Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Script Writing for Beginners: A Review of "Tales from the Script"

Tales from the Script is a collection of sit down interviews with prominent screenwriters who have made money at their craft. If you're any kind of beginning fiction or screenplay writer, this movie is worth watching for insight into the business and the reality of working in the film industry. But not just the film industry, a lot of what these screenwriters describe and the advice they give is generally applicable to almost any other kind of creative writing.

I think writers with 5 years or more under their belts, who have experience with rejection, submitting, finishing stories and scripts, and completing many, many drafts, probably won't find any new advice or insights in this film. So if you've spent time in a writing program, reading books for writers, or doing the hard work in the trenches, many of the points in the movie will be familiar to you. But if you're interested in starting a career in screenwriting, you may find the movie helpful in making your decision.

There are some moments when the "writing process" and " what makes a good script" are briefly discussed. But this is not the primary focus. The movie is mostly about what to expect from the job. The primary position it takes is "This is what you're getting yourself into, so be prepared and don't have any delusions about it."

It was enjoyable to see masters like William Goldman and David S. Ward and prominent writers like Frank DarabontSteven E. de SouzaGuinevere TurnerShane Black and John Carpenter speak about the ups and downs of the film industry. A total of 50 screenwriters speak in the movie.

Here's a summary of some points that stood out to me:
  1. It doesn't matter how good you are. It's extremely hard. Success is close to impossible.
  2. For most people it can take 10 years to break into the industry.
  3. Chances are high that your script will be rewritten, changed and altered by someone else.
  4. Some successful screenwriters in this movie have written more than 30 scripts only to have 2 or 3 sold.
  5. Selling a script doesn't mean it will get made.
  6. You only need one person to like it.
  7. Approaching your writing like it is a full time job is greatly beneficial.
  8. Persistence and hard work can pay off, but it is best not to be attached to what the end product will be.
  9. Get ready to draft and redraft and draft some more. The movie mentions that Peter Shaffer drafted Amadeus around 40 times for the screenplay version. And Antwone Fisher states that he drafted his first script over 100 times.
  10. Get used to rejection. Embrace it. Grow thick skin.
If you're new to writing scripts and fiction, you might think the above is pretty harsh or depressing. And if publication and making money is all you want out of a career in writing, I would suggest finding something else you love about it. Because the thing(s) you love about it will keep you going until you gain that monetary or commercial success. I think you have to believe you'll make it. But you also have to keep in mind the realities of the business. Most of the time your head will be buried in the work itself. And the majority of writers spend many years submitting before they find success if at all. You got to love it. You have to make sure you do.

Here's a clip from Tales from the Script:

  

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