I love you.
Can I have some more money, please?
Yours with surprisingly flexible principles,
I love you.
Can I have some more money, please?
Yours with surprisingly flexible principles,
we’ve known each other a fair while now and I have some vitally important news for us. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell us this, but it really is rather important and once we’ve gone through the denial, the outrage, the pleading and the depression and finally moved into a state of benign acceptance, we’ll be a lot happier and a lot better off.
Not financially, obviously; but mentally and spiritually, which is a close second. If we can accept this truth then writing scripts will be a lot more enjoyable … or at least, slightly less frustrating.
Are we ready? Here it comes:
SCRIPT WRITERS DO NOT WRITE FILMS, WE WRITE FILM SCRIPTS.
There, I’ve said it. Are we shocked? Upset? Maybe a little confused?
Let me explain.
A feature film is two hours of footage distilled from a process which takes several years to complete (roughly seven, if Hollywood gurus are to be believed). It involves a small army of people working excruciatingly long hours, doing all sorts of clever things with lights and costumes and sets and gripping their foleys and other filthy stuff.
Each department depends wholly on all the other departments in order to make a good film. Only when absolutely everyone is working at their best will the end product be of the desired standard. Okay, yeah, maybe one department can slip slightly and the sheer wonderfulness of the rest will compensate – but in the main, it takes everyone firing on all cylinders to come good.
A film script, on the other hand, is 90-120 pieces of paper with some ink on them.
Paper and ink which tells a wonderfully complex story, perhaps (or something about masturbating monkeys, if you’re me) but it’s just paper and ink all the same.
Can we see the difference?
When we sit down to write, no matter what software or computer we’re using, a feature film does not appear on the monitor. Nor does it appear from the printer when we push ‘print’. No. What we get appearing before our very eyes, commanded by our very own tippy-tapping fingers, is a film SCRIPT.
Film script, not feature film – can we see the difference now?
Our product, the thing we’re trying to sell, is the script. That’s the thing we have to try and make as good as possible – because we have no control over the feature film. It literally has nothing to do with us.
I know, I know, it’s very nice to be able to point at a film and say to the girls we’re trying to impress:
“That’s my film, that is.”
By the way, if there are any girls reading – does that work? Would anyone be impressed by that? Because the ones I try it on tend to fall asleep before I’ve finished my sentence.
“That’s my film.”
No it isn’t. It’s a film LOOSELY based on our script. The best we can hope to say is:
“I wrote the script for that.”
Because, and once again I draw our attention to this important distinction:
SCRIPT WRITERS DON’T WRITE FILMS, WE WRITE FILM SCRIPTS.
I know some of us want to be recognised as the author of a film, or the creator, or get that ‘A film by’ credit; but really, why? Why do any of us feel we deserve that credit when we’ve had absolutely nothing to do with:
And pretty much everything else we can possibly imagine?
I mean really, come on – fair’s fair. I even think the ‘Written by’ credit is a little misleading. In reality it should always say ‘Script by’ and even that’s not usually true after the fucking directors have stuck their oar in and everyone from the producer to the tea-boy has given us notes.
Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying we don’t deserve credit for writing incredibly beautiful, thrilling, action-packed or moving words (about masturbating monkeys); but by the time the actors have improvised all over the script – how many of those words actually make it into the finished film?
We’re very quick to claim the director, the producer or whoever ruined our scripts; but we’re very slow to realise the resulting feature film really has nothing to do with us. It’s just not ours – it’s theirs.
We did not write that feature film, we wrote the script.
The script is our end goal, it’s the thing we have to perfect – or at least make as good as possible. We should hold our scripts up as an example of our ability and pin our self-worth on their quality, rather than wasting tears on a feature film which makes no fucking sense and looks like it was filmed by two chimps fighting on a trampoline. They didn’t ruin your script, it still exists as an individual work of art(ish) – they just made a shit movie out of it.
I met a visual effects designer once who was working on a high budget Hollywood movie. One he thought was a complete pile of shit. Apparently everyone involved (apart from the producer, writer and director) knew it was going to be a pile of shit. Why then, I asked, did he get involved? Because he knew the effects, the ones designed by him, would be fucking awesome and seen by a lot of people who would happily hire him for the next project.
His work, the product he was selling, was going to be good no matter how shit the film was.
Personally I think we should all adopt that attitude. We can’t control the final film, we can barely even influence it – going round telling people it’s ours when it’s a pile of shit doesn’t really help.
