I’m not a big fan of the ‘teach writers how to write’ industry, mainly because it’s largely taught by people who failed at being scriptwriters.
Now I’m not saying you have to be able to do in order to teach. Nor am I saying only the ultra-successful have anything useful to say about your script.
Everyone can form an opinion and everyone’s opinion is right from a certain point of view. Paying people for that opinion isn’t stupid or wrong so long as you know how valuable that opinion is.
Andrew Ellard‘s tweetnotes almost always align with my own opinions. I would be comfortable taking notes from him, because I’ve read his opinions and I trust he would be able to point out all the stupid flaws and mistakes I make whilst writing – the ones I can see in other people’s work, but rarely in my own (because knocking something down is far easier than building it in the first place).
His opinion, to me, would be worth paying for.
Similarly, paying for script notes from any of the plethora of script readers who’ve set up shop on the net is probably useful/valuable – depending on the individual. They don’t have to be successful as a writer to be successful as a reader. The amount you’re prepared to pay them depends solely on how valuable you think their notes are.
Recognising a bad script is not the same thing as writing a good one. Take all the advice/opinions you can get on the former … be very selective about who you believe for the latter.
The people who annoy me are the ones who profess to be able to teach you how to sell scripts, get an agent or build a career when they have been unable to do any of those things for themselves.
A scriptwriter who gives up because they weren’t getting anywhere shouldn’t be writing books or hosting seminars telling other people how to build a career.
Actually, no. That’s not right, is it?
Writers probably shouldn’t be paying for books or seminars by people who have no experience in that area.
I say probably because, fuck it, it’s your money – spend it how you want.
But why would you want to pay for insider, industry insight from people who have never been inside the industry? If they can’t sell a script, how do they know how to help you do it? If they can’t get an agent, why is their method for getting one worth paying for? If they were unable to build a career, they’re unlikely to have any useful advice about how you can build one.
Or rather, they may have useful advice – but it’s not theirs and they probably read it online somewhere for free. It’ll take you five minutes of Googling to find it yourself.
Having said that, there are a few valuable voices in a sea of parasites. There are working writers out there who are more than happy to share their opinions, advice and experiences.
Danny Stack is one such chap. Danny’s the real deal – a writer who makes money from writing. A writer with an agent and a career who actually has something useful and interesting to say.
On top of that, he’s a really nice bloke.
And he’s running a course at Lighthouse in Poole next month.
In his own words:
I’m VERY EXCITED as it’s my first ever course bespoke to me and my experiences (instead of being asked to host a course or workshop for other people which is usually the way). I’m going to share what it’s like making a living as a screenwriter, the practical nuts and bolts that I think everyone should know, and my own personal ups and downs of my career so far.
Doesn’t that sound lovely?
The course is on the 23rd of Feb and costs £85, but there’s a £13 discount if you quote SCREENWRITING on the phone or over the counter.
If you live nearby, you should think about checking it out. If you don’t live nearby, consider it a mini-holiday (Poole’s lovely – mostly) . And if neither of those options sounds palatable, then you should at least check out Danny and Tim‘s podcast because it’s free, funny, interesting and informative. And free.