On Twitter, I got asked this:
@ScriptwritingUK is it right for a professional to participate in a screenwriting event created for amateurs?
— Steve N. Evans (@snegags) February 20, 2014
At first, I didn’t know what he was talking about but I soon discovered it was in reply to the news that I had made the top 5% in the BBC writersroom script submissions:
— Steve N. Evans (@snegags) February 19, 2014
On the surface, this is a perfectly reasonable response from the viewpoint of a new writer trying to break in. After all, I’ve got some decent credits, am involved in the industry, so surely I’m a professional writer who’s established himself and doesn’t need any help?
I have a professional outlook, certainly; I deliberately position myself to be as professional as possible with my writing career but all my focus and energy goes into making this happen. It’s a choice, and a constant hustle. No-one asked me to be a writer. No-one asked me to be a freelancer. But here’s the thing, even when you make some headway in the industry or start to build decent credits, the industry can just as easily ‘drop you’ or forget that you even exist.
Last year, my agent went on maternity leave and then decided not to come back, so that left me in agent-limbo. I had no-one pushing my scripts around town or championing me in meetings. And the success of the Red Planet Prize meant I was helping other writers (some who already had agents) to get the spotlight that I wanted to be part of (indeed, in one particular opportunity I was pipped to the post by a couple of Red Planet Prize writers). So I decided I had to take control of my own work and career path, and the only way for me to do that was to submit one of my scripts to the BBC writersroom. Luckily, I made the top 5%, which is a great boost for me, but it’s all to do with hard work and commitment, and trying to attract industry interest. It’s not a mockery of the system.
There seems to be various tiers of new talent. There’s fresh new talent: writers who’ve never written anything until now, hoping to get a break. Then there’s new talent: writers who’ve achieved a few things already, like a short film or a play or radio script, but still new by all accounts. Then there’s rising new talent: the writers who are on the up, making their way in the system and attracting some attention but not fully established. Occasionally, each tier of talent is naturally going to be envious or bitter of the tier above them, especially if it looks like someone’s getting a break when they don’t need it. And sometimes it’s hard to know which tier of talent you’re actually in. For a recent application for Creative England’s film fund, I spent most of the morning trying to work out if I was ‘New Talent’ or ‘Emerging Talent’. I chose ‘New Talent’ but ultimately was informed that I was more suitable to ‘Emerging Talent’ (as a filmmaker). Still, that’s genuinely good to know!
I met a writer the other day who said that ‘the energy required to becoming a screenwriter would fuel a rocket to the moon’. Indeed, becoming a screenwriter, and maintaining a career, is truly an E.P.I.C. undertaking. You’ll need Energy, Passion, Inspiration and Commitment. I do stuff like the Red Planet Prize and the UK Scriptwriters Podcast because it’s a natural extension of what I’m passionate about; no-one asked me to do them, and there’s nothing really for me to gain!
So, those of you who may look at my profile and think: ‘Danny’s got it made, he doesn’t need any help’, then I say to you: I work bloody hard, and I keep working hard, because that’s what it takes, that’s what I have to do, with or without an agent, or any industry preference. The system can chew you up and spit you out, and there are many writers who need a chance, not just anyone new who thinks the industry owes them some attention. You’ve got to earn it.
Just trying out your comments section and I think it might be working. Congrats again on making the top 5%!