I think it is down to approach.
In any creative field, whether writing, directing, acting, it’s about developing and harnessing your innate talent but also making sure you are professional at all times and a positive generous collaborator to work with.
The journey to being a writer, director, producer or actor is a hard one – it takes time, money, effort, obsessiveness, research, rejection and an utter resolute belief in oneself. Anything is possible if you believe you can do it. You have to remain positive at all times and have a ‘can-do’ attitude.
MY TEN ROCLIFFE TIPS
- Practise your skills; develop a trust in your own work. It’s not just about writing a script – you need to develop your craft. Writing is rewriting.
- I read once that a good writer is a good reader. It astounds me how many writers, particularly new writers, don’t read scripts. When you are feeling burnt out by your own words – be inspired by others. See how they structure their worlds.
- Passion is important but passion and desperation are two different things. A passionate filmmaker will see that only with failure comes success. A desperate writer is afraid to let go. Move forward, write more and then come back to your original work with fresh eyes.
- You need to commit to a career not just one script. To be successful you have to be more than one idea.
- The first draft of anything is never any good, so don’t send out the first draft of anything. On your title page it isn't relevant to the reader how many drafts you have written. Read your work aloud and cut dialogue – less is always more.
- Writers need to write, directors need to direct, but whether you are being paid or not doesn’t mean you have to give away your work for free. That is not necessarily applicable to shorts which are a great way of collaborating, building up a showreel and making a name for yourself - most people work on them for free. If it is a feature, negotiate a small fee - even £100. Also don't pay anyone to represent you.
- Don’t pitch in social situations, and if you do be able to sum up your idea in one line. I went to a birthday party recently and was introduced to a new writer. It led to a fifteen minute pitching session on his great ideas and I hadn’t even taken off my coat. Had he asked to meet for coffee to discuss some of his ideas - I would have met him and been left with a much better impression. I still remember all the great people who have made time for me.
- Being paranoid that your idea will be stolen, that all competitions are stitch-ups and everyone in the industry is a wolf in sheep’s clothing which is why you won't reveal the ending of your script or let anyone read your script. It's not the idea that's of value but the telling. I believe ideas are in the ether - use them or someone else will! Loads of ideas are similar – look at Men Behaving Badly and Peep Show, a few years ago there were two films about Truman Capote.
- People want to work with new writers and talent. Caroline Norris, a producer, told me that most producers are looking for and want to work with new writers because all the best ones are busy.
- Fall seven times, stand up eight! Feedback and rejection are part and parcel of a writer, actor, director and producer’s life. Not everyone is going to like your project; your work may not be for them. Criticism of any nature is hard and painful, being rejected can be humiliating but you have to develop a thick skin and move on. Some notes can be useful, highlighting an aspect of your work that isn’t working - YET! If you write, if you create films, if you perform, accept that it will be read, watched, reviewed. Opinions will differ and vary. Take from it what you will – don’t nitpick with what is said. What use is feedback that tells you what you want to hear? How useful is that to you and progressing your work? Unless someone has been abusive towards you, there is no reason for them to see your anger. Share your disappointment but leave that door open. Next time those people who rejected you the first time round, may this time be in a position to help you. Whatever you do don’t act unpleasantly and don’t burn bridges! People will forget that an early script of yours wasn't great when presented with a better one, but they won't forget an unpleasant exchange.
I think that you have to believe in your destiny; that you will succeed, you will meet a lot of rejection and it is not always a straight path, there will be detours - so enjoy the view