Thursday, February 28, 2013

Write of Passage

First Cut
The 'world premiere' showing of FIRST CUT was last weekend - during a party shoot at our house. A fabulous time was had by all. Thanks to everyone who came and jumped in all the right places!

The movie is now entered into the Brooklyn Film Festival - so its New York premiere should happen sometime this year! I'm entering it into the LA Shriekfest too.

I've just finished the trailer which I'll be putting up overnight!

Keep watching and writing!


Write of Passage

I was looking up executive producers of TV shows last night - like you do. In the US especially, an executive producer is often a writer too, responsible for helping oversee a script into production.

I was curious to see how some people went from writers to becoming show creators. After a while I began to see a pattern.

There was clearly a route - albeit a relatively 'slow' one - whereby a writer may get a gig on a show, perhaps a one-off screenplay, followed by further commissions to either write for the same show or another.

After half a dozen or so shows it seemed that some writers made the transition to positions like assistant executive producer, probably responsible for editing, proofing, tightening up other writer's screenplays etc.

I mean, rarely is anything a screenwriter produces going to be exactly right first time. When you're dealing with TV shows, there's lots to consider like character arcs and the affordability of the shooting. 

It's often up to executive producers to make all those 'executive' decisions like 'where are we going to shoot this scene for most effect within budget?' and 'would this character do and say these things at this stage in his or her story arc?'

All things we take for granted when watching but are usually the result of a lot of meetings and rewriting and tweaking before anything gets shot at all.

From being an assistant executive producer - read: writer - it seems a natural progression to actual executive producer, either on the show you're cutting your teeth on - or other shows you might get involved with.

These kinds of jobs require a completely different mindset from what the rest of the population is familiar with. 

Not only do these jobs require that writers implicitly understand story structure, character development, plotting and all the usual stuff we here at the Easy Way to Write have to learn. But they also have to be good at talking about it, pitching new ideas, sharing their thoughts constructively and being able to work with self discipline and produce consistently good creative work with a degree of finesse.

On top of all this there's no job security.

People often forget that most TV and film work is undertaken by freelancers - a whole army of people who are prepared to work without any kind of job security.

Their work takes them to the end of a particular project - and then, they have to start again. Hopefully each time having a credit on their resumes that will make getting the next job just a little easier.

(This is why the credits seem to go on forever these days!)

To be honest I don't know many people who can live like that.

And yet we have a entire industries - books, TV, music and film - that require us to either accept that job security is a thing of the past - if there ever was such a thing - and be flexible enough to enjoy not knowing what the future may hold - creatively and literally.

Could you be this type of person?

Thankfully I've always been this way - never really comprehending why so many of my friends and family are obsessed with getting a good job that will see them through to some illusion of security.

Even outside of the creative arena, there's not much job security around. Most people work several jobs during their careers - and get shuffled around and laid off all the time, sometimes spending long periods unemployed, feeling wretched and ironically desperate to get back to jobs they hate just to pay those pesky bills...

I digress.

It seems that when you have enough experience as an executive on a TV show you're probably ready to start pitching your own ideas for shows to colleagues, networks and production companies.

Now, it's perfectly possible for a new writer to also walk into the same places - even networks and production companies - and pitch their ideas for TV shows and movies. 

But of course there's always the trust factor at play.

It's much more likely that you'll trust someone with executive credits to actually deliver a visual project that works. 

Why? 

Because someone who's actually worked on shows understands the process - and has demonstrated that they can work successfully within the industry.  

New writers with great ideas come along all the time. But it's not always the writing and the ideas that matter. It's whether the writer has the strength of character and determination - the correct mindset - to see a project through to completion, that matters most.

And you can only convince anyone you have that kind of character by 'showing' and not 'telling'. 

Doing it as opposed to merely talking about it - or even writing about it!

Speak to any producer and while the creative aspect is hugely important to get right, it is the money and the logistics of production that take up about 80% of their time.

But I think the reason why so many writers become executive producers these days is because the industry is realizing that unless writers are intimately involved in the production side of things, the projects often falter through 'little' things like inconsistency, lack of direction, bad writing and any kind of gag on creative freedom.

It's one of the reasons why the Australian TV and film industry is so bad these days. 

Australian producers and funding bodies tend to think that writers make things difficult and are really too hard to work with. Probably true.

My feeling is that there's no real 'school' for Australian writers - who don't know how things work so they really don't know what's required. 

Hence, Australian writers are often not allowed in to gain the experience necessary to help the industry.

The old Catch 22.

Also, writers here are often seen as egotistical and difficult - as well as having no real talent for good writing. 

Actually I agree. 

In my experience, the overall standard of the TV and film writing of Australian wannabes is appallingly bad - and without serious investment in talent, will probably remain so for a long time.

Again, I digress...

Much better are the systems in place in the UK, Canada and of course the United States - all of which produce great TV and film, worthy of much praise and accolades.

Here's the thing.

At the end of the day we live in a merit based society. 

Those that succeed are most trusted to helm other successful projects.

A writer who becomes part of a successful project often gets another bite at the apple - but ultimately, you're really only as successful as your NEXT project.

TV and film, even books and music, initially get funding and investment based on their perceived profit potential. 

And the truth of it is that the more experience you gain and the more success you have, the more likely it is someone will fund your next creative project.

True, it's not exactly a recipe for job security.

But you didn't become a writer for the hours - or the pay - did you?

Heaven forbid...

Keep Writing!
 rob at home

"Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any." Orson Scott Card

 
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The Easy Way to Write

Welcome to the official blog of the Easy Way to Write from Rob Parnell, updated weekly - sometimes more often!