Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Nobody Knows Anything, The Golden Nugget of Hope

Submitted by Richard Hogg

It seems that a lot of wannabe screenwriters daydream about getting up to accept an Oscar. This is the pinnacle of all the effort and creativity they pour out onto the page. For me, the end goal is to sit down at the screening, doubters at my side, and have the 20th Century Fox fanfare blast out announcing to myself more than anyone else that I should never have doubted myself.

Looking at the endless amount of screenwriting information, articles, script services available there seemed to be a lot of information to take in order to guarantee success. A word which is rarely whispered over here in Britain.

But do we need all of this. If on average I take in less than five percent of what I read (no I’m not irretrievably stupid, this is a average for most people) then think of all that wasted time spent on act structures, plot lines, climaxes, and dialog do’s and don’ts.

One day I began reading William Goldman’s now renowned “Adventures in the Screen Trade.” And in it’s pages I found a voice that gave me more hope than any of the other books on the market. Here I wasn’t being told the rules that I could learn then break, a phrase that has proved to me to be as useful as a chocolate teapot. Here I discovered a truth I still believe in today and one which I had probably read before but had been lost with the other ninety-five percent. Goldman says “nobody knows anything” and then goes onto include himself in that phrase. HE HAS NO IDEA OF HOW HE DOES WHAT HE DOES. This from the man who gave us Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.

I looked up at a shelf groaning under the weight of other how-to books and heavyweight texts like “Story” or a Syd Field volume. Now I didn’t have to struggle with the feeling that I couldn’t be a writer because I didn’t fit the type. I never got so into my writing that I stayed up all night like they did. In fact, I seemed to self-destruct and in the middle of a creative burst of pure inspiration would find myself pacing the house just to get away from the keyboard. Was I afraid that I would mess it up? That I couldn’t get down on the page what was in my head?

I never used the techniques they mentioned and their logical train of thought seemed lost on me as I spent time writing.

Even writing this very short article I am struggling to think of things to say. Is my point valid? Do I have a point or am I just writing for the sake of writing? Why do I always end up raising more questions than I answer? But how can there be any answers if Goldman is right?

If you have read this little rant (it would be wrong to call this thought fart an article) then well done. Reading it again I realize that it will not solve any script problems or provide any inspiration. Perhaps the only thing to glean is that you either have it or you don’t. Or maybe that there are others who do what they do but not in the way they’re supposed to.

Do you write knowing that it’s not really up to standard but that it’s what you always wanted to do? Maybe you are talented enough but haven’t quite got to grips with business side of things. All I know is I get a sense of total satisfaction when I write something that I would pay to see. So I guess what I’m saying is JUST WRITE. Your imagination is the key, the books just help tidy things up.

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