Saturday, May 12, 2007
I’m a screenwriter. Now there are two parts to the writing work screenwriters do, there’s coming up with the idea and there’s writing it down in a screenplay. The idea is the inspiration and the writing is the perspiration. There are hundreds of books and seminars out there which all teach the craft aspect of the profession, and without these skills, a great idea remains as silent as the proverbial tree falling in the woods. But the longer I’m in this business, the more I realize that the skills are useless without a good concept to build on. No amount of clever structuring, witty dialogue, or catchy description will hide the fact that a story is boring. Which is why it always pays to listen to what producers have to say. Most producers don’t write screenplays. They just don’t have the time or the patience. But they do often have great ideas. A good producer knows the market, be it mainstream or arthouse. They know what they can sell, and they’re not ashamed to think about a film as a product. Most screenwriters try to hide their ambition behind talk of artistic integrity and so on, but producers have no such qualms. This is perhaps an important rule of thumb for the screenwriter: Don’t judge the value of an idea by the person who thought it up.