It’s not fair

Whilst desperately trying to avoid doing any real work, I’ve been browsing through a few scriptwriting, comedy and general TV forums and looking at some of the complaints voiced by aspiring writers … I thought I’d address a few of them here:

1. Film/TV in the UK is too London centric

Yes. And no. Films are made everywhere, bits of TV are made in most big cities; but yes, a large proportion of film and TV is made in London and those producers tend to want to work with someone they can actually talk to face to face. If you live in Tinycock, Cumbria then you are at a slight disadvantage. If you write something so ball-smackingly amazing it just has to get produced – no one will care where you live. If, like most of us, you’re distinctly average then geographical location can be a problem.

This may be a hard pill to swallow, but people like to work with people they like.

Weird, huh?

Even weirder, it’s easier to like someone when you’ve actually met them and not just read one mediocre script. A mediocre script from someone you like and can sit down and discuss how to improve has much more chance of being produced than a mediocre script from someone you don’t know. That’s just the way the world works. Luckily, there is a solution: move.

Really, it’s not that difficult. Sell your house/flat/bedsit, or give notice on your contract, chuck your stuff in a van and drive to a new house/flat/bedsit in (or preferably near) London. If your lifelong ambition is to be a lighthouse keeper and you happen to live in Birmingham then it’s just tough shit – you have to move for the job. Many, many jobs involve moving to a new location, if you want to do it badly enough then just suck it up and move.

Of course, some people can’t just move for personal, familial, health or other reasons – in that case, sorry, but you’re just going to have to be better than everyone else. You’re actually going to have to learn how to be a good writer.

2. The Writersroom doesn’t promote new writers, it’s just part of a BBC conspiracy to … blah, blah, blah

Fuck the Writersroom. Seriously, fuck them.

Or don’t.

The Writersroom do a good job, they have a specific remit to fulfill and they do it well. They are an invaluable route into the industry and everyone should make use of them, but … THEY ARE NOT THE ONLY ROUTE TO SUCCESS.

Phew! Underlined and in bold. Maybe I should use italics too? No, that’s overkill.

If the Writersroom is your only strategy then you’re a fucking idiot. The competition is immense and the odds are you won’t get anywhere with them. You might and you should try, but for fuck’s sake don’t pin all your hopes on them. If they don’t read your script past ten pages it might be because you got a reader who doesn’t like/get your particular style of writing, but it’s far more likely you’re just not very good.

No, let’s qualify that – it’s far more likely that particular script isn’t very good. It isn’t necessarily a reflection on you as a writer.

But it probably is.

“Ah! But I know someone who got rejected by the Writersroom but then got optioned by– ”

Oh fuck off.

So what? I mean, really, so fucking what? Good for them, that doesn’t make the Writersroom wrong or ill-conceived or evil or a conspiracy or anything. It just means one person didn’t like your script and someone else does. People like different things, grow up and get on with it.

Try the Writersroom, try something else. Try everything else. Just stop fucking whining about it.

3. Nobody reads unsolicited scripts

Yes they do.

Next.

No,wait … let’s look at this again. Why do a lot of people SAY they won’t read unsolicited scripts?

Hmm? Anyone?

Because most scripts are utter shit … and there are a lot of them out there. A whole mountain of shit, oceans of shit … offering to read unsolicited scripts is basically asking people to shit through your letterbox.

But they will do it. Read unsolicited material, not shit through your letterbox. I don’t think anyone offers that service – although, there is a gap in the market …

Write to them, be polite and ask them. They might say yes. You’d be surprised how many people will give you a go. One go. Don’t fuck it up.

4. I can come up with the ideas, I just need someone else to write them

Then you’re not a writer, you’re a producer. Or more likely, a fucking no hoper/dreamer.

5. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

This is exactly right … and mostly wrong. Learn the what, then go out and meet the who. Most writers start without knowing either. Most successful writers learn how to know both. Most failed writers forget to learn one or the other. It’s a fairly simple fucking equation:

WHAT + WHO = COMMISSION

Stop being a whiny bitch.

6. Nobody will give me a break

Fuck you, why should they? Make your own breaks. You may well be a competent, engaging writer with an interesting voice and something to say. Chances are you fall short on one or more of these things; but I can guarantee, with mathematical certainty, YOU ARE NOT AN UNDISCOVERED GENIUS WHOSE WORK IS BEING IGNORED.