If we tell people we wrote the script for ‘Pile of Shit 2: Revenge of the Shit’ and they point out it was a pile of shit, we can agree. The film has nothing to do with us, once the script leaves our hands it’s … well, out of our hands. It doesn’t matter how good the script is, if every other department is incompetent (or follows incompetent direction) then it will be a shit film.
Then kicker, of course, is when the film is superb, it’s really nothing to do with us either. True, we have contributed a major part to its success; but it’s still not really our film.
We should always do our job to the best of our ability – and that job is to write a script, not a film. Once again:
FILMS ARE NOT WRITTEN, THEY ARE MADE … AND NOT BY US.
Unless we produced and/or directed it – in which case we should be fucking ashamed of ourselves.
Hope this finds us well and doesn’t upset us too much, just read, digest, absorb and get back to doing what we do so well (or so mediocrely, if you’re me) – writing scripts.
first of all, can I just say thank you for deigning to come down from Mount Olympus and walk among us mere mortals? We really do appreciate and respect your innate genius and your ability to magic an entire movie out of thin air without any help whatsoever.
Except a small army of extremely professional experts.
But apart from them, it’s all you. Give yourself a round of applause.
Oh, you already are.
Can I also add a personal thank you for condescending to make a film from one of my scripts? That’s particularly nice of you and I really am ever so grateful to be part of your vision.
Despite the fact the producer came up with the story and I wrote the script.
But apart from that, it is your vision. And I’m being momentarily and uncharacteristically serious about that. I know there are plenty of writers who get massively bent out of shape about the credit “A (insert name of pretentious twat here) film”; but not me. Nope, I’m quite happy for you to have it. As I will doubtlessly explain at great length in another post at some point in the future, of all the people involved in the film making process, you directors come the closest to deserving that credit and hey, you’ve got to market the film somehow, right?
It does, however, give me a nice gooey feeling inside to know if you fuck this film up, the next one you work on (providing you’re clever enough to shunt the blame onto someone else) will be “From the producer of …” or “From the writer of …” or even “From the people who brought you…” which could be the caterers from some past hit for all I know.
So you’re welcome to the God-like credit. Have it. It’s yours. Well done you.
I do have one request though. Just a tiny one. A teensy little one, nothing major. Could you, and I’m really trying to word this politely now, could you … no … would you mind awfully, leaving the fucking script alone you ball-achingly stupid cock-ring?
I’m not saying you can’t develop the script, I’m not saying you can’t bend the story to your will, change character names, the ending, the theme or even the fucking plot; but for the love of God (who doesn’t exist and certainly isn’t you) will you stop tweaking minor things and demanding a fucking writing credit?
It’s just fucking rude.
I’m pretty certain you don’t just wander on set, rip a sleeve off someone’s dress and demand a wardrobe credit. The lighting guys would probably have a complete and utter hissy fit if you nudged a light two inches to the left and claimed you deserve a lighting design credit. And I’m absolutely fucking certain you don’t push the actors out of the way, pick up a teapot and claim an acting credit – so why the fuck do you feel it’s perfectly acceptable to change “Hi” to “Hello” and claim a co-writing credit?
I mean, what the fuck?
Fine, if you want the protagonist to die in the first scene, that’s up to you; but here’s how you do it – you ring me up and you ask me to change the script. It’s your fucking movie, you can ask me to do whatever you want (as long as the producer lets you) and I will make the changes – after hanging up, kicking the cat and calling you a cunt, of course.
This is my job, this is why I was hired – as a story expert. Just like the DOP is the camera expert (or lens expert or whatever the fuck he does) I’m here to carry out your will in script form. Just ask me. Go on, try it. Why is my fucking department the only one you feel the need to weasel a fucking credit out of? Why? Answer me god damn it!
I’m fucking sick of getting emails telling me so-and-so has been cast as Billy – only for me to wonder who the fuck Billy is. There’s no fucking Billy in the script. Ah, you say, I’ve added an old man to the lesbian sex scenes.
What? What the fuck? Why would you do that? Why didn’t you behave like a decent fucking person and ask me to make the changes?
I would have told you you’re being a fucking twat and an old man, by definition, isn’t a fucking lesbian; but after I’d calmed down, I would have changed the scene so that it wasn’t a lesbian sex scene.
I’m not being precious about this – a script, as soon as it’s sold, stops being my property – it’s yours, that’s fine. If you want to remove me and hire another writer then that’s fine too. Of course, I’ll slash your tyres and set fire to your gonads; but it’s part and parcel of the industry. At least if you hire another writer you’re hiring another expert, I …
Hmm, I’ve just realised, I’ve been describing myself as an expert – bit of false advertising there. Sorry.
