Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Power Of Three

If I hear this phrase one more time on the blogosphere I'm going to vomit. Might just be me. What does it mean? Power indicates some kind of.....well.... empowerment. Three people read your script and give notes? But they are the same incestuous bunch attending the same seminars, reading the same books and latching on to the same ''this is how you do it' bagatelle. Nett result - a bunch of lifeless, cloned scripts. I don't mean that in a bad way. Every writer craves recognition and support deep down. But support coupled with good advice is a hard thing to come by. Work at it. It takes time and experience.

As Paul Schrader said. Fuck upwards. Peer revue is not worth that much if you are on the bottom rung. Find one person who actually knows what they are talking about and is willing to give you the time of day. That is worth The Power of 3 cubed. I mean that seriously.


Okay I'm not gaining friends and influencing people by saying this. But that's not why I blog.



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22 comments:

English Dave said...
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English Dave said...

Thank you. I seriously considered censoring that post. That's a first.

Anonymous said...

Different Continent, same vibe. Thanks English. one of the few blogs that tells it how it really is.

martin said...

Dave, sure it'd be great to have an all knowing mentor, but not everyone can get that, and you underestimate the taste of those of us on the "bottom rung"

I've just started "power of threeing," and I've had some really useful notes back from my peers.

No one has said anything like "you should have your inciting incident on page 22," I've just had Insightful, practical advise about what work and what doesn't, and what stupid rookie mistakes I've made.

Sure, being a writer is hard. But being a critic isn't, and an objective eye from someone on the same level as you IS useful.

Piers said...

Can't say I'm fond of the phrase myself.

But it seems to be getting people out of phase one of the screenwriting career which is "My story is the best thing in the world ever and you can't change it because it's so good and no-one recognises my GENIUS."

Sure, having someone better than you to read and comment on your stuff is going to be much better than three random people. But I'd argue that for beginners three random people is much better than no-one.

Jason Arnopp said...

I would argue that it isn't even random people. There's quite a community in this scribosphere thing, full of very different people who haven't all been to the same courses, etc.

Sure, one mentor sounds great. But I'm not quite getting your objection to PO3 (is that easier on the eye than the full version? Don't want you projectile-vomiting across your own page!). So far, it's been invaluable to me. I also don't see how it can lead to identikit scripts, as people are encouraged to ask questions, rather than make suggestions...

potdoll said...

When I hear the phrase Power of Three it puts that awful song by Jennifer Rush in my head. The Power of Love. That song makes me want to dive my face into a paper shredder.

John Soanes said...

The phrase 'Power of Three' makes me think of the US TV show Charmed.
Is that wrong? It feels kind of right...
J

Jon Peacey said...
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Jon Peacey said...

So, where would we be getting this omniscient mentor?

Being a writer is easy, my 4 year old nephew can do it. Being a good writer is that bit harder...

Stuart Perry said...

I agree that we writers, particularly those of us on the bottom rungs of the ladder, should consider carefully who we choose to review our work.

But, I also think it's an essential skill for any writer to learn to keep their head - and their voice - when in receipt of bad feedback. Because they will get it somewhere along the line, regardless of whether they 'PO3' or not.

Yeah, most of the advice/courses/books/reader's reports out there could be wrong, or at least ignorable. But the person who still believes everything they read is not ready to be a good screenwriter anyway.

Anonymous said...

It just occurred to me that they used the Power of 3 on Casualty, or was it Holby?

Here was the system.

First draft. First producer reads it, you get notes back via script editor. You rewrite and hand in second draft. Second producer comes on. They give you a set of notes contradicting first notes. You go away and write third draft. Then, and here's the clever bit, the first producer comes back on and wants to know why you've totally ignored the notes he gave you on your first draft.

Repeat until writer is found on top of BBC TV Centre with a sniper rifle.

Anonymous said...

Are you currently mentoring a fledgling writer or two? If not, why?

Lucy said...

Yeah, WHY NOT Dave?? Bagsy me first by the way... ; )

Chip Smith said...

Whenever I hear the phrase 'Power of Three', I think of He-Man - 'By the power of Greyskull!'

I even recall that it was Dolph Lundgren who played He-Man in the live action movie (a fact that I am thoroughly ashamed of).

Phill Barron said...

This bottom rung thing intriques me. How many rungs are there? How do you know when you've moved up a rung? Is there any way I can find out what rung I'm currently on?

I don't know about this power of three malarky, but one of the best things I ever did was post my scripts on TriggerStreet.com for peer review.

Some of the reviews were insightful, some were written by fucking know-nothing loons; but most of them were helpful. A side effect of the review system is you get to read a tonne of awful scripts, which make you think about why they're awful and really appreciate it when you find even a mediocre script.

I'm not saying any of this has made me any more than an average writer, but people buy scripts off me, so it can't have been all bad advice.

English Dave said...

Okay that proves you are a very civilised and kindly bunch. I was expecting blood on the tracks!

There is an awful lot of advice out there. A good deal of it bad and plain wrong.

Learning which is which can take time. Fucking upwards can lessen that time.

But most important of all READ A LOT OF GOOD SCRIPTS, there is no substitute. No course, no book, no tutor that is half as valuable.

Yes I do have a few newer writers who I wouldn't say I 'mentor' but advise on various aspects of their work and the business in general. I'm not mentoring material!

Liz Holliday said...

Not mentoring material? If a mentor is someone who teaches, I'd say you've been mentoring most of us here without realising it. And possibly without some of us realising it either.

wcdixon said...

ED rocks...

From Craig Mazin at Artful Writer:

"How can someone who hasn’t done the job teach the job? Remember, I define the “job” as “writing a movie”, NOT “writing a screenplay”.

In my opinion, the best way to learn how to be a screenwriter is to read screenplays and work at an entry-level job for a screenwriter, a producer, an executive, an agent or a director.

Simple as that. Don’t read books about writing. Read actual writing."

English Dave said...

Stuart - without doubt an essential skill is for the writer to keep their voice and vision despite the trials.

Liz - honestly I'm not. A mentor needs patience and understanding. Not my strongest attributes. I can spout off on a blog all I want. Doesn't mean I'm a good teacher. That's an entirely different skill and one I think best left to others. The blog is what is. If some people enjoy it and get something from it then that makes it worthwhile.

Will - I do rock! In my own head mostly! lol

Liz Holliday said...

I dunno, Dave. I used to be a teacher (primary school) and I've even taught writing (fiction, not scriptwriting) to people who've gone on to sell stories and novels on a regular basis and it seems to me that it's possible to be an unwilling, or even an unknowing, mentor. (I think that's how a lot of life skills get taught in schools, if they get taught at all - by osmosis and looking at role models.) I think I'm taking the pragmatic view that if people learn from you, that's good enough.

Or to put it another way, please just carry on.

Eleanor said...

What Liz said! :)