Most likely you’re mediocre, maybe you’re even competent, possibly one of you reading this blog is actually edging towards good – but it doesn’t fucking matter. You can make a career for yourself if you try and keep trying. Nobody will hand you a career and all those examples you can quote about so and so getting discovered by random chance are either bullshit or so fucking unlikely it’s not worth thinking about. Someone, somewhere got a truly lucky break – good for them. Someone somewhere won the lottery – chances are it’s not going to happen to you, so make your own fucking luck.

7. ‘INSERT FAMOUS WRITER/PRODUCER/TEA BOY HERE’ stole my idea

No they didn’t. Your idea was shit, they just had the same shitty idea. You remember that newspaper article which set you off? Guess fucking what? You weren’t the only person in the world to read it. They just got there first. Tough shit, move on.

8. Producers are biased against older people

How the fuck do you know how old someone is from a script?

9. Producers are biased against race

How the fuck do you know someone’s race from a script? If you’re that worried, change your name to John Smith – that’ll fox ’em.

Actually, this one is vaguely true – some producers are incredibly racist … but guess what? You wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.

10. The BBC is biased against race/age/ sex/disability

No it’s fucking not, the BBC bends over backwards to be all encompassing. It’s probably not your race/age/sex/disability which stands against you, it’s probably your complete lack of ability and the fact your head is shoved right up your arse.

11. The BBC is biased against white, middle class men because it has a PC agenda

Fuck you, you whining little prick. “Oh, help me, I’m part of the only demographic in the country who doesn’t get discriminated against and some people who don’t owe me a living, despite my personal beliefs, are trying to encourage someone who isn’t me to take part.”

Go fuck yourself.

12. I can’t get an agent

That’s because you’re shit.

Anyway, why the fuck do you want an agent? You haven’t got any work. You have no contracts to negotiate, no ten percent to pay them and have made no effort to advance your own career – why should they do what you can’t be arsed to do?

13. I’m too tired after my job to do any writing

Get a different job.

14. I can’t find time to write because of my children/family/pets

Kill them. Kill them all now. You’ll obviously be much happier without them … although you will then have to find someone else to blame.

This is just the way the world works – people who have time to do something are more likely to succeed than people who haven’t. If you can change your situation (without killing anyone, please) and scrape half an hour a day – then do it. If writing means that much to you. Although, really, it’s just a whole ball of frustration and headaches. If you can’t, if you really, really can’t (not even 29 minutes?) then it’s just tough.

Sorry.

15. All the other complaints I’m fucking sick of reading when I really should be doing something useful

You’re wrong. All of you. Or maybe you’re not, either way – shut the fuck up and get on with some writing.

Like what I’m not doing right now.

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Categories: Bored, My Way, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way, Writing and life | 44 Comments

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44 thoughts on “It’s not fair

  1. Love this. All of it. Couldn’t agree more.

    Fab!

  2. I want to marry this blogpost.

    Actually, given the encouragement I get from my partner, I practically have.

  3. Kate

    I am not in any way choking back laughter here.

  4. Darren Goldsmith

    Hi Phill

    I stopped reading your blog quite a while ago for some reason. No idea why.*

    This post is great. Excellent, if somewhat angry (!), advice.

    *Actually it was soon after you made me watch ‘Wish Baby’. 😛

    • That is a totally legimate reason for not reading this blog.

      In fact, if I have in anyway contributed to you watching ‘Wish Baby’, I strongly recommend you come round to my house and punch me in the face.

  5. Too bloody right.

  6. John

    Not everyone’s a Josh Olson, but it was a decent read.

  7. This is possibly the best piece of advice a writer could get.

    Thanks for these angry, expletive-driven points – it really made all that forum bile easier to swallow.

    Ta very much.

  8. Brilliant post – and frustratingly accurate!
    I think all writers have been to at least one of these at some point in their lives.

    TS

  9. Kevin

    Wow!

    That was absolutely hilarious. Harsh, so very, very harsh, but feckin’ hysterically funny to read.

    I will add though that whilst all the above may be true — there comes a point when you’re just as good as the pros but haven’t broken in. It’s then when your mettle is really tested, when you know you’re good enough and you can’t catch a break. Right before you feel like it’s all hopeless it’ll never happen, it does. The darkest moment as a writer is right before you “make it”.

  10. Alex Carolan

    All true, although I’d scrap London, marry an American and move straight to LA with a green card. It’s worked v successfully for my more determined friends!

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  12. Lisa Holdsworth

    *stands and applauds*

    Although, can I add an addendum to the “Londoncentric” complaint?

    You don’t have to move, just GET ON A FUCKING TRAIN/COACH/THUMB A LIFT YOU PRICK!

