Friday, January 03, 2014

A gentle suggestion

Warning: The following rant will contain Peter Capaldi levels of cursing.

I'm a moderator over at a beloved screenwriting board. It's a great little community of writers who support each other and ask questions and build relationships and I love it. I've belonged to other writing communities that were not so supportive, one of which was run by a cocksucker of epic proportions. This is not such a place. This board is a great resource for anyone who takes the craft of screenwriting seriously. The moderators and administrators work very hard to make sure it stays that way.

But every now and then, people argue. Because Internet.

So sometimes I'll be all whistling a happy tune as I log in and do a cursory check to see if anything's up. Hey, what's everybody talking about today? Oh look, here's a thread about technique. That should be nice and harmless. Let's say some new writer heard he's not supposed to use camera directions. The thread title is something like "Can I use camera directions?"

So here's me, clicking on the thread, lalala, no big deal, and then


The inside of the thread looks like it got hit by a fucking ragebomb:*

NO, YOU COCKSUCKER, you can't use camera directions! What are you some kind of fucking fuckwit? Get the fuck out of here!

Followed by

Hey, this guy can use camera directions if he wants to. And you know what else, fuck you on general principle.

Followed by

Fuck me? Fuck you! You suck at life! You're probably fat and old and nobody likes you anyway!

Followed by

Oh yeah? Well I challenge you to a goddamn writing duel, you little shit.

Meanwhile, the original poster has run away, still completely confused about whether or not he's allowed to use camera directions in his screenplay.

It's my job, and the job of other moderators, to curb these kinds of things. Every mod has her own style of handling the situation. Mine is to be like

Hey, what the fuck is wrong with you guys? Knock it off, and such.

And then they're like

Don't listen to her! Fuck you some more for some reason! What were we arguing about? Let's argue some more!

It keeps going until somebody finally closes the thread, because once the argument starts, it becomes a snake that eats itself. Yet every single time, I still think I can stop the carnage with scolding words.

I know I can't make the Internet stop being so bitchy to itself, but maybe some of you can do me a solid today. Next time you get in a discussion about screenwriting technique, try not to take it personally.

Let's say you HATE using camera directions in your specs. Okay, cool. You don't have to. But let's say this other guy does. You can say

Hey dude, I don't like using them because I'm not the director and I think that's the director's job.

And then the other dude can say

That's cool. I like using them, though. I think sometimes they allow you more room to give a sense of tone to the story.

Then, you know what? That dude can go off and write with camera directions, and you can still write without them, and it doesn't fucking matter. The fact that he writes with camera directions does not mean you have to. It doesn't mean you're wrong not to. It doesn't mean you're a bad person or a better person or a stupid person or a genius person. It just means you prefer to use a different, completely acceptable method to achieve the same goal.

You are allowed to disagree with each other without it becoming a goddamn national fucking incident.

There's only one rule. ONE. Does this method make your script better? Do it. Does it make your script worse? Don't do it. The rest is just bullshit minutiae.

*The board censors curse words. This is my retelling and my blog so I'm gonna fucking curse.


  1. This feels like it should have been a scene from DEADWOOD.


    The fuck, Dan? You put the fucking camera directions in the fucking instructions for the photoplay again, against my specific fuckin' orders!

    The cocksuckers told me that this here photoplay--which, I remind you, don't even technically EXIST yet--needed the fucking cinematic feeling to it!

    FUCK your cinematic feeling!

    EMILY slams beer stein on both their heads.

    Shut the fuck up, cocksuckers.

  2. Well said, Greg. I approve.

  3. The internet is a blessing and a curse. I bet the conversation would have been as polite as could be if the people were sitting across from each other.

  4. Because almost every third person is an internet Charles Bronson ready to fight at any perceived provocation, you almost sometimes pre-censor your comments to be tamer than what you want to pre-avoid any possible fights....or things to be taken the wrong way, even if you were just going to write something tongue and cheek.

    By the way, Emily, I've been waiting for a topic to come close to my question before posting it but haven't seen it so was going to ask it now before I forget. Is it true that managers and agents will only do something for you twice---after you give them the first spec they like and if that doesn't sell then if you are generating income for them----otherwise they won't do anything for you because they have 35 plus other clients (managers) or (70-80 for agents)... Would a new writer get lost in the shuffle at a big management company like Anonymous Content or Benderspink if they aren't hot right away...or is it better to go with a medium manager who's a hot spec seller.... How do you figure out which managers will take time to develop material and build a new client's career from ones that are strictly going for the one off quick deal?

  5. Paul: Questions! I love questions. Never be afraid of questions.

    The short answer is, the person who told you this information is incorrect. The long answer will be coming in the form of a heavily-researched blog post.

  6. Great!!....because I have question marks floating in my head at the different things I'm being told....Maybe it's your schoolteacher background because you've always been generous about answering them.

    I guess the question is how do you pick the right manager? you can stick with for the rest of your career. A lot of questions go into that. One manager has a reputation as being a great salesman but isn't that great at developing specs and is quick to lose interest in clients.... another is a medium manager but is the head of his own company versus a manager who works for a big management company--a hot manager who works for a company might be jumping companies after a few years. And there's one manager that is huge in the business and at a huge company, but he spends much of his time on the set producing, at makes me wonder when he actually has time for clients especially the ones at the very low rung of his roster. It sounds like he just squeezes in quick phone calls and emails with clients.

    I do feel anxious about the whole manager producing part because there are conflicts of interest there and I wonder how managers deal with that because at some point, putting their producer hat on, they might have to make a decision as the producer that's against your interest for whom they know with the manager hat (such as replacing you with a bigger/better writer or having you make some deal that benefits the producer and not the client/writer) that is not being a good manager.

    Also, I'm sure many writers secretly harbor the desire to direct....and might be even afraid to bring that up with a manager.....should that even be mentioned in the meeting to be signed? or when considering managers, do you go with the huge manager at huge management production company who might have clout when you need to make that jump into directing or the medium manager who might be more aggressive with developing your material as a screenwriter but isn't as powerful in terms of helping you get your directing gig----some management/production companies have their own arm of the company where they can completely finance their own movies and make their own director and casting choices.

    If I had to describe the perfect manager, I'd say one that believes in you as a writer and has a long term plan for you, is loyal and does not let conflicts of interest get in the way, helps you develop material and get it into shape but isn't so harsh that they lampoon your confidence and make you nervous and has the means to help you make the foray into directing when you're ready.

  7. Does it make it more attractive to a buyer? Well, if the camera direction is going to help the reader SEE what you are trying to do, yes, I'd use them. I've used them; sometimes the director used them and sometimes (I'm sure) he just whispered 'stupid writer' and shot it the cheapest way possible...which is always a help.

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