I started screenwriting just under a year ago…
Actually scratch that. I started ‘aspiring screenwriting’ just under a year ago. Despite having five spec scripts under my belt, I still can’t tell friends that I am ‘screenwriting’ because, thus far, I haven’t even been shortlisted in a competition (though I have only entered one), let alone gotten a script anywhere near a screen. It would feel fraudulent to describe myself as a screenwriter.
My entire social media presence has no hint of my new passion either. Well it didn’t until recently. The other week, with trembling fingers and deep guilt, I inserted the words ‘Aspiring Screenwriter’ into my Twitter bio. The next time I heard a Police helicopter whirring overhead, my first thought was… ‘SHIT! The Feds have seen my Twitter bio! They know full well that I’ve never had anything made… I HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN SHORTLISTED!’ But then I saw a 14 year old boy zoom up the main road from Splott on one of those scooters you just stand on, like we had in the eighties, except it was travelling at approximately 85 mph. And his face was entirely covered by his hood and it became clear the Police helicopter was more interested in him than in my Twitter bio. For now. Better get something made sharpish, my nerves can’t take this.
The other day I was listening to a screenwriting podcast, which is the thing I am invariably doing if I’m not sleeping, working, or spending time with my beautiful, devastatingly empathetic partner who has a cake business and sometimes lets me have free cake if I say nice things about her. And the guest on the podcast was an ‘Established Screenwriter’. The thing I want to be. And he was laughing, and joking, and bantering articulately, and talking about the film he had made in 2011 (IMDB score 4.2). I was green with envy. And then he was talking about how ‘Yeah, I’ve got lots in the pipeline right now… Nothing concrete. I mean, I was attached to a project for a while but then, I don’t know, they just sort of stopped contacting me… But that’s fine! But it’s sort of weird. Between you and me… I don’t think it helps that…(OH GOD NO!), I don’t think it really helps that… (OH GOD, DO NOT SAY IT!) …I’m a middle aged white man at this particular…’ Presses Stop. Moves onto next episode.
So he was standing where I aspire to stand, but didn’t seem to be a particularly happy person.
Then, I was reading a screenwriting blog, which is the thing I’m invariably doing if I’m not sleeping, working, listening to podcasts, seeing my delicately intelligent girlfriend etc… And the blogger was an ‘Established Screenwriter’. What I want to be. And he’s had a film made too. (IMDB score 3.8). And he was saying he’s really enjoying the challenge of making ends meet financially while he battles to continue his career. How it is somehow cleansing for the soul to only eat once per day. In fact he has found a way of purchasing enough tinned and frozen food to last a week for under ten pounds! Albeit this involves a walk of between 7.5 miles and 9.5 miles depending on which budget supermarket has which special offers on that week. And this long food-scavenge walk often gives him the mental clarity to think up ideas for the next scene of his feature script, not to mention the £1.90 that he is saving in bus fare.
So he was standing where I aspire to stand, and he did seem to be a happy person, but he freely admitted that he was quite a cold person (in temperature terms, not personality), and that his bodyweight was becoming lower at an interesting rate.
So then I was reading a screenwriting book, the thing I’m invariably doing when not sleeping, working, podcasts, blogs, sexy girlfriend etc. The author was an established screenwriter, but hasn’t just had one film made, but three films. (IMDB scores 4.1, 4.1, 4.1). And in this book he was saying I ought to make sure that my inciting incident is on page 11. Not page 10 mind you. And that my protagonist should reach his/her nadir on line seventeen of page 70, and not a line later. And that the antagonist and his poorly educated side-kick should feel the hot breath of the protagonist on their necks in the 154th word of page 87, and do not, under any circumstances, let this happen before the kooky love interest has discovered our heroes troubled past on the wrong side of the tracks!
By the time I had finished reading this screenwriting book I had come to realise how dreadful a film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is… And don’t even start me on ‘Pulp Fiction’.
So then I got to thinking… ‘Why am I doing this?’. The people standing in the place I want to stand seem to be either unhappy, or absolutely freezing cold, or so wedded to a laser tight structure that they are writing the same film over and over again. And, to be honest, it seems as if visibly established screenwriters barely make a film or TV series which scores more than 5 on IMDB (Where are all the 7.0+ writers lurking?). So why the heck am I even doing this?
Then I remembered.
I am ‘aspiring screenwriting’ because of the lovely feeling I get when I am sat at my breakfast bar in the silent pre-dawn hours, hammering away on my keyboard while my dog is dream-running and dream-woofing in the corner. And also because of the lovely feeling I get when I have created those interestingly flawed, three dimensional characters and THEY are now writing the jokes for me… I have become simply a fleshy, unconscious conduit for THEIR words, my tapping fingers and glazed eyes have no idea what is being written because I’m not even writing it anymore and suddenly three hours have passed and there’s seven more pages of my sitcom sitting there on my C Drive, and I sort of ‘wake up’, change laptops and log in to my day job in a daze.
I’m ‘aspiring screenwriting’ because I cannot face thirty more years of seeing the ‘grumpy/tired’ gifs on my work Teams channel on a Monday, and the ‘jumping/excited’ gifs on the Friday, and then the ‘grumpy/tired’ gifs on the Monday…
And I’m ‘aspir… And I’m screenwriting because a very bad, sad thing happened a while ago and I needed something to fill the time between sleep and work, a time where my mind tended to go toward the very bad, sad thing, and screenwriting (which had been dancing at the back of my mind for a while anyway) came in and filled that time.
But the high-level view (to take a phrase from my corporate existence) of why I am screenwriting is because writing is just unutterably, magically, marvellously brilliant! And the feeling you get when you have written some words somewhere (even if it is a Facebook post, or a Tweet, or a blog article), and a person says to you… ‘Hahahahaha lol’, or even just ‘That’s brightened my morning’… is a very nice feeling indeed.
And when an experienced script professional says ‘This script is extremely good… You should get it in front of some TV Producers’… your head could explode.
And if I could have an actual JOB which involved making lots of people say ‘Hahahaha lol’, then I would take being absolutely freezing cold and walking 7.5 miles to get my beans every single week.