Watching the film ‘Eye in the Sky’ recently reminded me of my own military career experience and of conversations I’ve had about how similar it is to screenwriting and filmmaking.
Each involves a highly collaborative environment, often under a lot of pressure, where excellent communication is critical to success, and failure can be very costly. Both require you to develop your craft and skills to the best of your ability and to undertake continuation training at increasingly higher levels, so you can always perform at your best level for the good of the team as well as yourself.
So you start with that beginner’s enthusiasm, thinking it’s going to be fun and you are pretty special (in military parlance, the DBs… the dog’s bollocks). You quickly realise there’s a shed load of stuff you don’t know and that it’s never going to be easy. You feel like an idiot for ever signing up to this, think everyone else is better than you, feel like a fraud for being there, learn how to fail and fail badly; it’s not much fun. You go very deep into the ‘why am I doing this?’ and almost give up (some do and that’s the right choice for them – you really have to want it with all your heart to carry on or you do yourself or your team no favours).
Then something clicks, you start to get it right, your confidence and experience builds and you understand your own weaknesses more so you can address and eradicate them. You connect and bond with your peers and start to experience a mutual support network. You learn from each other as much as your instructors and more experienced counterparts. The uniform begins to fit you better and you feel comfortable wearing it. You stand taller, prouder, smarter.
You grow, you improve, you flourish. You come to believe in yourself and know you do belong, regardless of what anyone else thinks. The fun returns, but now you recognise the challenges ahead and feel better equipped to face them head on and with more confidence that you will overcome them with determination, hard work and maximum effort. You really are the DBs now.
For me, London Screenwriters’ Festival has been my screenwriting boot camp, my training ground, my continuous development alma mater, my challenge to keep working at always being better and performing at my best level. It’s also my ‘tribal home’ (as well as taking part in numerous other LSF and GFilm initiatives, this will be my 5th London Screenwriters’ Festival).
To any screenwriter I would say this, if you are able to go but are procrastinating (we all do it as screenwriters daily; I’m doing it now writing this!), if you are not sure it’s worth it or that you belong, I would encourage you to sign up and give it a go. London Screenwriters’ Festival really is the DBs.Helen Mirren studies her character profiles and story plot board for her next screenplay ;0)
PS If you can’t make the whole festival, consider signing up for the various the single day/event options too. No training is ever wasted.
Bio: British Screenwriter Dee Chilton, successfully navigated being a woman in a man’s world to rise from the lowest Rank to Commissioned Officer in the Royal Navy. Recent successes as a screenwriter include being an Academy Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowships semifinalist, Austin Film Festival second rounder and Stage 32 New Blood competition Winner. Her screenplay ‘Darken Ship’ was included in the ‘Blood List’, and has achieved high ratings on the ‘Black List’ website from where she was selected as one of the four writers invited to take part in the inaugural Black List/Athena Film Festival Mini-lab in New York. Her first short film is currently in post-production and another is in pre-production.