    I live in Leeds and it has never been a barrier to me gettign work. Also, there are BBC drama departments and indies outside of London now.

  13. And even GET ON A PLANE if neccessary!

    I’ll go along with that, Lisa. And dealing with some of those BBC drama depts and indies outside of London is sometimes much easier – the door can be more open and the competition less.

    • Lisa Holdsworth

      Good point, John. The copmpanies/departments outside the M25 can be a little up their own arse.

      But, in the spirit of Phil’s blog, dealing with people who are up their own arses is PART OF THE FUCKING JOB!

      🙂

      • Lisa Holdsworth

        Actually that should have read…

        “… a little LESS up their own arses…”

        Bloody writers not reading through their work before submitting!

        Lx

  14. sallybrockway

    Bravo!

    There’s nothing worse than whining writers.

    Great post.

  15. Steve

    I think this was funny if you like laughing at the poor fools who begin the writers journey only to discover there is not a future in it for 99% of them. I believe most people can after a while write equivilent crap of whats on TV today I mean lets face it most of it really is bad and a lot is responsible for a big part of creating our loony society. There answer would be we just reflect society and there you have it a vicious cycle. I think for young kids the TV IS like a third parent teaching them about society Kids approach police officers like they see kids do this in the bill etc. But really in the end crap is written by those at the top and all the way through you only have to look at the blockbuster films to see that. But then are writers that important anyway People go to see their favourite actors who often rewrite the lines for their own style. Writers are no longer regarded with the same respect they once commanded Many are only in it to make a lot of money and not for the love of it. Many readers would completely dismiss the work of the old masters with comments of wrongly made structure or the story doesnt follow a formula Writers today have a serious problem either write the way gate keepers want or have your work binned after all what major budgeted film would ever take on a great writing masterpiece that doesnt strictly adhere to the tried and tested formula after all film making is a business first and art last of all.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is you missed out the biggest writing garbage and that is often what makes it to the top.

  16. The London centric whining is not only annoying, it’s also bullshit, because when you are a region-based screenwriter (like me…) why the hell wouldn’t you want all the producers in one place?

    It’s a five hour train journey to London, but at least I can see a few people while I’m up there. If every production company was spread throughout the bloody country, I wouldn’t be able to do that. There’s one place to go, yes, it’s a long way, but it’s worth doing.

    The real heart of the London-centric whine isn’t “everything should be spread out to make it fair”, it’s “everything should be next to me”. Which is, like I said, bullshit.

    Great post.

  17. I agree with all of this. I haven’t cracked the big time because I am fundamentally lazy. True, I do live quite far from London too, being in Canada, but that’s not the real problem. It’s me. It’s taken me three days to work up the enthusiasm to write this comment, and most of that I plagiarised from a rejected C4 sitcom….

  18. Steve

    Lets also be fair about this Professionals DO NOT SHARE THEIR WORK You would never see a TV or film company EVER put their work out there in public Only those who work for them or trusted script doctors would read them AND lets be honest here the writers room et al do their training and glean ideas from the scripts they read. Maybe a writer hasnt written a good script but has some good ideas and instead of telling him her where its gone wrong just bin it and remeber the good bits or even write them down. so the worst writers get their ideas pinched I guess serves them right for writing badly.

    I THINK THE IMPORTANT LESSON here is YOU as a learner will have to accept you will have your ideas nicked but you have to put out to get back. Eventually someone might give you a job and they will make darn sure any future good ideas do not get seen until the film show etc is made.

    Is it all worth it? What are the odds of breaking in. Especially these days when its so simple to write screenplays.

  19. Lisa Holdsworth

    I’m sorry Steve, you are so wrong about ideas being stolen. I’ve been a professional writer for over ten years and I would not dream of stealing ideas. Even from a shit writer who I know is going to bugger it up. The Writersroom, for all their faults, have a fairly strict policy on plagarism. What Phil says about Zeitgeist is usually true. I now look at emerging news stories and think “Well, there’ll be five pitches about that on Ben Stephenson’s desk by Monday”. Basically, you just have to realise that you’re not as original as you think you are.

    • What she said.

      Ideas are the easy part. I used to keep a notebook for ideas … until I filled it and realised I’d never use any of them. There are some corkers in there too, but so what?

      It’s all in the execution, ideas are secondary. Except when they’re not. Either way, genuine cases of idea theft are so few and far between it’s as good as true to say it never happens.

  20. Lisa Holdsworth

    Also, Steve, about us all writing “garbage” on the telly. If you don’t like it, switch it the fuck off.

