What story?

While I’m on the subject of stupid people advertising for writers, there’s another issue which constantly surprises/confuses/annoys and amazes me: the directors/producers who advertise for a writer to flesh out their story.

They’ve got money behind them (proving there’s no link between money and common sense), they’ve got a story outline, they’re just looking for a writer to flesh it out.


Someone’s going to pay me to write a script from their treatment – they’ve already done half my work! Getting the idea, outlining it, writing the treatment – that’s the hard part. Writing the script is a cake walk compared to everything which comes before hand – it’s all in the preparation.

So I apply for these jobs and invariably they send over the story outline.

Or at least, what they think is a story outline.

Usually, what they send you is a random series of notes which may or may not be about the same story.

Here’s how they’d outline the story of the ‘Three Little Pigs’.

“There’s these three pigs and a wolf and some bricks. They play golf a lot, sometimes on a Tuesday. One of the pigs builds a house but the wolf kills him. Then we have a bit with a vicar who wants some magic jelly, but the wolf is too busy with his PlayStation. Oh, and there’s a forest or maybe some Meccano and I think Charlton Heston would be great for the elephant rider. So after the house has been sold to a terrorist, it gets invaded by bees, but all the bees have got wellies on which is symbolic. And then the wolf marries a pig. It’s a kind of love story/social commentary on the state of Britain.”

Which often leaves me with three thoughts:

  1. What the fuck is that all about?
  2. Do I really want to work with this numpty?
  3. How much is he paying?

I’ve turned down so many of these idiots I have a standard reply … which I’m not going to post here in case any of said idiots are reading.

Which they probably can’t.

Honestly, I don’t expect a director/producer to be able to write – if they could, they wouldn’t need me and that would be bad; but I do expect them to have at least a vague story.

And by story, I mean something with a beginning, a middle and an end – not a random collection of words and images.

And the worst bit, the bit that really, really amazes me – some twat has given them development money.

Who? Where are these rich fucking idiots who obviously can’t read and have never been to a cinema in their life?

What the fuck is going on?

I mean really, I have low standards, I’ll work on anything – but how the fuck do you go about teasing a story out of the shit which spouts from the faces of these morons?

Do they ever get films made? Does anyone ever read their ideas and go “Ooh wow, a film about bees in wellies with pigs and shit! Sign me up!”

Unfortunately, yes.

It’s called ‘The British Film Industry’.

Categories: Rants | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “What story?

  1. Well, you could look at it as an opportunity to write whatever you want. If you include one or two of the producer/director’s best ideas, then explain that you’ve given them what they asked for, they just don’t get it because they’re not a writer, it’s a win.

    Assuming, of course, that said producer/director is open to persuasion. If they’re not, you’re up the proverbial creek.

  2. but you’re being *paid* to write their shit.

    ‘paid’ is a rare and sweet four-letter word.

    and don’t forget: “Every time He closes one door, He opens another.”

  3. There’s a part of my brain which focuses on the money; but there’s a larger part which refers me back to reality: it’s not worth it.

    As Christine says, if they don’t know what they want, you can do anything and they’ll be happy – if only.

    The truth is four or five drafts down the line, they still don’t know what they want and they’re still changing their minds.

    Here in the shallow end, the money’s not worth the effort.

  4. you’re absolutely right: getting paid might be nice but life is too short to write for such creatures.

    for me, the fourth question would be: how much can i charge? i find that when i push for more than is offered, the onus is thrown back on the producer – by asking for (demanding) more, they’ll think twice about micromanaging drafts; and i’m not (necessarily) being greedy, i’m pricing myself as a quality provider (because i am, dammit).

  5. Danny-K

    ” . . . The truth is four or five drafts down the line, they still don’t know what they want and they’re still changing their minds . . .”

    Not surprised, – there’s an old management line that’s stood the test of time and goes: If you can’t measure it; you can’t manage it.”

    And that’s exactly what they’re setting you to do. By being vague in their measurements, they’ve made it impossible for you to manage the project.

    As their success comes primarily from the management of others, they don’t sound like they’ve been trained to ever get it right. It’s going to come down to luck, as they’ve positioned themselves to reply: That’s not what we asked for.

    David Brent Enterprises I bet they call themselves.

  6. I’ve recently decided to avoid people I think are idiots, it seems easier.

    Although I haven’t been able to look at my reflection since.

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