What ONE piece of screenwriting or filmmaking advice has been the most useful to you in your career and why?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I also hate being dishonest… I just read your first screenplay, and I’m going to have to pass.
Yes, you did your research. Yes, you worked really hard. And yes, you got the formatting down perfectly. But all that time and energy and attention to detail rarely add up to a great screenplay. The only thing that matters is story, and this one isn’t right for me..
It’s not that a writer’s first screenplay is rarely good (though if I’m still being honest, it rarely is). It’s that a writer’s first screenplay is rarely makeable. It takes experience to craft a truly makeable movie, and without that experience (and more importantly, a proven track record), you’ll be hard pressed to get a studio or financier to bankroll your first effort.
But don’t get discouraged. A first screenplay leads to a second, and a third, and if you keep on plugging away, a writing assignment from a producer who believes in your potential
Rite wright WRITE ‘til you get it right.
Jason Taylor is President of Production at Bad Hat Harry Productions. Full bio here http://www.londonscreenwritersfestival.com/speakers/jason-taylor
6 thoughts on “What ONE piece of advice…President of Production at Bad Hat Harry Productions Jason Taylor”
It just took me a few minutes to think very hard of where I heard of Bad Hat Harry. Then it hit me… HOUSE M.D. !!! My wife and I loved the show.
Although I know writing is an art form and it takes lots of patients and talent to tap out a script or two. But what I find so difficult to accept is how hard it truly is to even get a script out there. I have come across so many bogus contests, I don’t know who or what to trust anymore. I have sat for hours on end doing research on the Internet, just trying to find that one small loophole that no one else has found. Notta!! This business is so tightly packaged, it kind of takes a hit on the old ego and self esteem. I personally, can not afford these contests with the financial strain my family and I are under. But I have so much faith in my screenplay, that I refuse to give up on it. I have read A LOT of other amateur screenplays over the past 10 years since I started my dream as a writer. And I have to say, there were more action, shootem up, blowem up, blood and guts, sex driven, writers than I could stand. But I feel like, that’s what sells the most. And I feel as though if I don’t get with the program and follow their lead, I will never sell a script. I am more of a mellow, family comedy writer. No guns, no violence, no sex, no blood…. Just good old fashion, family values. That’s as far as my screenplay and children’s books writing goes. When it comes to my adult novels, then it’s all adult humor and subjects. But they are two separate entities. I can not combine the two for some reason. I can’t turn my novels into screenplays and I can’t turn my screenplays into novels. It’s like they have a mind of their own. Once the story comes to mind, they tell me how they want to be written. And I feel as though I was doomed from the very first word of writing my screenplays. Am I reading too much into this? Or do I even stand a chance against action and horror writers? Thank you for your time.
I’m one of the organisers of LondonSWF and I’m also a script editor and producer here in the UK. I can tell you there absolutely IS room for screenplays with the “family values” you speak of – though Horror and Thriller ARE popular markets, there are never enough great Comedies in the spec pile. If you write something that’s truly funny and marketable (whether for a family audience or not), you will find your writing in demand as there’s a real dearth of them about. But what’s a marketable screenplay? The US and UK are two different markets, but luckily me and Julie Gray (a US script editor) talked about this on Twitter in #scriptchat last Sunday! Here’s the transcript http://bit.ly/17wm0sM.
You also mention you’re not sure who to trust re: screenwriting contests; Julie runs the JUST EFFING ENTERTAIN ME contest which can help launch writers’ careers including a good friend of mine’s Jared Kelly, who is interviewed on this blog. My “Bang2writers” have also either won, placed highly or reported good experiences with the following contests: Bluecat; Final Draft Big Break; The PAGE Awards and Scriptapolooza.
We also run contests and initiatives here at London Screenwriters’ Festival, many of them free; you can also find other free opportunities via the likes of http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom. Here also is a list of UK production companies who will look at unsolicited scripts (for no fee): http://bit.ly/109H532
And here is a blog on how to get your work solicited via email: http://bit.ly/VATRqn.
You may also be interested in a bog post that will be going up on my site at http://www.bang2write.com about writers’ careers strategies, that will detail submissions and things you may want to consider … That will go up this Sunday (June 30th).
It absolutely is NOT a closed shop, but you have to go out and meet people. At the first LSF I told a new writer about my story, how I met the business partner of one of a producer with two of the biggest films ever on his credits; I was WORKING, he came in to buy something, we fell into conversation – I’m really good at getting into interesting conversation with people, but I had to practice – and when he mentioned work and I asked what his job was and he said film production, I asked him: “Are you famous?” he laughed and said no, “but my partner is”, and gave me his name. I had no idea who he was; it was 1997 and I couldn’t Google him, so he mentioned the two big movies and my very first reaction was: “Are you looking for material?” He laughed and replied that they were ALWAYS looking for material, so I told him how I’d self published two books (early 1990’s) and sold a couple of thousand of them through WH Smith (with no agent and NO publisher) and he read them, that led to an option, that led to a conversation about writing a script and here I am.
HOWEVER, the point of the story is: that newbie writer I spoke to at LSF in 2010 has progressed immeasurably and he’s on the verge of having his first feature funded, he called me yesterday for a catch up and he reminded me of our first conversation, when I told him that there is no ‘official’ way in, it’s all random, odd happen-stances and coincidences, BUT you have to be available to make the connections, you have to turn up and be a good person to get to know. And that is exactly what happened to him, going out, turning up for events, falling into conversations, NOT pitching people in elevators, not buttonholing producers at a bar with with your brilliant idea, it’s about being around, they have to want to get to know you. That, and if you put in the hard work, chances WILL come your way. Then you have to be ready and able to take those chances. Nobody wants to be SOLD anything, it’s about relationships, who you know and more importantly who knows you. Best of luck.
Absolutely Pete – agree 100%, it’s all about the relationships for sure … and the great screenplay! 😀
Some great advice here. Thank you Lucy and Peter. I greatly appreciate it. The only thing about the information you gave Peter is that I live on the coast of North Carolina. Home of “Nights In Rodanthe.” Nothing else happens around here.
We do live in a tourist area but the only way to know who is who that comes around here is if I wore a sign around my neck stating the people I am hoping to meet. I work in a very public setting and I am constantly mingling and meeting new people. So far, no such luck for me. And my current financial situation puts a huge damper on any thoughts of getting out and doing any traveling to promote my writings. But what you said does sound very logical. But I have to do most of my bidding by Internet and pray for the best.
Lucy, I will be checking out those links you posted in your comment. And thanks to the both of you for lifting my hopes of being able to get somewhere with my screenplays. Like I said, I thought I was just hitting blank air with a family comedy when action and horrors seemed to be in the market.
Happy to help Paul – but don’t worry, even if you live in the middle of nowhere, you can get somewhere via the internet! I live in a place called Devon here in the UK which is mostly fields and sheep 😉 My Bang2writers report good experiences with sites like InkTip and The Black List for selling their screenplays (Google to find them). Best of luck!