Tutorial with Mira
It was recorded as an audio file.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the tutorial with Stephen due a prior engagement.
Skills and Employability
For my professional practice portfolio I intend to examine the role of writers within the media industry, specifically screenwriters and how they operate and maintain themselves. Scripts construct the backbone of every film. Without the screenplay the director has no story to work with. As a result this is a highly competitive industry with millions of stories out there looking to get picked up. First I want to examine the roads one takes to becoming screenwriter and I need to do to start heading down them. There are number of skills that are required for someone to a successful writer including Literary skills, Imagination, Time management, self-discipline, be able to work alone for extended periods of time, etc but these can be simplified into the 3 T’s. Talent, Technical skill and Tenacity, this section will cover technical skills as I don’t think talent is something you can learn.
One of the first things I came to realise is that screenwriters do not limit themselves solely to writing scripts, they are often involved with a number of other writing roles in different mediums such poetry, novels and theory. This means that a Writer must be diverse in the fields that he/she operates in. Another facet of writing is that the requirements are not set in stone and most writers come from a multitude of different backgrounds and one doesn’t necessarily start by writing one script and/or novel and continues to operate within that given medium. For example JRR Tolkein was a linguistics professor (Doughan 2014) and JK Rowling was unemployed before they published their first books (Biography 2016). One of my contributors spoke about how her short stories fed into her novels. This suggests that I utilise a multitude of fields to produce stories, if an idea doesn’t suit one format it may suit another. It also gives me more financial and creative outlets for my work as well more options.
However that is not the only writing role to be found in the media industry, for example famous film critic Roger Ebert also co-wrote the screenplay for the film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Meyer 1970). My research has revealed that many popular writers use an online presence to promote themselves and their work. For example writer Keith Gray does readings at schools as a form of self-promotion because the kids ask if they can google him and this opens up more ways for people to find him and his work (Taflinger n.d.).
Every respondent I communicated with, said similar things along the lines of the importance of dedication and time management. Especially during my conversation with William Gallagher where he stressed the importance of finding work that helps your writing ability such as writing for a paper or a magazine between writing for any other medium. Another factor to bring up is on Prospects.ac.uk it stresses that writers need to build a portfolio of work “It is, however, important that writers build up a portfolio of work (published or unpublished) in order to have material to showcase to potential publishers or contacts.” This is what I need to work on in future as I have struggled to write anything outside of university work. However I have written a 300 word short story for a disabled students competition. This will serve as a foundation for me going forward as I can gradually build a portfolio by writing and submitting several more short stories to various competitions making them longer and more in depth as I gain more experience and confidence.
Here is the short story I mentioned: http://seanmaguire1991.deviantart.com/art/Why-can-t-I-cry-539183067
Here is an example of a short story I wrote that I adapted into a screenplay:
Most writers regardless of medium don’t seem to make enough money to begin with seeing as it is a largely contract based profession so it is advisable to find a part or full time job to ensure financially stability. In a conversation with William Gallagher he mentioned that one should strive to find a job that involves writing in some form so as to sustain and improve one’s writing ability. I found this with a majority of the other writers who responded to my survey. They had either a part time or full time career. One contributor’s family depends on running a small business, a day job and doing odd jobs. Another factor is that the money that is paid in scriptwriting is paid over a period of time when specific conditions are met (First draft, second draft, clean up). You could sell your script to a studio but you wouldn’t see all the money in one go it would be paid in increments over time and there is no guarantee that you will find work again quickly (August 2008) so it is vital that I find stable work in order to sustain myself while building my writing portfolio.
A point of interest was made about making time for writing something everyday for an hour at minimum. The time of day varied from person to person but it was consistent in that it was vital to maintaining their writing ability. Developing it into a routine enabled them to make time for writing within their busy everyday lives which given what was previously said about finding part/full time work only adds further precedence to it’s importance. Throughout my course I’ve
One important aspect that came up was how to cope with rejection, writing is a profession that requires a lot of self-motivation and rejection can wound one’s confidence. One of my respondents stated if she received negative criticism she walked away from it so as to avoid a knee jerk reaction and then look back at it with a clear head so as to fully understand the criticism and make the necessary adjustments. The most important factor to take into account is to keep on making stories don’t rest your laurels on one piece of work but keep making more.
Another contributor named Leslie spoke about recognising which criticism you should take to heart “criticism could be the beginning of some new thinking. Always worth listening to. There may be something you haven’t thought of, something you could put right. Maybe you’re too close to the work, you know too much and you see things that aren’t actually there – they’re in your head and not in the script. I engage with criticism and I learn from it” and what you should not “criticism in the press, social media, etc. There’s nothing you can do about that. Just roll with punches”. This highlights the importance of recognizing when the criticism is useful and helps you grow your craft, this is something that I myself have struggled to deal with throughout my tenure at university. By submitting short stories online I am hoping to get the necessary feedback that will improve the standard of my work and help how I cope with criticism.
