writer has created a vivid and convincing world. The child Alice is an unusual and original sidekick. The writer’s use of Alice is both clever and restrained and provides a light counterpoint to the brutal main story."

So, yet another good review...

And this is what Danny Stack has to say over at his blog: "For those of you who were rejected and may feel a bit spurned, don't feel too down or disillusioned. The Red Planet Prize is a screenwriting competition that has to make extremely tough decisions to whittle down the entries into a manageable shortlist. A lot of these decisions come down to subjective reaction, so don't give up on a script (or your writing) if you really feel it's got something to offer." A very good point, Danny. You are a man of many wise words. The Yoda of the blog world perhaps?

Anyway, go and read the rest of his excellent article -

Lisa Holdsworth said...

I think that you should give Red Planet a miss next year, Dom. It's so important to keep your enthusiasm up that I think this has become a stumbling block for you. I would find a new, self-generated project to work on. Something out of your comfort zone and something that you could still "fail" at but something that will ultimately be a learning experience. Rede Planet is a great opportunity but it is just one of many and it is a bottle-neck. Only a few lucky folks can get through. I'd hate to judge the f-ing thing that's for sure.

Let 2011 be your year of experimentation. Sleep with metaphorical unsuitable girls who are not your type at all. You never know, you might just fall head over heels in love.

Dominic Carver said...

I've entered a lot of competitions this year and the Red Planet Prize was the only one that got to me. I will be giving it a miss next year, but I still urge others to enter, because it is a very good resource and best of all it's free to enter.

The single biggest thing I've learnt from this is that no matter how good you are, or think you are, not everyone is going to agree and even well established writers are going to have to face a rejection that hurts. I know of one person who admitted as much at the LSWF and I could never envision that person getting upset or depressed by anything, and still can't. I never believed it to be in their nature.

So yeah, I'm going to do a lot of metaphorical sleeping around, experiment loads and see what happens. 2011 is going to be my year of saying 'yes' to anything and everything that comes my way...except the RPP.

Janice Okoh said...

yes! Sleep around. Forget that emotionally abusive girlfriend....