Be nice to each other

Every time I meet with a director or producer, one of the first comments I get by email afterwards is about how nice it is to meet a writer who is actually friendly and approachable.

This always strikes me as odd, why would a writer not be friendly and approachable? These people are (hopefully) going to pay you to do a job; meeting them is a job interview, isn’t it? Why would you walk into a job interview and be unpleasant to the guy who decides whether or not to work with you?

Here’s an example:

Nice meeting you, your amicable attitude is a definitely plus – some writers are very strange indeed and yet you write well and can handle yourself socially!

Some writers are very strange indeed – why? What’s the benefit in being strange? Is it that people equate genius with madness? That the media tells us geniuses (or should that be genii?) are cranky, obstreperous and socially incompetent? Do people put it on because they genuinely think that’s the way to behave?

Or is it that people only become writers because they’re incapable of interacting properly with the real world? Are writers people who have retreated into an imaginary world where they are the hero and all the girls fancy them? I know that’s why I started.

(As an aside, think about that the next time you watch the Matrix. The hero, a computer geek with no friends, suddenly finds out – in the real world, he’s a hero who everybody admires and PVC suited babes fancy. He can also do Kung Fu and kick the bullies’ arses. Every fat, pasty guy’s fantasy.)

I have to admit, all of the writers I’ve met have been really nice. Everyone I’ve worked with has been fun, outgoing and easy to get along with. Yet, considering how often I get told I’m easy going for a writer, is the reverse true for the writing population at large?

Maybe writers are naturally suspicious of directors and producers? After all, these are supposed to be the people who take your perfectly crafted work and ruin it with their own short-sighted vision.

Another ‘truism’ I’ve yet to substantiate.

Yes, they usually ask for re-writes; and yes, sometimes I disagree with them. Overall though, I’d say their comments have been succinct, helpful and generally true. The opinions I disagree with I can (politely) argue against and frequently persuade them round to my side.

I think perhaps the difference for me is: I’m not a scriptwriting genius.

I don’t think I’m supposed to admit that, but it’s true. I’m a jobbing scriptwriter. I write for money; that sometimes means writing stuff I don’t particularly want to write.

I don’t think I’ve written anything which is a towering work of genius; but be honest, who has? I’ve written stuff which I think is good, I’ve written stuff I like; but in a thousand years, no one’s going to mention me in the same breath as Shakespeare – and I’m fine with that. This means, when people request changes to my work, the suggestions are welcome because their ideas are either:

a) better than my ideas

b) neither better or worse, just different.

or c) stupid ideas, I’ve argued my case and the director/producer still wants the changes and at the end of the day, they’re employing me to write what they want to film. If I don’t do it, someone else will.

I’m not advocating being a yes man here. In my (limited) experience, directors and producers don’t want to be surrounded by yes men any more than anyone else; they welcome your opinion, as long as it’s reasonably presented, they just don’t have to agree with it.

How you present yourself is just as important as the quality of your work, if you don’t know how to be friendly and sociable, take a course. So far, a lot of my paid work has been from people I’ve worked with before. If I wasn’t easy to work with in the first place, I wouldn’t get those repeat offers.

So what I’m saying is: be nice to people. You may discover the writing industry is a very small pool; and unless you are a genius, the number of people who want to work with you will dwindle pretty quickly.

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