Through organisations like Shooting People one can submit a script for feedback from people working in the film industry. It releases bulletins frequently that keep you up to date with what is going on in the world of filmmaking so you can be fully aware of the current trends and audiences, this can help you sell your script to producers who will want to reach the largest audience possible. It also exposes your work to filmmakers whom may wish to adapt it and thus can give you valuable experience in working with directors and producers. During my final major project I have had some experience as a producer and director for my own documentary so I can use this film as an example of experience with the industry.
When it came to reaching out to organised outlets like Linkedin and Shooting People there were a few problems that I ran into that hindered my attempts to reach out to me. Linkedin had many different people however I wasn’t granted access because I had no former recognition as writer in any given medium. Shooting people was less complicated because I couldn’t join due to there being subscription fee which I not certain I could maintain. My tutors have advised to consider joining Shooting People once I have stable enough income to justify the subscription fee as the benefits previously mentioned will invaluable in both working on and pitching scripts to potential producers.
In the meantime there are also a multitude of free writing groups and communities out there for people to join and get feedback on their work. Tizzy made an interesting point in regards to her writing group that she was a part of. They were able to share their experiences through a survey I created that enabled to get some insight into how writers operated on an individual level. Although none of them were screenwriters as stated before, screenwriters more often than not engage in multiple forms of writing so their input would not be considered worthless. Social Media outlets like Twitter also played a fundamental role in connecting people and bringing them together into their writing groups. However there are drawbacks as not all members or even groups are fair-minded and may offer bad advice out of jealousy. So going forward I must be very careful about what groups I join because I had previously ethicised the importance of constructive feedback and consider where its coming from. I mustn’t allow myself to fall into a trap that severely damage my work.
Overall in the skills department I still have a long journey ahead of me when it comes to reaching my goal of becoming a screenwriter, I will need to gain more experience in the respective fields that I brought up here. First I will use the summer to find work for financial stability and begin writing at least one short story a month regardless of the quality to build a routine that I can easily work around. I will also join Shooting People.org once I found a job and use its Daily bulletin to assess the industry landscape to inform my current work and improve potential interest. I will also link up with several of the writers I have contacted for this portfolio as they are familiar to me and they appear to be open to helping aspiring writers. This will be a useful jumping off point for my future career.
Alexander, R. (2014) Writer Job Profile | Prospects.Ac.Uk [online] available from <https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/writer> [12 February 2016]
Anon. (2016) BBC – Medium And Format – Writers Room [online] available from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/writers-lab/medium-and-format> [4 February 2016]
Anon. (2016) BBC – Opportunities – Writers Room [online] available from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/opportunities> [13 March 2016]
Anon. (2016) J.K. Rowling – Author [online] available from <http://www.biography.com/people/jk-rowling-40998> [13 March 2016]
Anon. (2016) Screenwriter: Career And Salary Facts [online] available from <http://learn.org/articles/Screenwriter_Career_and_Salary_FAQs.html> [19 March 2016]
Anon. (n.d.) Independent Filmmakers Network : Shooting People [online] available from <https://shootingpeople.org/home> [8 December 2015]
August, J. (2008) Money 101 For Screenwriters | A Ton Of Useful Information About Screenwriting From Screenwriter John August [online] available from <http://johnaugust.com/2008/money-101-for-screenwriters> [18 March 2016]
Anon. (1970) Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. [film] usa: Russ Meyer
Doughan, D. (2014) Biography [online] available from <http://www.tolkiensociety.org/author/biography/> [26 April 2016]
James, L. (n.d.) How To Write Great Screenplays And Get Them Into Production.
Polone, G. (2012) Polone: Four Star Screenwriters Talk About Rewrite Hell [online] available from <http://www.vulture.com/2012/02/polone-screenwriters-rewrites-hollywood.html#> [3 May 2016]
Scott, S. (2014) How To Become A Successful Writer – And Get Paid [online] available from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/writersroom/entries/4e0cbb6f-c20d-3cda-95ec-0b884df9b961> [2 April 2016]
Taflinger, L. (n.d.) Marketing Yourself As A Writer [online] available from <https://ccskills.org.uk/careers/advice/article/marketing-yourself-as-a-writer?gclid=CjwKEAiArdG1BRCLvs_q-IObwxMSJACXbLtzEjG-elJpVZFDEZV4uf9mrXJTj4KCGyTiMZsYgCCyYhoCoPrw_wcB> [29 January 2016]