What ONE piece of screenwriting or filmmaking advice has been the most useful to you in your career and why?
Filmmaking is a business of collaboration and you need to build your reputation as a team player if you want longevity as a working screenwriter. If you’re a temperamental diva who bristles at notes or changes, you’ll be branded as “difficult” and you won’t stay on projects very long. Choose your script battles wisely and back them up with a solid defense while always seeing the bigger picture—you staying on as the writer and ultimately getting the film made. Producers and directors like to work with positive collaborators who leave their egos at the door and put the movie first. Every project is your chance to build new relationships and show the producers and executives they can trust and work with you. Your talent is equally as important as your professional work ethic and your attitude, so be the invaluable screenwriter who does everything to help get the film produced. When you embrace and follow these disciplines, you’ll build your reputation as a team player and it will help keep you in the screenwriting game over the long haul.
Mark Sanderson is a Los Angeles based screenwriter. His website is www.fiveoclockblue.net and he’s @scriptcat on Twitter.
5 thoughts on “What ONE piece of advice… screenwriter Mark Sanderson”
I can’t leave my ego at the door. Can I leave it in, say, a kitchen pantry?
“Engage the audience.”
That’s about as fundamental as it gets.
The best piece of advice I ever received was from a creative writing instructor, and I think it applies equally to both fiction writing and screenwriting: Just get it written. You can fix it later.
Boca Raton, Florida, USA
Dennis – why not! And you get me some crisps while you’re in there? Ta!
Steve – Amen to that … Yet it’s something we all need to remember, as so many spec screenplays don’t know who they’re FOR or why.
Debby – agree to a point; that first “vomit draft” can be a great way to splurge everything on the page and then pick out the chewy chunks of story (OK I’m done with that analogy – eeeurgh). However, I find a more time conscious way of ensuring your draft works is by BUILDING it from concept up – starting with a logline, guaging reactions to it, etc … The more prep you do, the more a draft writes itself and the quicker a writer advances in their career.
Totally agree with Lucy V — too many screenwriters have no idea who their audience is before they set off to write their screenplay. You have to know your audience—so you can engage your audience.
Debby – an old saying goes, “We’ll fix it in post.” Trust me, you can NEVER fix it in post. I consult on too many screenplay first drafts that are all over the map. The writers waste so much time just “getting something on the page” and the scripts could have been fixed with a solid story treatment created before page one was typed. Writers are so eager to jump into pages, but as the great Robert McKee says, “Of the total creative effort represented in a finished work, 75 percent or more of a writer’s labor goes into designing the story… designing story tests the maturity and insight of the writer, his knowledge of society, nature, and the human heart. Story demands both vivid imagination and powerful analytic thought.”—Robert McKee