Monday, August 13, 2007

Slings And Arrows

As if needing talent, luck, discpline and a vivid imagination weren't enough, one of the main things you need as a pro writer is a hide like a rhino.

I'm not just talking about sucking up notes and getting on with it. That's a minor irritation. I'm talking about the myriad of blows that can come at you from all angles. The project that is all set for a green light, the one you've sweated blood over, then it falls at the last hurdle. The commission that you were expecting and counting on but didn't materialise leaving you wondering how to pay the mortgage. The prodco who kick you off after one draft, go to a script doctor, then try to get you to rewrite the script doctor.

Or one I heard recently, when a single drama you created and was shown to acclaim is going to be made into a series and the prodco involved then stiffs you for half the money they were contracted to pay and kick you off the project. Your project! I'm not going to name names, but I doubt if they could sell a door.

Perseverence isn't just about keeping on writing in the face of rejection. Writers are a strange bunch. We are self effacing Divas, businessmen artists, gregarious loners. And everything in between. We need to be. What you also have to remember is that you are the person in the process with the least to worry about. With the possible exception of actors. When you have written your script it's there in black and white. It is what it is.

Everyone else has to worry about the nuts and bolts. How do we get it on screen? How do I keep my job? Where do I get the money from? What if this turns out a big pile of shit? That tends to make them removed from you and your feelings. That's no help when you feel undervalued, unappreciated and isolated or that your words have been twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools but them's the breaks. I paraphrase Kipling. But writing is one of the few occupations where heart and soul go into the product and huge money is needed to see that product reach the public with no guarantee of any return. That's the dichotomy you have to deal with as a writer. Unless you put up the money.

NEVER take rejection personally, believe it is about that project, not you or your talent. NEVER let some asshole's opinion stop you from doing what you love, believe in yourself as a writer. NEVER think quality beats nepotism or profit, but believe that there are producers out there hungry for quality, because there are. NEVER get dispirited by suits dicking around because of politics you neither know nor care about. Because they do. And if you thought it really mattered it would drive you nuts.

You're a writer. It's a club of survivors. But it's a damn fine club to belong to.


Phill Barron said...

I'm still waiting for my club card and secret decoder ring. I tell you, if it doesn't turn up soon, I'm cancelling my subscribtion.

The guy/gal who got kicked off their own project, do they not have a clause in their contract which guarantees them a percentage of budget and profits from all spin offs/sequels?

English Dave said...

I presume he has a format fee which is generally 10% of the highest paid writers fee per ep and a small chunk of the gross on foreign sales and dvd. But that is unlikely to end up anywhere near a fee for say three episodes.

However when the beeb find out that the originator is no longer attatched to the project they may not be so keen to run with it.

What am I saying? They won't give a shit.

Anonymous said...

Just a note to say how appreciated the clarity and coherence of your thoughts are. I'm on the blogophobic end of the spectrum, usually galled by the amateur's belief in their abilities to make meaningful statements merely because there is now a ready forum for them. Insight and wit - the combination that your comments display - is rare. Often smacking of painful reality, but sadly that is innate to reality! Cheers

English Dave said...

Thanks anon, kind words.

Batocchio said...

Good take, English Dave. Thanks.

mark g said...

"We are self effacing Divas, businessmen artists, gregarious loners."


Spot on post.