The movable goalposts of excitement

One thing I find you have to do as a writer is constantly readjust what you think of as being exciting. It’s like a series of little victories which are horrendously exciting the first time you achieve them, but quickly become tedious when you slog past them for the hundredth time without actually getting any further down the road.

For example, I can still remember the giddy excitement I felt when I first sat down to write a script. This was it, I was on my way! After years of telling people my sci-fi series was far superior to anything currently on telly, I was actually going to prove it!

Surely fame and fortune would be mine by the end of the week?


It turns out, writing a script is difficult and writing a good script is nigh on fucking impossible (hence my comfortable rut of consistent mediocrity). Once you’ve started the first script, starting subsequent scripts is easy. It’s finishing the fuckers which is the tricky part; but that’s the next milestone …

I’ve finished a script! I’ve actually finished a whole script! This is so exciting! I’m days away from being rich and–

Nope, apparently it’s shit.


Still, now you’ve finished one script you can finish others and while it’s nice to finish them, it never feels quite as exciting as the first time you type THE END. You soon learn that particular goalpost is not really a major achievement but more a prerequisite for actually being a scriptwriter.

And so on. Every time you achieve the next step it’s initially exciting until you realise that particular project just isn’t going anywhere and is a career dead end. It’s like a giant, life long game of snakes and ladders where it’s increasingly difficult to get excited about any given ladder since you know you’ll be back at the beginning any day now.

Over time you just learn not to be phased by it. The first time you option a script is pant wettingly exciting, the tenth time without a single one of the projects going any further is considerably less so.

And all this is right and good, you can’t continue to be excited by the same thing over and over again indefinitely, certainly not when the reason you’re getting excited is because you believe it’s a step on a journey somewhere. The problems arise when you have to deal with other people. When someone options a script from you, you have to pretend to be excited because it’s their project now and they’re excited because they know for an absolute fact they’re going to make a fucking amazing movie out of your script …

Whereas you know, with reasonable statistical certainty, they’re not going to achieve anything and you’ll probably never hear from them again until they ring to apologise for the project falling apart because they couldn’t get funding/the actor they need/out of bed in the morning.

So you have to pretend and jump up and down and squeal and shout ‘Yay!’ a lot until they let you go home.

Similarly, when someone else options their first script and is breathlessly exuberant – the correct response is to buy them a drink and go ‘CONGRATULATIONS! That’s fucking awesome!’ because it is. Getting a script optioned by someone is awesome …

It just doesn’t actually mean anything useful.

Neither does winning a competition, getting a commission, getting an agent … hell, even going into production can ultimately result in nothing useful at the end of it. I’ve had seven feature films start shooting now and not one of the fuckers is actually finished. Even the one already out on DVD.

Maybe someday they will, maybe they won’t. If one of them ever does (and it’s actually good) then I probably will get a bit of pant moisture building up, but until then, I’ll just calmly wait and see what happens. An attitude I think confuses people:

“Oh my God! So-and-so’s in your film! That’s so cool!”

“Yeah, yeah it is.”

“You don’t sound particularly excited.”

“No? I can wave a flag, if you like?”

And so on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people shouldn’t get excited about these things, because they are exciting and it really is great you’re all making progress. I’m happy for you, I really am. I’m just not going to get excited about any of my projects, no matter how many times people talk about theatrical releases, until I’m sitting a cinema watching a film I wrote which I, and everyone else, have bought tickets for.

Basically, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Having said all that, I read an option agreement this morning whose terms did have me browsing the Aston Martin website and picking out colours …

Damn it, I’ve just wet my pants and drooled all over the keyboard …

Categories: Career Path, Sad Bastard, Things I've Learnt Recently, Writing and life | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “The movable goalposts of excitement

  1. So getting an option agreement is a bit like being in your late seventies? Maybe I don’t want this

  2. “No? I can wave a flag, if you like?”

    He-he-he-he, I liked that.

    (Trouble is, I’m not very good at pretending to be excited. I’ll practice the flag waving.)

  3. Congratulations on the option agreement! Can I buy you a drink next time we’re in the same location? (preferably somewhere that sells drinks.)

  4. Sorry, re-reading the post, I got that wrong – I can never remember the lines, I’d be crap as an actor. I’ll try again:

    ‘CONGRATULATIONS! That’s fucking awesome!’

    NB: the drink offer still stands.

  5. At least you rememebered what the post was about…

  6. this is a really good post. says it all about screenwriting really.

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