Saturday, February 25, 2006

On second thoughts....

Maybe this blog doesn't actually have magical properties. Maybe my agents invited me to lunch and set up a meeting is because in a recent conversations I mentioned I was bored.

Don't get me wrong. I've been busy. But busy doing the same work I've pretty much been doing for the last few years which is writing on serial dramas.

William Goldman wrote that if you are a screenwriter you should write something else as well. A novel, poetry, dirty limericks, anything. To keep your sanity and remind yourself you are a writer not a hack for hire. It reminds me of I think Hunter S Thompson's saying which I paraphrase as ' Writing is like sex, a lot more fun when you're not getting paid for it. You don't see many giggling whores'

Ah, moment of clarity - hence this blog perhaps? I hadn't thought of that!

Anyhoo, back to my agents. Most writers if you asked them if they were happy with their agents will shrug. ''Who is? They take 10% for basically bugger all. Every job I've had I've gotten on my own.''

Well in many cases that is probably right. But I actually like my agents. They've been in the business a loooooooong time. Any situation I come up against, they've already dealt with in the past. They know the producers to work for and the ones to avoid. The shows which are 'writer killers' and the shows that are rewarding.

And when I need a serious bitching session they are on the end of the phone making the right noises. I figure that alone is worth the 10% !

But for a new writer the most important thing about an agent is that they give you instant credibility. You are no longer relegated to the slush pile of unsolicited scripts in a corner of the producers office which they may or may not get back to sometime this year.

You come with the built in assurance that you must actually have some talent, or an agent wouldn't have taken you on.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying talent = getting an agent. Many talented writers can't land an agent, for many reasons. But to busy producers the knowledge that a writer is repped is a comfort.

Same as track record is a comfort. There are some shows that you will have practically no chance of getting on if you have not had at least two or three years experience writing on other shows. Repped or not. Writing for TV is a career, and like other careers, it has to be built.

Because it is not just about writing talent. It is about surviveability. Seriously.

The ability to take notes and give them what they want in a ludicrously short turnaround period. Even if they don't really know what they want. And still be quality.

The ability to change an entire story at the drop of a hat. No matter how much you loved it. Your heart and soul went into it? Tough. That actor left /died/was arrested or that location fell through.

The ability to deal with a script editor or producer who doesn't know their arse from their elbow and not have a meltdown, but shrug and get on with it.

Track record isn't so much about what you have written, but the fact that you survived it.

One of the shows I work on occassionally had a starting core of I think around 19 writers. For various reasons many of these were new to TV writing. Talented in other fields like novels and plays. But TV not so much.

Out of those 19 I think there are 5 left. And all, bar one, are the previously experienced TV writers.

Mostly the others went back to novels and plays.

TV writing isn't for everyone.


Bob said...

Would you recommend primarily submitting scripts to agents then, or would you say that it's worth submiting stuff to production companies at the same time?

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