On Lotsa Words
I read this:
I want to write for tv.
So why is it that I can't get this screenplay idea out of my head? I keep coming back to it and it's finally gotten to the point where I just have to write the damn thing - just to get it out of my system.
Is it commercial? Not particularly.
Is it high concept? Nope.
So why do it? Don't I want to write for tv? Shouldn't my limited time be spent writing that Veronica Mars spec that I've started?
Originally I was going to write something passionate about writing what you love. Then I went back through the past few years in my head and pondered which of the things I wrote strictly for love, that I didn't think were commercial, have gone anywhere.
I couldn't think of any. All the series ideas I've set up, and all the movies I've optioned, were ideas I liked that I also thought were commercial. I'm passionate about the series I'm writing a pilot for. But I chose to develop it because it was one of the speculative fiction ideas I had that seemed the most easily grasped by the mainstream audience, that had the least special effects. I wrote my medieval zombie picture because it was a goofy fun concept I knew I'd enjoy writing -- but also because it is a natural co-production shot almost entirely in one easily found location. (There are lots of empty castles in Europe. Especially in Eastern Europe, where it's cheap to shoot.) The series I developed last year had a great commercial hook.
I've got a stack of scripts that I wrote because I just had to, even though I wasn't sure I could sell them. They make great writing samples.
Now bear in mind: I'm not writing anything I don't love. I don't develop commercial ideas I don't actually want
to work on. I don't think I'd be able to do a good job on them if I did. Lisa is always coming up with commercial ideas I don't think I can write, along with the ones I think I can. I put them on the backburner until I see an aspect of them that I love. Which may not happen.
I don't take writing commissions on projects I don't think I'll be able to love. On the other hand I am lucky enough that I can almost always find something to love about projects I'm asked to come in on. So I haven't had to turn down very much because I wasn't turned on by the material.
So it's tricky. You have to write what you love, but you have to write what other people are going to love, too. Is it a matter of training your muse to love commercial stuff? Or is it a gift that some people have and others don't?
Where are you? Are you trying to figure out what the market wants? Trying to figure out what you love? Trying to put the two together? Let us know.
Labels: this writing life, your career
I'm at the point in my career where industry professionals are reading my work, so I don't have time to write something out of pure love. But I wouldn't say I'm writing solely for the market, either. At the moment I'm concentrating on original pilots, not specs. My manager has generated interest in a few agencies for after staffing season - I got in the game too late - but the stuff I'm working on is not necessarily anything dictated by market pressures or what my managers thinks will sell. They're my ideas - ones I am really passionate about and want to see on the small screen. I wouldn't say my stuff is mainstream - it's unique - but it's not out there, either. Besides, if I was writing for pure passion without regard for the market, I'd write a play or short story, not a script.
Imagine my surprise to be front and center on your blog! Yay!
So...turns out that I did go back to the Veronica Mars spec, which I've recently finished. It doesn't take much for me to get passionate about any project I'm working on and writing TV specs is definitely included in that passion. As far as my in-the-works screenplay goes, I think that it's something that I'll come back to here and there because it really is something I need to get out of my system. However, there is something to be said about using one's writing time wisely. I have certain goals for myself: get an agent, get staffed, rule the world...Writing tv specs is part of the path to that goal. So the screenplay becomes an in-between-ideas type of project. I'm sure it's something that I'll get around to, even though I really don't think that it's anywhere near commercial.
I make my living as a reality tv story editor, so I work on plenty of projects that are super commercial and not always my cup of tea. Still, I always manage to find a way to become passionate about MY work on those shows. When I do actually have time to do my own writing, I really want to write something that I love. And hopefully it's also something that helps me approach my goals.
I think one has to balance writing from the heart with writing with one's head.
I'm building a portfolio I hope will get me an agent. I doubt any of the scripts has a chance of getting made, but - hopefully - they demonstrate the sort of stories I tend to write.
In the past I've made the mistake of tying myself in knots trying to write what I thought other people wanted, rather than writing what appealed to me within the parameters of the opportunity.
BTW, thanks for recommending The TV Writer's Workbook in a recent posting, it's great.
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