Every month I face the same dilemma: where should I be focusing my scriptwriting energies?
I can make an easy few quid writing sketches for The Treason Show and Newsrevue (assuming Newsrevue actually pays up, quite a rare occurrence); or I can focus on writing feature scripts which, hopefully, pay a lot more at some indefinite point in the future.
The short term benefits of sketch writing are: money, okay, it’s a pittance; but then every little helps; I get to see material performed within a month of writing it, rather than waiting two or three years; I get the satisfaction of seeing my name repeated frequently on the running orders (not that I’m competitive or anything); and I get to vent my frustrations at the world in sketch form.
On the down side: as soon as the run’s over, it over. There’s no lasting effect of having written a killer sketch about something like racism in the media. People laugh and go back to buying the same papers anyway. The world is not a better place and I’m no closer (okay, I’m a few pounds closer) to being a full-time scriptwriter than I was before.
Writing feature scripts on spec is much less fun. They take much longer to write, they take much longer to sell (if at all, which at my level – the bottom rung- usually equates to less than I make for sketches anyway) and even when they’ve been produced, you still have to wait years to reap any benefit from them; but, every imdb credit, every produced feature, every producer and director who’s read and liked my work; advances me slightly towards the goal of being a professional scriptwriter.
Sometimes the choice is easy; this month I’ve been asked to re-write a feature which starts production next month. Due to an odd set of circumstances, the script may or may not actually be used; depending on whether or not the original writer produces a re-write. If it’s not used, I’ve made about the same as I would from sketch writing; if it is used (which I’m obviously hoping it will be) I’ll get a lot more, plus profit share and another credit. Plus I get to help out some nice people, who regularly make movies and are already looking for new projects. So, that’s the next couple of weeks booked up.
Last month, the choice was slightly harder. Yankee Disco Productions, the guys who made The Evolved, want to shoot another film this year. They may pull it off, they may not; but having done it once, and secured distribution, and got a screening at the Cannes Film Market (that was fun); I’m prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. Andrew Senior and I bashed out a script; and hopefully that’ll start shooting in the near future.
Other months, the dilemma is harder. No one’s buying what I’m selling; and I’m slaving away at a screenplay which may never see the light of day, while my fellow sketch writers are working equally hard, but gaining tiny financial rewards and running order plaudits for their efforts.
I don’t know if there’s a right or a wrong answer to this. I suppose I should just alternate: sketches one month, features the next. Then again, there’s always that idea for a new sit-com I could be working on; or the TV drama I’ve been mulling over; or endless episodes of The Simpsons on Sky (you’ve got to “acquire” inspiration from somewhere).
It’s always a hard choice, one I regularly feel ill-equipped to make. At least the choice is already made for this month, now all I have to do is make enough money not to care before next month rolls around.
I wonder what’s on telly?