    Also, it’s not our job to be a “third parent” to anyone’s kids. Here’s a crazy idea, that’s the parent’s job.

    Either get a telly with an off-button or learn to use contraception if you can’t be bothered to bring your kids up right.

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  22. Number 4 was my favourite. If you care. Which you don’t. But tough. I’ve said it anyway and you can’t unread this.

  23. Steve

    Well I guess you would say that wouldnt you but then lets see now how many copycat films get made HOW MANY times do people end up in court and lets be fair your average joe couldnt sue because they couldnt afford to. Ideas get nicked all the time.

    The fact is if you had a cracking screenplay then the only people who would get to see it would be the production company now come on how can this be a serious debate if you overlook the fact the industry itself goes to great lengths to protect its scripts.

    It goes on all the time thats a fact. Im not casting doubts on individuals or any one here Im just stating how it is in the real world. iF IT DIDNT THE LAWYERS wouldnt be making a fortune.

    I’d also like to say that TV does have a responsibilty to kids whose minds are as yet unformed. Programmes like eastenders who teach kids being a liar cheat and bully will often make you a hero IE grant Phil etc. I’m not opposed to violence etc but it should always be done in a moral way. One that shows the consequences. To show evil as heroic and winnable is tantamount to corrupting society. Clint in the spaghetti westerns played a psycho but he had a set of values. Even Freddie gets his come uppance but there is a new way to tell stories and that is to make evil and wrong into good moral and the way to be.

    As for script readers I believe that they should either be a reader or writer and not both Maybe writers who have retired would be the best readers. I also think that often readers read to a system that reflects industry standards IE The way certain gurus have directed it. Readers should have the ability to see the written word not just storyform everyone is individual and often due to bad speeling punctuation err end up dismissed on the pretext that if you cant spell you cant write stories so many reasons for binning a script just to get the pile down. How can you tell what a story is like from the first ten pages blah blah Lets face it the present system is rotten, Structure etc should only be a guide NOT the standard that must be obeyed. Of course if it isnt obeyed you wont sell your screenplay. ALL WRONG.

    Not all TV is garbage I said most is.. Oh come on drama on TV with the exception of Dr Who is usually garbage Sama old same old What is the British do best Cockney hard men who swear a lot and are belligerent or sneer or some quirk that is supposed to make us all believe they are capable of being a clever cloggs detective Where is the originality Yes there are some but most drama is awful. I believe we have become bound by story STRUCTURE so much so its impossible to make anything original

  24. Steve

    The fact that some people can say I never would steal so therefore it follows no one else ever would as if to say writers are a different breed from humanity a better more civilised class just not so and like the MP’s who were above reproach who got their expenses printed heh heh the more you looked the worse it got.. Hilarious NOT.

    When you have posts like these about whiny screenwriters then this is worrying because then it would appear there is something to hide almost like you are ridiculing any suspicion into wrong behaviour.

    When ever you hear put downs inuendo making people into laughing stocks or using language to intimidate not only does it completley ruin your case and remove credibility but it isolates you.

    I think its best just to be straight Script readers want people to trust them so they can get more customers more credibility so find a way to make it credible. Maybe form a self policing group or be more open. Laughing at people who may have a point especially if your dealing with someone who really has been ripped off is in my opinion not the way to go.

  25. Sally Abbott

    Phil,

    This is absolute genius. You are a titian haired god.

    That is all.

    Sally xxx

  26. This blog post for the win.

    +1

    AAAAAAAAA+ blog post, would buy from this vendor again.

    me too

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  28. Ooh ooh ooh. I did number 13! Woohoo, go me! Now for number 14…

    Awesome post Phill, top marks.

    R.

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  30. MarkC

    “Nobody reads unsolicited scripts

    Yes they do.”

    No they don’t — well, no one who you’d want to read it. You’re right that you should send a query letter and hope they’re intrigued/bored/drunk enough to ask to read your script… but then, of course, it isn’t an unsolicited script any more . It’s the exact opposite.

    I don’t know why you’re so angry with new writers guilty only of ignorance. Once you too were amongst their ranks. Perhaps you weren’t breast fed as a child? Which would be a shame, since your mother has such tasty breast milk. I’m drinking some right now. Straight from the source. Yum! You’re really missing out… oooh, that’s tasty.

  31. lucym

    I love love love this blog post. Spot on!

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  33. Fantastic post, thank you Phil!

  34. Darkhorse_99

    I love this article so very much.

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