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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why Are YOU A Screenwriter? Final Word on Adrian Mead

Well, I've almost gone through my meagre notes now... I didn't make many, 'cos I have to admit I never do (I was the lazy little bugger at the back in school sticking chewing gum under the desk), but actually Adrian is such a great speaker I was a little transfixed by the animated way in which he talks. It's so rare to find someone who loves his job AND to disseminate information the way he does - as mentioned copeless times on this blog, I've been to many dubious and dodgy screenwriting courses that are so SHOW ME THE MONEY! it's untrue, yet with this one it wasn't like that at all. A rare privilege.

Adrian defined five main "reasons" people become screenwriters. These are: validation, security, money and glamour, love of the process and the need to communicate. A little more detail:

VALIDATION - is writing something you do so people can say, "Wow, that's great!" or "Well done!" If so, then this is important to you.

SECURITY - do you write because you want the job at the end of it? Do you dream of earning plenty, being successful, getting your "name" as well as your work out there? If so, then you're writing for security.

MONEY AND GLAMOUR - Do you dream of red carpets, your Oscar Speech? Do you imagine when you'll be asked to talk on commentaries on your DVD or on Parky? Yes? Then it's Money and Glamour that's your bag.

LOVE OF THE PROCESS - Adrian admitted to being a writer here who hates writing...Sitting down and writing pisses him off, yet if for any reason he can't do it, he gets moody and hard to live with. This was an interesting confession and one many others in the room echoed. Myself, I love the actual act of writing AND get moody if I can't do it (quelle surprise!), but regardless, even if you'd sooner chop off all your toes than write another draft, YET can't not write it either, then you have a genuine love of the process.

NEED TO COMMUNICATE - If there are stories inside you that you JUST HAVE to tell, then it's this that is your strongest motivator as a writer.

Now all you need to decide is what is most important to you NOW and appreciate that this will change, dependant on circumstances. Adrian told us that one year he earned £100,000 writing: it had been his dream to earn mega-bucks and he was doing it. Yet he was miserable. So he had to re-assess. Upon re-assessing his goals and desires, he discovered a yearning to make his own films. Which he did, hence the production of Night People, which Adrian will duly be telling Write Here, Write Now more about in coming weeks.

The bad news is, essentially you are screwed on all of them. If you're writing for validation, you're going to get rejected more than a rejectee in a rejection factory; if you're writing for security, forget it: it's all freelance, there's no chance of knowing if you can afford the mortgage FOREVER or if you can send your kids to private school for the whole of their school lives - you might do well at first, but what happens if you blot your copybook and get blacklisted or get your hand chopped off by a crocodile during your holiday to the Amazon (what? Could happen: never rule anything out, always my motto!). Money and Glamour? Well, you might earn stacks in TV, but film?? You'd be lucky to get enough to afford a holiday to Skegness and as for Glamour - who remembers who wrote what? Even other writers don't. Love of the Process?? You're not safe even there...Your PC could always blow up in the very least, plus there's family commitments and that's even before you consider the fact that there will be times in your career where you're a writer for hire on ABSOLUTE SHITE that you TOTALLY HATE, either because of the actual material or the people you're working with. Finally, well - with the Need To Communicate there's always Writer's Block. Hah!

But none of that's actually important. What is, is figuring out where your motivation lies and how it affects your ability to work and produce drafts that get "out there" - either as saleable specs or as samples that will get you work. For me, security doesn't bother me: I've never had a "proper job" and started my adult life as a single Mum at the bottom of the food chain, so ANY money is better than none. Rejection of course bothers me, no one LIKES it, but I always get right back in the saddle by chasing up new opportunities which makes me feel better. Money, Glamour - I'm a Mum. Any money I earn is for the kids, not me and Glamour? What the hell is that? Not part of my vocabulary.

So, for me, my two motivators - at present - are the Need To Communicate and Love of The Process. I love writing so much and don't have enough time to write everything I want to write - which means I think Writer's Block is some way off yet. Though you never know.

What about you?



Who do I write? More to the point, why do I want to write TV drama? Validation's nice, but I'm long enough in the tooth to recognise my self-worth shouldn't be dependent upon the opinions of others.

Fame and glamour? Yeah, right. I'd like to write something people have heard of, or maybe even seen, but that's the limit of my ambitions when it comes to fame and glamour.

I'd put security and money in the same category. I estimate I'm down fifteen grand a year since I started my screenwriting MA in September 2005, so I'm definitely not doing this for the money. It'd be nice not to worry about paying next week's bills, but this was my choice. I was doing very nicely producing four published novels a year and numerous other jobs, but I wanted to do something for me - hence the MA and all that's come with it.

Love of the process? When the juice is flowing, writing can be the best feeling in the world. That eureka moment when you make the vital connection that adds depth, resonance and an extra creative spark to your writing? Love it. Those days when you can't think of a sentence worth typing. Hate it.

Need to communicate? Oh, yes. I've got stories I want to tell, more than I'll ever finish in my lifetime. Could somebody hurry up and discover eternal life? I suspect it would come in handy.

Lucy V said...

Some candid answers there David! Thanks. I suspect eternal life would also come in handy...Until we run out of space, that is!

James Moran said...

Why? Come on, we all write for the same reason, not money, not fame, not security.


Tell me I'm lying. You can't, cause I'm not.

Lucy V said...

Actually James, funny you should say that since EVERYONE who has pissed me off at some point in my life has appeared in at least one of my scripts and met a sticky end. Aristotle calls it carthartic.

Anonymous said...

a little bit of them all are sprinkled into my soup, but like you I won't be suffering writer's block anytime soon as my ideas are stacking up

James Moran said...

But seriously, yes, I want all of the above - I want to be loved and told I'm clever, I want to be well known in the business but not in the pub, I want a steady income so I can write what I want without worrying about bills, I love writing, and have lots of cool stories I want to tell.

Although revenge is a big part. I've done the same as you, most of the people who've done me wrong have been killed or turned into psychopaths in various things. Have to be careful though, change the names slightly. Funnily enough, I've killed my agent twice in horrible ways, but for affectionate reasons - if it's a horror, it's kind of an honour to have a victim named after you (it just is). He doesn't quite see it that way, though.

Elinor said...

I'm with Lucy on this one, the cash is for the kids. I can't NOT write, I'd go crazy.

Lucy V said...

There's one particular guy who dies ALOT in my scripts, but I better not say online since he's read this before and had a massive go...

potdoll said...

I write because I'm afraid of death.

Lucy V said...

Am I rite in thinking then you NEED TO COMMUNICATE that fear of death, PD? Or is that if you don't write, you'll die?

Near by said...

I write because I'm afraid of life.

potdoll said...


I write because I'm afraid of WORK.

Lucy V said...

I think all bloggers are afraid of life, hence us hiding away in virtual realms!!!

As for being afraid of WORK - try working from home with a rampant kitten and a mad toddling baby who makes the sound of a phone and then says, "hello?" every five minutes. Very scary!

Good Dog said...

Because I'm a golden god!!!

...oh, wait. That's the answer to a different question. Sorry.

I write because I read. Because my imagination makes me do it.

Piers said...

Because I've always loved hearing and telling stories.

That's it.

Lara said...

Because if I don't get "the
stuff" written down, my head feels as though it will implode!