Anyway, fucking knock it off. I’m perfectly capable of altering the script to fit your idiot fucking idea of what a script should be. If I prove I can’t do it, by all means replace me but at least have the fucking courtesy of letting me do my fucking job.
And for fuck’s sake, for fuck’s fucking sake, can you please, please, pretty please, stop handing over the scripts you’ve fucking bastardised and filled with spelling, grammar and format errors to actors, agents and the crew? The ones where the plot doesn’t make any sense because you’ve relocated every other scene to Italy because you fancy a holiday. The ones where you’ve changed the character’s name but not all of the time, just enough of the time for it to stop making any fucking sense. The ones where you’ve put dialogue in the action lines and action in dialogue, with some random fucking words in the margin that might be your shopping list for all I fucking know – can you please, please stop giving those out to people WITH MY FUCKING NAME ON THE FRONT.
And no, the solution isn’t taking my name off the script and replacing it with your own, mis-spelt and in turquoise crayon. The solution is doing exactly what you do with every other fucking department under your command – command them to make the changes for you.
What’s another word for that?
Oh yeah … fucking direct me you power hungry cunts.
Other than that, hope you’re doing well and I’ll see you soon.
I was going to write a very angry post today about Directors and their inability to be decent fucking human beings … but then I thought again.
‘Why?’ I hear you ask. Surely I’m about due for an ill advised, ill thought out and mostly untrue sweary rant? I mean, it is almost Christmas after all.
Well, because I spent all day yesterday working on the third draft of a treatment for a feature project I’m really excited about and (once the inital ranting about nonsensical notes has abated) am getting more excited about with each successive draft; I’ve just finished a very leisurely and rather lavish breakfast which included lashings of tea; I’m spending this morning knocking out a few sketches for another feature film’s website; this afternoon I’m looking at ideas for a series of webisodes to promote a third feature film and tomorrow I’m running through an ADR list and suggesting final dialogue for a stupendously exciting feature film which might actually be finished any year now!
On top of that, this is the current view from my window:
And this is waiting for me as a treat on Sunday:
So today, I don’t really feel much like ranting. I mean, come on – does life ever get any better than this:
I think not. No rants today.
Selling a script is a lot like selling a car – you just want to get the damn thing off the drive because it’s annoying your wife.
Okay, selling a script is nothing like selling a car unless you count ‘having the same word in the sentence’ or ‘a financial transaction involving the exchange of goods’ as similarities.
Oh, which I guess they are.
Maybe selling a script is like selling a car?
No. No it’s not, is it?
Although, by an amazing coincidence, I am trying to sell this car:
… and can’t really figure a way to mention it on a scriptwriting blog.
Go on, what do you say? It’s blue, mostly shiny and got all sorts of neat gadgets. Like wheels. Four of them. Five if you count the spare. Six if you count the steering wheel, which is probably cheating.
Climate control, electric windows, electric mirrors, electric sunroof, headlights, immobiliser, power steering, central locking, CD player … um, what else?
Once owned by a completely un-famous (but vaguely infamous) scriptwriter – does that stir you in any way? I think the car’s immortal, I’ve certainly never been able to kill it despite a homicidal approach to roundabouts and a complete lack of interest in maintenance.
I once drove it through a puddle so deep the water was lapping at the windows. Well, I say puddle, pond is more like it. Lake maybe? No, pond – let’s not exaggerate.
Ooh! The interior is exactly 26 seconds into the past. That’s right, the interior is in a different time zone – a weird and fabulous land where the radio still plays the intro of the song while the rest of the world is on the first verse. Seriously, if you approach the car with a portable radio you can hear the time shift. If you shine a light into the windscreen, you can get into the car before the light hits the interior!
Granted, that does make reading road signs rather difficult; but what’s life without danger?
Longer. That’s the answer. In case you were wondering.
Come on, what do you say? It looks a bit like K.I.T.T. – assuming K.I.T.T. was Japanese and a bit shit. Volunteer a reasonable price and it’s yours! I’ll even throw in a personal visit from me as I drive it to anywhere in the world of your choosing!
Subject, of course, to you paying the petrol and my return train ticket/flight/submarine fare.
Come on people, how can you afford to pass up this, the bargain of a lifetime?
It really is for sale, honest.
Two words I never thought I’d find contained in one sentence in a set of script notes.
At least, two words I certainly never thought I’d be asked to put into an action line in a script.
