Like pretty much every consultant, every now and then I’m asked:
“Is this worth it?”.
On the surface, the question means:
“Do you think this script will sell?”
It’s a simple question, which I can honestly answer in most cases. But I don’t, because what really matters is the question’s subtext, which goes something like this:
Is it worth spending another year of my spare time
on a screenplay that may never see the light of day?
Indeed, if the movie never gets made – the likelihood of which never seems to decrease as our industry gets older and more cynical – you may have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in consultants’ fees. Is it really worth it?
My honest opinion?
Irrespective of what happens in a year or two, three, you’ve already won.
A movie on the screen would be a bonus.
Let’s look at all the amazing stuff you’ve achieved and learned while toiling and tinkering on that screenplay.
- You have been actually writing rather than dreaming of it.
- You have given your spare time a higher purpose.
- You have learned to organise your thoughts and think clearly.
- You have learned to express your thoughts in writing.
- You have learned how to express those thoughts concisely.
- You have learned to see what really matters to you.
- You have learned a hell of a lot about the world outside your head.
- You have learned a hell of a lot about the world inside your head.
- You have learned about the nature of the film industry.
- You have learned what screenwriting really is about.
EACH of these points will give you further value, will teach you more about life and about yourself as you mature as a writer.
All of this wisdom you will keep, whether your work will lead to a movie or not.
What if all you want is to see your work on the big screen?
In that case, it’s even simpler. If you started writing less than five years ago, stop wondering and keep writing, simply because the more you write, the more you learn, the better you get.
Those who made it seem to agree: Screenwriting success takes on average 5 years and/or 10 scripts. Shortcuts are not available.
Back to the opening question. Is it really worth it?
When writers ask me, I’m honoured and humbled because it shows that they trust me.
On the other hand I’m also annoyed and frustrated because I can never give the right answer.
It’s a question only you can answer.
And although deep inside, you may have doubts, every day writers keep being surprised about what the world has on offer.
So, what do you think – is it worth it?
UPDATE 2017: Check this follow-up article.
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.
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5 thoughts on “Is It Worth It? [Will This Sell?]”
How inspiring! You are so right. No matter what happens with our scripts they are never, EVER, a complete waste of time. Thanks for spelling it out, Karel. Every writer should print this out and hang it near their computer. I certainly will be.
This is good Karel…inspiring! Thank you
Well done Karel. When I look back over the journey of writing my first screenplay I can honestly say I have grown so much and I know my second one will be so much better.
I stuck a band aid on my son’s finger the other day. What do you think about my chances of becoming a brain surgeon in the near future? Duh!
Seriously, though, Karel, I’m not sure where you get the 10 scripts / 5 years bit. A survey of WGA members in the US discovered (I think) that working writers wrote on average nine feature scripts before SELLING one (NOT getting one made). My own experience, for what it’s worth, is that I wrote seriously for 16 years before getting my first feature made. And this was despite doing episodic TV and writing an Oscar nominated short film along the way.
‘Is this script good enough to get made?’ is really the wrong question. Movies get made for all sorts of reasons, and the quality of the script is frequently not the overriding concern – you don’t have to watch many movies to figure that out. The real question is, are YOU a good enough writer to get into the game, to prove to people that matter that you’re worth taking a bet on, whether that’s an original script, an adaptation or some other work on assignment. And the only way you can demonstrate that is to write. A lot. And often.
My advice to all budding screenwriters is this. GIVE UP NOW! Frankly, I don’t need the competition. There are easier ways of making money, and more rewarding hobbies.
If the above paragraph has in any way put you off screenwriting, then believe me, I’ve done you a great favour and saved you a whole world of pain.
By the way, I should say that I’m a current client of Karel’s, and every dollar spent on him is a huge investment in all our futures.