The question I dread

I’ve finished the script, I’ve had a read through and tweaked it a bit. I like it, it works and it’s exactly what was asked for … so I send it in.

As a courtesy, I then phone the producer to let him know it’s in his inbox. He’s pleasantly surprised since I’ve delivered on or before the deadline and everyone else he’s working with is just dicking him around. You’d be amazed at how many Brownie points you earn by merely doing what you’ve said you’re going to do in the time you said you were going to do it.

‘Ah’, I hear you cry, ‘but you can’t rush the creative muse’.

‘Yes you can’, you hear me retaliate. Probably followed up with some swear words.

Anyway, I’m not talking about rushing something. I’m just talking about doing it in the time you said you would. Part of a writer’s skill is learning how long it takes you to write or re-write something. I have a habit of woefully underestimating how long a script takes and then working all night in a blind panic.

It’s not clever, but I’m getting better and that’s all anyone can ask.

So I’m on the phone to the producer, he’s excited and looking forward to reading the new script/draft … and then he asks me the question. The question I dread. The question I never have an answer for because, despite dreading it, I always forget he’s going to ask it*

“Are you happy with it?”

Fuck, he asked it again.

Am I happy with it?

Am I?

Am I really happy with it?

Hmm …

In the cold light of day, you’re probably thinking ‘YES! JUST SAY YES! If someone asks you that, you always just say yes. If you weren’t happy with it, why would you send it in?’

But then, I’m never truly happy with anything. I’m always aware that the script is merely the best I can do at this moment in time. A year from now, I’ll be a better writer and will look upon this script and be deeply embarrassed. If I’m not, I’ll be deeply embarrassed at how little I’ve progressed as a writer in a whole year.

Also, there are segments which had to be cut because no one liked them, but I felt defined the script. Sometimes something has to be cut for budgetary reasons and the replacement scenes just won’t be as spectacular. Perhaps the script HAS to be 90 pages and the 10 pages which got cut, whilst not necessary to the plot, really help the characters stand out.

For whatever reason, I’m never truly happy with a script. So the answer should be ‘No, I’m not; but then I never will be so just take it and leave me alone’.

But you can’t say that. Because, if I’m not happy with it, I shouldn’t be handing it in – that’s what he’ll say. So the answer, for the sake of simplicity, should just be a resounding ‘Yep’.

Except it’s not, because somewhere deep in my brain a little self-defence mechanism kicks in. If I tell him I’m happy with it, and he doesn’t like it, then I look stupid. If I tell him I’m happy with it, I’m admitting this is the best I can do and I’ve tried my hardest. If it’s not good enough, it means I’m not good enough. If I somehow hint it’s not perfect yet and still needs work, then any flaws he finds are deliberate flaws.

Sort of.

‘Phill? You still there?’

Bugger, I’ve been thinking about whether or not I’m happy about the script for over a minute. That’s a minute’s silence on the other end of the phone.

Aha! I could hang up and say I got cut off!

No, that’s no good, he’ll just ring me back and add mental fuel to his misguided belief there’s no mobile signal in the wild zone outside of the M25.

‘Sorry, what did you say?’

‘Are you happy with it?’

Damn it, he wants an answer. He wants me to commit to an actual answer. I have to make a decision.

‘Yeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaah. Sort of.’

Sort of? Sort of? What kind of fucking answer is that?

‘You don’t sound very happy.’

‘No, I am, but … well. I’ll let you read it and see what you think.’

Genius! If he doesn’t like it, he’ll respond with: ‘Yeah, I see what you mean’. If he does like it, he’ll just think I’m being a perfectionist writer. Either way, I win!

Sort of.

As questions go, it’s not really one which deserves much dread, let alone a whole blog post. Off the top of my head I can think of many, many questions which inspire much more dread; such as:

‘Left or right kneecap?’ from a man with a drill.


‘Is it in yet?’ from a supine naked lady.

But the fact remains, I’m not really getting much work done today and just wanted to witter on for a bit. Since I have now wittered, I can go back to wondering what the fuck the notes I scribbled down seven weeks ago actually mean. What is a CAMLANE? And why did I feel it warranted its own card on my board? Who nags the getaway driver? And why? And what the fuck is M’s box alarm?

To be honest, the question I’m dreading most right now is: ‘Have you finished that treatment yet?’

‘Yeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaah. Sort of.’


* Which probably proves I don’t dread it that much, or at least not for very long.

Oh wait, that’s nabs. It’s not a ‘g’, it’s a ‘b’. That makes sense now.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “The question I dread

  1. That is indeed an interesting Catch 22, my dear man.

    How about qualifying that you’re happy with it, “for a XXXX draft”? This would work well with the first draft, or indeed the second. Not so much for the 28th.

  2. See, in my world you replace XXXX with a swear word …

    I’m happy with it for a fuck draft?

    I’m happy with it for a shit draft?

    Would that work?

    Oh, and my dear Jason … I NEVER get as far as the 28th draft. I get fired long before that happens.

  3. Wasn’t Fuckdraft the porn film about firefighters?

  4. Since my parents read this blog … I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  5. Lilly (you know, the one from SMAS)

    I’ll say it again: I really love reading your blog, because of how much i learn about what real live grown-up writers actually go through.

    Not that I’d know anything about the perfectionist thing, of course, though as I said back in college, with an English major there’s no such thing as a final draft–only the most recent one you were forced to turn in due to time constraints.

    Hasn’t this producer ever dealt with writers before, however? Shouldn’t he know by now what an impossible question that is? Your response actually *was* pretty genius, you know. 🙂

  6. I do the same thing of telling people it will be done in two weeks then either rushing it ( or taking three months and not returning their calls). If you do manage to write something in two weeks though you have a ready made disclaimer for when someone asks if you’re happy with it. Or at least I thought that was a good thing until I used it recently talking to a producer and it actually came out sounding rather desperate.

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