seeing through the film

Someone emailed me recently with the observation that many of my blogs posts not only have a cynical edge but also tend to focus on agent / publishing rejections and sundry writing disasters. Always lead with your strengths – that’s what I say.

In the white heat of rejection, it’s sometimes hard to hear the kind words of fellow writers over the screaming in your head. That doesn’t mean that your community of scribes are wrong, however. Ambition can blind us to our own foolishness and to treacherous pathways.

Last year I pitched to a small film company in London which had advertised for script writers. It was to be a collaborative project, for a small team of writers, led by a modern and experimental artist. The emails flew thick and fast, followed by an invitation to attend an interview in London. I declined, on the basis of their inadequate brief, given that I like to know exactly what I’m signing up for before I reach the dotted line.

The following week I received an irate phone call, asking where the hell was I. It transpired that the person who received and acknowledged my email had neglected to tell the interviewer. I provided the email confirmation and asked for a more detailed brief, which was promised to me within a week.

All went quiet for a month or two. The next email included a gaggle of other writers who were likewise waiting to hear about the promised project. Even those who had been interviewed, I discovered, were as much in the dark as me. More emails ensued – mainly among the writers – and a month later it was clear that nothing at all was clear.

Last week, guided by my trusty project spreadsheet, I added the film project to my follow-up list and dropped a line to the company’s Executive Producer. I am now reliably informed that all film projects are now on the back burner. I am sorry for them but I’m pleased for me. I invested the right amount of time, effort and personal expense.

Being able to judge the viability of a business proposition and being confident enough to draw your own line in the sand are as important as the ability to write. Some may find a traditional route into publication and having their material performed; increasingly though (and aided no doubt by the volatility of the economy), writers need to take their opportunities where they can find them. But while your work may be grounded in fiction, your business has to be grounded in reality.

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