Saturday, June 28, 2008

Be Prepared: Why Screenwriters are like Scouts and Guides

I always have two things on my person: a Swiss army knife and a credit card. Because life is unpredictable like that, right? However, I recently received an urgent request for some documentation which I hadn’t updated because I assumed it wouldn’t be needed in the near future.

Wrong. Don’t assume. I was reminded that as a screenwriter it’s important to have other items at the ready besides tools for purchasing and opening cans of baked beans.

Items such as updated synopses and loglines of all your projects. Including the ones you pitched long ago and in which you think no one will ever be interested. Or practised pitches and most recent drafts of all your scripts. Not necessarily folded into tight packages and stuffed in between your switchblade and your plastic money, but ready-to-go, nevertheless.

Because you never know when The Call will come. And if you wait until the phone rings, you’re gong to have to rush, which means you’ll make mistakes. Which isn’t cool, because you often only get one chance.

It’s a bit like marketing: Smart marketers don’t wait until they have a warehouse full of dusty boxes to start thinking about how to position their product. They start way before that, so that by the time the boxes are delivered, the customers are already jostling outside on the street (or on the website).

In other words, you need to follow the boy scouts’ motto, and be prepared. Think ahead. You have no way of knowing what goes on in the minds of the people with the power to greenlight projects. Their priorities can change overnight. If they suddenly need something from you, pronto, it’s probably a good idea to be able to respond promptly and efficiently.

Anyway, I’m off to spend the rest of my weekend practising what I preach.

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