Balancing the fish/pond equation

The same producer as the last post went on to ask me a very thoughtful question which speaks volumes about his (probably misplaced) faith in me as a writer.

“Why do you keep working with these people? Why don’t you send your stuff to better companies higher up the ladder? Maybe you should get an agent or something?”

Which is a good question. Or three good questions.

The truth is, I do the middle one. Sort of. I have lots of things in development with lots of different companies of varying degrees of prominence, experience and ability both here and in the US.

So why keep playing in the low budget, gangster infested pond?

Well, there are several reasons.

One is I’ve not personally been fucked over or had anyone threaten to break my kneecaps. I’ve always been paid. Not always on time or without a degree of pleading, but I’ve always been paid for my work. Whether that work is valued (or indeed valuable) is a different matter, but I do get paid to write scripts – which is kind of the goal, really.

The second is the films do get made. Not always successfully and not all of them, but some do get made and they do get released with proper actors, ones you’ve heard of, and you can wander into a shop and buy them on DVD.

Sometimes it’s the pound shop, but you can buy them.

This all ties in with point one, but also just adds to your CV. Or my CV, rather. A year or two after a stinker had been released, no one can remember what it was like and the fact all those people liked my work enough to make the film is moderately impressive.

Thirdly, I don’t really have any spec scripts I like. I don’t get time to write spec scripts. The only attempt I’ve made to write a spec in the last few years was under option before I’d committed a single word to paper. I can’t really approach bigger companies at the moment because I have nothing to sell. I’m pretty sure I could get a read from anyone … if only I had something unencumbered which was worth reading.

And you know what? The spec game is hard. You’ve got to find someone who’s looking for something in the genre you’ve already spent months writing.

“Are you interested in a rom-com between two people’s subconsciousness?”

Is less likely to be answered in the affirmative than:

“Can you write me a rom-com about two teenage donkeys and a soap factory?”

I almost always say yes. They rarely do.

There may come a time when the best approach is to refuse new work so I can take time out to work on something just for me … but to do that I have to stop getting paid … which I can’t really afford.

It’s kind of a stupid cycle to be stuck in; but at the moment, getting paid less and often is better than maybe being paid a lot at sometime in the future perhaps.

Besides, there’s always the outside possibility one of these low-budget films will breakout and be wildly successful. The last one I worked on certainly has a lot of commercial potential (I actually overheard a stranger talking positively about the film before it had been shot … that’s a nice level of buzz), but since it’s all in the execution and the execution is in someone else’s hands … who knows?

As for the agent question, well it’s another version of point three. I don’t really have anything for them to send out anywhere. Yes, they could possibly pimp me to bigger or better companies as a writer for hire; but I have nothing for them to *sell* as such.

The other thing is, if a script is written to order then it’s not necessarily going to be reflective of my ability. People ask for stupid things to be put into scripts and you can’t always persuade them otherwise. Just because the director or producer thinks it’s a work of genius, doesn’t mean it is or will be perceived as such by others.

Basically, I’m not convinced I’m ready for an agent just yet. Mind you, I’m willing to be convinced.

So whereas the long-term plan is to get paid more by bigger companies … the short-term plan is to keep working, keep getting paid … and keep my fingers crossed.

Categories: Industry Musings, My Way, Random Witterings | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Balancing the fish/pond equation

  1. Pingback: 2011 « The Jobbing Scriptwriter

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