When I envisaged my writing career, all those minutes ago, I never dared dream that one day someone would instruct me (whilst paying me) to write those two words in a script.
My life is now complete.
And yes, it is exactly what you think it is.
So I’m back from my first time at the Screenwriters’ Festival in Cheltenham and … yeah, I enjoyed it.
It was nice meeting people and putting names to faces, it was slightly scary being told “I love your blog” on an almost hourly basis (if you caught me near the end of the day I may have reacted strangely – sorry) and it was god damn bone-achingly wearing being nice to people for five days in a row. I’m just not used to it.
All in all – I met a lot of people, almost all* of whom were nice, I chatted, I ate a lot of Italian food.
I’ve now got a near-permanent numb bum from sitting in various lectures/seminars/speeches/panels – not sure what to call them really.
I chatted to some agents at the speed dating thing, mainly trying to find out if they thought I needed them. Not surprisingly, they all agreed I do, but let’s face it, they were unlikely to say:
“No, don’t bother; we’re a complete waste of space. I haven’t achieved a single thing for any of my clients in seventeen years. I would be ashamed, if I wasn’t creaming off so much money.”
Mind you, if an agent did say that I would try to sign with them instantly – just for comedy value.
Michelle, Piers and I drove to Cheltenham together and getting there was largely uneventful despite my phone having a nasty habit of shutting down whenever I’m using the sat-nav and am nearing my destination. It never shuts down on the motorways – you know, the straight lines where you know where you’re going. Oh no, it always, always shuts down and resets as soon as you enter a town – you know, the bit where you actually need it.
I suspect the random shut downs have something to do with child saliva and percussive play – but that’s only a suspicion. Maybe I should stop Alice licking my phone and throwing it at the cat? Still, it is quite funny.
There was some comedy value to be had on the first night when Michelle, Jason and I – with three sat-nav enabled phones between us – couldn’t find the Queen’s Hotel for the first night drinks. According to our technologically dependent navigation the Queen’s Hotel was somewhere inside a men’s clothing shop and it took a long time before we finally admitted we were lost. Happily a passing stranger remedied that situation for us.
Not the first passing stranger mind; he confidently pointed us in the wrong direction and ran off cackling to himself. Luckily the second passing stranger was so drunk she had no option but to tell us the truth.
As an aside – are there any adults in Cheltenham? Apart from at the festival they all seem to be fancy-dress clad teenagers on the rampage. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it is rather odd.
The festival itself … well, I’m not sure I’d go again without a very specific goal in mind. I turned up with no agenda and I can safely say I achieved everything on my list. And I drank a lot of tea whilst doing it.
The festival seems to be geared towards people just starting out as a writer (anyone with any experience being squirreled away in a separate green room) and since I’m in this odd in-between stage of not really being a beginner but not really being any bloody good at it – I felt a bit lost at times. I chose events mostly based on what might be interesting rather than what might be useful since I don’t really have any projects to sell and don’t really want to meet anybody in particular.
And that, like Cannes, is the key – if you’ve got a specific goal in mind Festivals are useful places to visit. If you haven’t, they’re just an expensive jolly. I met a few people at the Screenwriters’ Festival who could really help further my career – if my career interests were in any way similar to theirs.
Which they aren’t.
As a result I just had a nice chat with them and a cup of tea.
I don’t really have a lot more to say about it other than that. I am a bit annoyed with myself for spending a nice half-hour or so chatting to Bob Baker and then failing to attend his thing about K9 and Friends. I did want to go – I’m not really sure why I didn’t, especially since he seems like such a nice bloke and it feels like an enormous waste of money to go all the way to Cheltenham just to not listen to Bob Baker.
Which I think will be my overiding memory of the Festival – an expensive way to chat to people over a cup of tea.
Still, it was mighty fine tea …
* Almost. There was one prick in the pub the second night. He wasn’t even at the fest, he was a music journo ‘friend’ of Jason’s. Although why anyone as nice as Arnopp would count such a pompous, self-obsessed penis as a friend is beyond me.
He’s one of those bell ends who seems to think science is a list of answers. It’s not, science is a method for asking questions. If something can’t be explained, you can’t just deny it and site science … in much the same way you can’t just attribute it to aliens or gods or pixies. I thought journalists were supposed to be good at asking questions?
I’m talking about the pompous pub penis, by the way. Not Arnopp.
He even had a pogo stick in the pub with him. A fucking pogo stick!
Again, not Arnopp. At no point during the night did I want to punch Arnopp.