Saturday, 12 July 2014

Far too selfish to be writing for the screen

I once did a screenwriting course.

Actually, I'm not completely sure if that's true. I once started doing a screenwriting course. I never quite made it to the end. I pretty much got halfway and then called it quits.

There were a number of reasons why I left the course. Partly, because of time constraints, particularly as it was around the time I first became a father. Partly because I didn't think the quality of the instruction was all that good. But the most significant reason why I decided I didn't want to be a screenwriter is because in the end I'm just far too selfish.

The logic behind this connection may initially escape you. Please allow me to explain.

Like I said above, I didn't think I learnt all that much from my two years in the course. However, there was one significant revelation. The film and television production industry was definitely not a writer-focussed industry.

As a writer working in the television industry especially, you were basically a gun for hire. If you made it - if you were one of the extremely lucky ones to actually get any work - you had to write for whatever shows you could get onto. The industry in general was run by the producers and the production houses. They were the ones who decided what got made. As writers, you just wrote out the scripts as required.

This would definitely not have worked for me. I like to be in control. I like to work on my own ideas, and develop them in the ways I would like to develop them. In short, I'm a selfish writer.

I reckon if I actually got some work, I would spend most of my time annoying everybody else in the production team, e.g. criticising the scripts, suggesting changes to plots, adding or removing characters at random. Would I have made myself popular? Not very.

I know in the US that's now not necessarily true, especially for TV. I know they talk about a golden age of television, with a new breed of writer driven shows. But here on the other side of the world, we definitely haven't made that step.

So I guess it's back to my books. Back to writing my story exactly the way I want to. Back to being a selfish writer. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh, no, everything I’ve ever read about screenwriting has filled me with horror. Even publishing books. I keep hearing of editors gutting works and sending them back to their authors to rewrite in their (i.e. the editors’) images. No. I like the level of control I have. I don’t mind editors picking up the typos and missed hyphens but when they start telling me my book needs to go in a different direction, that’s where we would have to part company. Basically I’m incapable of that kind of rewriting. And I don’t write that kind of books either. The only thing my wife had to say about my most recent novella was that my use of Unheimlich was incorrect the second time I’d used it; it needed an ‘e’ at the end. But then she took German at school and I didn’t. And that’s why we have editors.

    Have you ever seen a show called Episodes? The premise is that a couple of British writers are asked to rework their successful British sitcom Lyman's Boys starring Richard Griffiths (looks like a kind of History Boys) for an American audience and end up writing about a show about ice hockey called Pucks! featuring Matt LeBlanc.