I received a letter from a screenwriter with doubts. Doubts about his chances of making it in the industry, about his process in trying to get there, and perhaps ultimately about his own talent.
Meanwhile, here is the letter.
Dear Karel Segers,
Hi, my name is Kryz Woodhouse, and I’m addicted to screenwriting.
Six years ago I was working as an assistant manager for a retail company and was feeling the pressure to move up into a store manager position. Keen to expand my horizons I began meeting with other companies looking for store managers and found quite a lot of interest.
I took some time to stop and think: What did I want to do?
The nagging answer: I wanted to write more.
I realised that when I get to the end of my life and look back, I’d rather have failed at something I wanted to do than succeed at something I didn’t.
I left my job, got a fairly easy part-time non-management position instead, and threw my spare time into writing.
At that time I had already written a few screenplays and undertaken a number of screenwriting courses and I was convinced that with one year of hard work and dedication I could come up with a seller.
As I said, that was six years ago.
A few weeks ago I submitted the first rough draft of a screenplay at the conclusion of your Immersion Screenwriting course. This would be the start of my tenth screenplay.
I am hungry for the next step of my career, but for all the information and courses out there, none of it seems to be progressing me any further.
Yes, I am motivated by the job of the craft and not the lure of the dollar. Yes, I have focused on developing and writing awesome stories rather than chasing agents and producers. Yes, I have been entering leading international screenplay contests, and have made it twice into the top 10 per cent of finalists, but do I keep writing and flogging this tired trail, hoping to one day beat the odds of one against many thousand?
Repeatedly I have been told the first step in selling a screenplay is to become a great writer first.
Well, I am a great writer. I say this not to be vain, but I honestly believe it. I also have great feedback from both friends and professional assessment services. I have done many courses, studied many books, and have written and written and rewritten and rewritten.
I’ve told myself it doesn’t matter that I live in Tasmania, away from most of the industry. It doesn’t matter than I have no connections. It doesn’t matter than year after year, I get older and older and more delusional. Story is king.
I’ve told myself I can overcome these barriers if I work hard enough, be committed enough. If I keep writing and writing and getting better and better… then finally… perhaps one day…
But here I am. Years later with a growing pile of projects underneath me, yet still no closer to finding the next doorway, never mind having a chance to open it.
And so. This year. I will again continue to write, and get assessed and do courses. I would like to send some of my more developed projects to your services for assessment, and I look toward the Get Your Script Read course that you are proposing to run later this year.
But, in all seriousness, is it worth it?
For me and all those in similar situations, or all those who are just starting out, is it worth it? Is the belief that if one works hard and is dedicated enough one might finally sell something – or, forget selling, just have somebody, anybody, willing to take a shot at making a film out of it – are there any grounds for this belief? Or are we doomed to keep writing, doing courses, rewriting, reading books, and more writing – forever?
And look, if that is the case, it’s okay. Even if I’m doomed – or perhaps it’s not within me to write well enough no matter what I do, ever – then I will be hurt. It will smart. But I will sooner or later return to the thrill of screenwriting like the addict I am. Because succeed or fail, this is what I love to do.
I am a writer, and I will keep writing.
But, still, I just thought I would ask.
I’m grateful that Kryz allowed me to publish his letter.
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.