What’s stopping you…apart from almost everything?
On an almost daily basis, it is impossible to scroll through the minefield of social media without stumbling across some inane meme showing some generic quote about how easy it really is to achieve your goals and ambitions. According to the wisdom of the online gurus, all you need is the self-belief that your talent deserves to be shared and lo and behold…it will be.
The only thing holding you back is you.
Except, that’s not really true…is it? I mean, I’m all for positive thinking and telling the universe what you want and visualising your goals and being the best you that you can be etc. etc. etc. blah, blah, blah but to think that- in my case- I can become a successful screenwriter just by believing that I can be is kind of, well…stupid. Firstly, I need to be actually good at the craft. As with most things, it is a competitive field. Everybody- me included- thinks that they can write but I’m pretty sure that not all of us can write to the standard that is required to be successful…depending on what you define successful as of course (see a previous blog post). Belief in ones own ability isn’t quite enough, especially if that belief is unfounded.
But let’s presume that you’re a talented Screenwriter. Let’s say that your ideas and characters are uniquely observed and written down and that your stories truly do deserve to be seen and heard, the next hurdle to overcome is getting them into the right hands. There is probably more guides to getting your screenplays read then there is actual screenplay readers, there seems to be a new article (or blog post!) about the subject every five minutes and so actually knowing the best route to travel down is nigh on impossible. So, along with the talent that you may have that may not be as unique as you think it is, there is also the obstacle of not knowing what to do with your script when it is finished.
So perhaps the solutions to make your film yourself, get it into festivals and gain world-wide recognition that way.
Easy, right? I mean, all you need is a camera, some actors, some locations and editing software. Only, it’s not all you need is it? First of all, your probably making a film on a budget totalling £0, so the script and all that happens within it will have to reflect that. Gone is the genius sequence you penned on board the intergalactic spaceship travelling through a recently discovered wormhole in space and no more does the spectacular martial arts fight involving 15 samurai warriors bulk out the 3rd act of your artistic masterpiece. With no money comes no payment and so the actors you source to accurately portray the characters you put so much time into developing will most likely be aspiring amateurs with little experience who are based close by, limiting your field. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I have worked with some truly talented, committed and brilliant amateurs who have brought way more to the project than I could have imagined, but it does mean that dreams of Michael Fassbender and Michelle Williams playing your leads may have to be put on hold.
But let’s say that you manage to get your film produced for next to nothing with a cast that does you proud and edited in a way that you’re (at least semi) happy with. What’s next?
Well, enter it into every festival under the sun, that’s what, and wait for the universal adoration to fill your soul. It’s just that, entering numerous festivals can turn into an excessive expense on its own and if you don’t get selected from the thousands and thousands of other entrants, it can feel like a huge waste of money, let alone a bit of a dent in your confidence. Remember that previously unshakable belief that you were destined to be the next great screenwriter? About now it’s taking a bit of a battering.
But then, just when you’re about to give up, an email arrives saying your film has been selected in the Woking Micro-Budget Amateur Independent DSLR Film Festival sponsored by the local corner-shop and all of a sudden you feel vindicated. You proudly display the festival’s wreath all over your films artwork, all over your social media profiles and even have it tattooed on your arm. This is it. You’ve made it. The date of the festival comes…and goes…and nothing changes. You’re exactly where you were at the start, just a few quid lighter and with the added pressure of having to leave the one idea you loved behind and try and come up with something new. Back to the drawing board.
“If you believe you can, then you can” or words to that effect haven’t exactly had the desired effect on you. Or have they?
You load up the laptop, get a fresh new notebook, re-read your favourite chapters in “Save The Cat” and start again, populating your beat sheet with scenes and twists to move the action in your latest screenplay from act 1 into act 2 and refining your lead character using tips and techniques that you’ve been stockpiling from numerous online articles. You’re back on the horse, the punishing, non-forgiving brutal horse that is Screenwriting.
So what’s stopping you? An ultra-competitive field, a lack of serious money or investment, a steep learning curve that can only be tamed by committing mistake after mistake, a confusing pathway forward as a writer, a financially draining and ever-growing festival circuit and the legions of people telling you the best ways to do it all wrong.
Except none of that matters at all does it? Because if you’re a writer, if you love writing and love the art and expression and escape of it all, none of the aforementioned obstacles are insurmountable, they are merely distractions along the road that we have collectively committed to get lost wandering down. Keep the punches coming, we’ll keep getting back up.
What’s stopping us? Nothing! I’m beginning to sound like a meme.