Posts Tagged ‘Persistence’

“You need to have a lot of perseverance and persistence in order to get things through, which was certainly true for The Theory of Everything.”
Producer/screenwriter Anthony McCarten
(Who said he worked on The Theory of Everything “more or less, for 10 years.”)

Oscar-nominated and  BAFTA-winning screenwriter Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything) started his writing career as a journalist with a small newspaper in New Plymouth, New Zealand. Along his writing journey the 53-year-old has written plays, novels and TV programs.

“When I left university, I tried making it as a poet for a while, but there was no money in poetry. So, I turned up at an unemployment office and they said, ‘We have no positions for poets at the moment, but can you act?’ I said yes, of course, but it was a complete lie. And I found myself performing a reduced Shakespeare for schools. This threw me into the world of actors and opened a door for me to write a play. It’s how I morphed from someone who wrote poems to someone who wrestled with plot and structure and character and movement and so forth.

“I was 10 years into being a playwright and, during that time, nurtured a desire to write a novel. While I was developing my skills as a novelist, opportunities arose where I was asked if I would be happy to turn my novels into movies. And that returned me to my first love, which was TV, and the stories I grew up watching in black and white.”
Anthony McCarten
MovieMaker interview with Mark Sells

Related posts:
“I can’t keep handling this…rejection” Advice from a now Oscar-winning screenwriter.
Perseverance (Werner Herzog)
Tennessee Williams on ‘Apparent Failure’
Bob DeRosa’s ‘Shortcuts’
How to Become a Successful Screenwriter “I think every writer harbors—secretly or not-so-secretly—delusions of grandeur.” Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt (whose own writing journey echoes McCarten’s—Perseverance & Persistence).

Scott W. Smith



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“I am goal oriented and very persistent… Furthermore, I am an adrenaline-junkie and of the competitive type: the more straining and risky the situation, the more interesting it appears to me.”
Windsurfer Karin Jaggi
Female windsurfing speed world record holder (41.25 knots)

I was out windsurfing* yesterday and a couple young guys were watching and one of them asked me, “Is that hard to learn?” That question made me think about screenwriting.

Because like screenwriting, windsurfing has its appeal. Though windsurfing is not as popular as it used to be in the 80s, it’s still poetry on water. I still have visions of seeing masses of windsurfers back in the day gliding across Biscayne Bay in Miami, off the Seal Beach pier in Southern California, and on a large lake near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. As the large group of boomers aged those mass sightings of windsurfers became much harder to find. (Though it is still an Olympic sport.)

So it’s encouraging when young people show an interest in windsurfing, and there are reports that the sport is in revival. But the answer to the question,”Is it hard to learn?”, takes a little qualifying. In the right conditions (light wind), with the right equipment (small sail), and the right instructor you can be on the water doing basic windsurfing in a few hours.

Which is like screenwriting. With a pad and paper, and perhaps an example screenplay by your side, you can begin to write a screenplay in a matter of minutes. Perhaps with a teacher and a computer and screenwriting software you can be writing scenes that look pretty much like any screenplay.

But as a friend of mine says, “It doesn’t take long to learn how to play the game of chess…ahh…but to play it well takes a lifetime.”

There are various levels you plateau in any endeavor which explains why successful screenwriters often talk about persistence. Persistence to write screenplay after screenplay learning the craft. Persistence to write something not merely good, but something that gets others excited enough to want to invest time and money producing, persistence to keep writing despite seeing what gets produced to match the preferred demographics, persistence though getting a screenplay optioned but not seeing it get made, persistence to keep going once your screenplay gets made—but with other writers brought it to re-write—and you being less than thrilled with the results, persistence beyond getting a film made but it not being well received by critics and/or audiences, and even persistence to write the next screenplay after you’ve had a hit film made and won awards.

“Persistence isn’t using the same tactics over and over. That’s just annoying. Persistence is having the same goal over and over.
Seth Godin

One of the most popular searches for people finding this blog is Googling “How much do screenwriter’s make?” I’m not saying that’s a wrong motivation to begin your screenwriting quest, but if you read my post it probably won’t get you too pumped up. The bottom line is successful screenwriting is hard, and relatively speaking there aren’t that many people getting rich doing it. On the feature film side, the WGA reported last year that only 237 writers were given credits on films last year.

(And list the screenwriters who are content with finding a balance between art and commerce and you might be able to put a softball team together.)

But the addiction to screenwriting, like windsurfing, is best cured by doing it.

P.S. For those interested in technical things, I took the above photo using a GoPro Hero camera mounted to a bike helmet.

*Yes, you can windsurf in Iowa—it’s actually the seventh windiest states in the US. Granted it’s not much fun windsurfing in the winter, but it can be done. Though yesterday, it was warm and sunny, and the winds were probably peaking around 25 knots which is pretty decent for recreational windsurfing. Iowa is the second largest producer of wind energy in the U.S., just behind Texas. (If you have a farm with a hundred wind turbines on it paying you $3000-5,000. each per year, you’d be doing okay.)

Somewhat related posts:
Kelly Slater on the Digital Revolution
Screenwriting & Florida Surfing
Screenwriter’s Work Ethic (Tip #2)

Scott W. Smith

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