Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Do better.

Just now I suddenly remembered this column over at Done Deal that I used to read when I was a new screenwriter. The column is called Hollywhooped and it's pretty good for newbies. People write in their questions and the ever patient David Steinberg answers them as he has for years. 98% of the questions are variations on "How do I get an agent?" and he just keeps on answering them politely and accurately, year after year.

So anyway, I remembered the column and read the latest letters and saw the following which made me irritated:

"I have a great idea(yes, i do!) and although i'm still learning, my screenwriting skills could be improved - somewhat..... I was just wondering, do people from the industry go for the ideas although the scriptwriting skills maybe average/slightly above average? ie. if the idea shone through an average script would they still be interested or should i just make sure the script is top notch before i submit my piece? and for that matter, is a script ever top notch as so many people say 90% or writing is rewriting..."


Let me translate:

"Hey I have a good idea just like everybody else in America. I can't actually write and I'm too lazy to remember capitalization rules I learned in second grade, but will somebody pay me money for thinking up something cool and then wait for me to figure out how to write?"


"I have an idea for a new airplane. I don't know anything about physics and I'm not very good at building stuff, but do you think if I just nailed some boards together somebody would give me a chance to build airplanes for a living?"

Sure, we've all sent out a script we thought was ready when it wasn't, but that's about denial. Why would you ever, EVER knowingly send less than your best work to someone who could sell it? Anybody know how many people like us there are? People who slave away over excellent ideas until they are perfect and ready and full of all our best efforts? I've got a great idea, but I'm also willing to put the effort into making a great screenplay. Why the fuck would an agent want to buy anything from your lazy, no capitalization using ass?

You hear all the time that 99% of the unsold screenplays floating around town are garbage. I do not consider those people my competition because my scripts will not be garbage under any circumstances. And they won't be garbage plus one. No, my competition is Bill Martell, and Bill's competition is David Koepp and Koepp's competition is Bill Goldman, and okay Bill Goldman doesn't really have any competition.

If you're not trying to beat the guy above you, you'll never be where he is.


  1. Anonymous4:29 AM

    Hey Emily,

    As women, we can agree. And then sometimes we can disagree. (Like using “and” to begin a sentence.) There are moments in my day when I do whatever I want to do.

    Unlike men, most women are extraordinarily intuitive. When we say we have an idea, there’s more to it than …WHAT IF: "you woke up and found a *new airplane* had landed in your front yard?"

    Most women would have done their research and completed an outline before sharing their “new airplane” idea.

    Men are so fearful of women writers, that they have to continue this juvenile belittling campaign (to try and deter new writers). They continue to try and make ALL believe that if you’re not DAVID KOEPP, or if your name isn’t Bill…then you should pack your pencils and forget it.

    I say…no.

    My advice to new writers, STOP ASKING QUESTIONS OF THESE SO-CALLED PROS. Just write your screenplay…where to go from there…will come to you intuitively (if you are a woman.) Men...I have nothing for you. Sorry.

    Now most men who read my post will immediately begin reading it with ways to ridicule, scorn, and tear it apart, in mind. Typical.'ve had your turn. There are some new writers (ie, women with more than just an idea) in town.

  2. Although I agree that women need to have a bigger place in the screenwriting world, I don't believe it is some vast conspiracy run by men to keep us down. Not anymore, anyway. And I don't think men have "had their turn." This is about who's the best writer, not who's the best gender.

    And stop asking questions of the pros? That's a bit silly. I would say stop asking stupid questions about how to break in and start asking questions about how to be a better writer. If you concentrate on your writing the rest will follow.

    You do realize my post had nothing to do with gender though, right?


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