What They Don’t Tell New Screenwriters
It’s more treacherous than The Game of Thrones…
Welcome one and all to Written Mirror. To the loyal returnees howdy, and to the newbies, I promise to be gentle!
There’s been a little bit of a gap between Writer centric content and here is a major apology for that, I’m sorry! To make it up to all the budding writers, check out this juicy topic! What they don’t tell new screenwriters. As always, it can be applied to other forms of storytelling, but this was written specifically with writers in mind. If you’re a singer, painter and sculptor or just intrigued by all means read along. People need to look out for these types of behaviour in every field…
Here’s What You Need To Know…
The thing about Screenwriting nobody tells you, is just how toxic the industry can be to new writers. New writers aren’t always novices; they often come in from other long forms of writing such as Legal, Medical, Scientific, Financial and the like. That’s not even mentioning other forms of written storytelling…
Why is this Important?
It’s important to note because, it often comes as a shock from nowhere, when the responses to these scribes story are patronising and illogical. It’s enough to drive the most passionate but placid writer, absolutely crazy!
Impossible is Everything!
The feedback you’re likely to receive will have you believing these people really hate Adidas. Everything according to them is impossible or illogical. You ever heard a story so true someone still thinks it’s made up? Well, how would you like to have anything you’ve ever written disbelieved for no good reason? Yeah me neither!
You could’ve lived through something personally (First hand or Witness), and you’re constantly being told it’s not possible. How Sway? I mean, here you are, you’re literally living proof! If you push the envelope and your story goes into unique territory, you have people forcefully trying to reel you in and put artificial limits on your creativity. If you left other long forms which have strict rules on what is or isn’t acceptable then I can only imagine how disheartening the transition into storytelling could end up being if faced with this type of feedback early on. Frustration would be grossly underselling it!
Pay Your Dues…
You’re new to the landscape so you figure its part of your growth to take on board as much feedback as possible. Right? Wrong! Especially, when you’re constantly force fed copious amounts of this patter, which states, “I know more than you!”. Heck, maybe they do! However, they’ll never know your story like you do! How do you communicate that without being ‘rude’?
You’re Dangerous Maverick!
The answer? You can’t! If you defend your story in any way to people who don’t ‘get it’ or those who frame their criticism incorrectly; you’re automatically the villain. How dare you push back against the weight of other people’s misguided expectations of you! Shame on you, you’re an egomaniac! Word?
Break You Down To Build You Up?
Well, here’s an idea, how about I take all of your education and life experience, wrap it into a neat ball and throw it in the bin! How do you feel about that? No? Are you sure? Last chance?
That crap didn’t work on Doctor Strange in a film, so why would it work on you in real life? Ha-ha!
This Jedi mind trick of breaking down writers and gnawing away at their confidence is not cool and it’s also not necessary. Watch less ‘Whiplash’ (A great film but try that in real life and yeah…) and more of ‘The Godfather’. People learn more when there is love and mutual respect. Vito wasn’t remote controlling his younger heir! He taught him what he could with love and mutual respect! Reject the foolishness! Throw those stupid notes in a bonfire! Also, don’t be afraid to name and shame these fraudulent hands on shoulder types.
How I read notes pic.twitter.com/EO9xOjDCtv
— Jay Mullings (@WrittenMirror) 29 March 2018
Where Do We Go From Here?
It’s not all doom and gloom! Give yourself some credit. You’re brave enough and your passion burns hot enough for you to envision your completed script visually. Any true master of anything has their own unique way of doing things. I’ll give you an example Quentin Tarantino! Try to get a hold of a Tarantino script, any one it doesn’t matter. He writes a lot of prose, his stories have elements that most of these ‘know it all’s’ would deem unsuitable for a screenplay. Yet they will be the first ones to admit how great Pulp Fiction is and more importantly how it changed the cinematic landscape. Protect your voice at all costs!
Drown Out The Noise!
There are plenty of films that are imperfect. In fact, you could argue they all are. You can’t build a house without windows or doors. Some light and air has to get in. – JM
Being criticised as if your early work has to be the tightest knit script ever made is eye wateringly harsh! Could you imagine this in any other field? Let’s talk hoops (NBA) for instance; would you really compare a rookie (Yes he’s a rookie!) in Ben Simmons, to the seasoned superstar that is LeBron James? Would it really be reasonable to expect him to surpass him from day one? Okay, I rest my case…
Taste is Subjective…
Yes that’s true and generic enough. However, your grasp (You the Writer) on your story isn’t. It’s your story! If you see it a particular way, then dammit that’s how it is! Can you imagine telling Quentin he can’t blend genres in one film? Ha-ha, I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that theoretical conversation. I reckon it would go like this…
QT: Do you have good life insurance? I want your family to live comfortably in your absence…
Fun and jokes aside. Don’t let people bulldoze your story with their bankrupted levels of creativity.
