20 Aspiring Writers Walk Into a Room...Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I've been sick as a dog for the past few days, plus organizing a Justin Trudeau fundraiser, so please forgive the silence.
Q. I'm in several screenwriting groups on Facebook, and saw a post about someone who is looking for a group of young screenwriters to write a script for their 1 hour feature. I've enclosed the entire post below -

"Myself and another director are shooting an hour of feature film drama and we want to do it very differently and try to help people in the process. We want to get a group of young screenwriters (20-30 or so) to collaboratively write the script for the film.

We want to give young unknown talent a chance to get some experience and some credits, as well as experiment with the wisdom of crowds to see how it makes the storyline evolve. The idea is to invite everyone to hold up at our studio for an all-nighter and write the thing in 24hrs, as well as modifying it online together. Everyone involved will get shared copyright, credits and be associate directors.
This sounds like an enormous waste of time for several reasons.

One, faster is not better. A good story takes time to take shape. You have to look at it from several angles. You have to work it. Every now and then you read or hear about how someone wrote a script in three days. They didn't. They thought about it for several months, until they knew exactly what story they wanted to tell, then wrote a draft in three days, then reworked it for several months.

Two, twenty heads are not better than one. A good story does not go down the predictable path. Storytelling by committee will get you the obvious ideas, not the clever ones that start out feeble and need nourishing into something surprising and spectacular.

Writing rooms do gather to break story and, later, to punch up jokes. But after you've broken the story into acts, you send one writer (or maybe a writing team of two, that functions as one writer) to beat the story out. And the showrunner story edits the beat sheet all on his own. There needs to be one controlling intelligence telling the story. Otherwise you just get a mishmash of ideas that might be good on their own, but which muck up all the other good ideas that other people have.

UPDATE: Lisa thinks this is a scam. If they ask you to contribute money as an "associate producer," run.



24 hours out of one's life to do some potential networking, maybe get a couple of leads, at least an interesting story or two out of the ordeal? Doesn't sound like a complete waste of time to me. What do you have to lose?

By Blogger daveed, at 2:21 PM  

The networking sounds worthwhile, as long as some of the aspiring writers are competent to trade critiques, or likely to eventually develop useful connections.

Something else that looks dubious about the ad to me is the shaky grammar. If the co-directors who wrote the ad are that poor with grammar – in an ad targeting writers – are they people an aspiring writer wants guiding their work?

"Myself" isn't sure this is a scam, but it sure doesn't look like a project with competent leadership. Yes, I know I'm showing prejudice based on writing. But the least they could do is proof-read their own ad.

By Blogger Unknown, at 1:58 AM  

Hey Alex, Love the blog and may I say that your book "Writing inside the box" is the best book I have read on TV writing, so thanks for that!

I just watched ep 3 of FRINGE (and yes I totally agree with you by the way) and I thought, amongst other things, that the dialogue was pretty standard, and at times terribly "on the nose". I was wondering, after your post on last weeks episode, what did you think of this one?

By Blogger Unknown, at 2:47 PM  

Sorry, just to add another bit:

Just finished watching the last 10 minutes of FRINGE... The latin gobbeldygook that the psychic artist intercepted may as well have been "deus ex machina" - In fact I'm pretty sure it was, just to stick two finger up at it's audience.

I'm sorry but there is aboslutely NO EXCUSE for how half-arsed that show is! It's so lazy. I can't believe that there are so many aspiring writers out there who don't even get a break, yet some utter gimp can get paid a fortune to churn out a second-rate x-files.

By Blogger Unknown, at 3:34 PM  

I agree the writing of Fringe is poor but I was quite impressed by the cinematography of the first episode. Pity even that seemed to diminish in episodes two and three though.

By Blogger Unknown, at 4:37 PM  

Networking with other wannabes isn't networking.

By Blogger blogward, at 10:26 AM  

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