Can I live?
Your way of doing things will only ever be accepted when others see it in action. What does that mean? You have to become the first person to do it your way. Otherwise as we discussed earlier, you’ll keep being told it’s impossible! You’ll keep being the villain. So go ahead, be the hero they deserve, but not the one they think they need right now. It’s a hard knock life!
Light At The End…
If you stick with it and see results, the same doubters will be your biggest fans. They’ll either suck up and pander or genuinely apologise for their errors. The humble pie they were force-feeding you to break you, well, your success puts a great big pile of it on their plates. Hard to call someone with proof crazy, word to the scientist in Icarus!
Don’t do this to prove people wrong, do it to prove you’re right! Do it because the graft it takes to be unique in this world is worth it! Especially compared to being a kitsch amalgamation of what other people say works. – JM
Sometimes I get the distinct impression, that even if you were to (theoretically) take a universally loved, trailblazing script and rework it with minor changes to character names and setting etc. You would be told to change it to something else.
Please don’t try this at home! It’s blatantly plagiarism; I was just making a point. I wouldn’t be surprised if it went like this…
Letter With Notes…
Hi thanks for submitting ‘Things Are Stranger’ as much as we enjoyed reading it we had some lingering thoughts on its approach. Before we go into our notes, we just want you to know that these are just suggestions we feel will make it a much tighter project going forwards.
We are also very willing to enrol you into our prestigious “Make you a better writer retreat to Mount Everest”. The very best Writers invest heavily in their careers and we think our retreat is a great investment indeed. Writers like (blah blah blah blah blah) have gone on to make (blah blah blah) after attending our retreat.
Here are your notes…
Little girls can’t just make things move with their minds. We feel your audience will likely tune out at the sight of this. Also the setting for this piece is much too retro. We live in the technology age, no one cares about the 80’s aesthetic. You’d be much better served basing this in the year 2075 when by all likelihood people can move things with their minds and, it’s a lot more convincing to the audience.
Also, having a little girl experimented on lowers the tone of the piece and I suggest it be a homeless middle-aged man with no family. That way it’s cruel but no one is missing him anyway.
The We Know Best Team
Can You Imagine?
Honestly, after receiving more than a fair few batches of hopelessly inept notes, I often wonder what other scenarios do these people offer bad advice? Would they jump into Lewis Hamilton’s car and tell him how to drive?
Hey Lewis, check your mirrors before pulling out! Oh by the way, that music is both too loud and too vulgar.
Just put on your seatbelt and relax! Chill out and let the Writer take you on an adventure…
Moral of the story, maintain your voice! It’s enough that you seek new perspectives; it doesn’t automatically make them better than your own gut feeling. So what they have more experience than you? You’ve had immeasurable experience being you and hopefully knowing your own mind.
What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger! Except maybe hating Sansa! That s**t will get you killed! Develop your mental strength the same way you develop your scripts. Beware of people who try to destroy both. – JM
It’s never unreasonable to step away from situations that bring no betterment to your story. I mean, if Dave Chappelle could take a $50M haircut and prosper, you can walk away from clownish advice and hurtful assumptions for free. Withdrawing is infinitely better than surrender.
Pandering attracts temporary attention but never long term support. Don’t be the person in the Q&A who says they wish they fought harder…
Your vision could easily get diluted to the point of being unrecognisable if you don’t stand behind your story. NB: No one is saying argue even minor details vehemently; but the major direction or twists are yours to protect before they become soggy fries. I’m pretty certain hardly any one likes soggy fries…
They ain’t built like you, you designed yourself! Also, maybe wear one (or more) of these from time to time. That and I could really use the support. Remind me that I’m not alone in thinking like this. Handing out truth pills is hard work! That and I could really use the support. In all honesty, I’d love for people (Writers especially) everywhere to believe more in themselves. You are the best in any category. Any trade, any field and in any situation. Stop letting people beat you down into the dirt. Confidence is not this dangerous thing we all get drunk on.