The Story Department is a platform for sharing screenwriting insights and writing tips but we also regularly publish stories of writers at the beginning of their journey.
Today’s story is that of Nigel Graves, a client who became a friend.
I love movies. I always have. Funny that I couldn’t figure out why I was having so much trouble writing a novel. I had written the first few paragraphs of at least ten.
My head was full of ideas, plots, characters, anecdotes, twists and turns, but it never seemed to come together.
Where the journey started
In the summer of 2005 I took a community college workshop on screenwriting over two Saturdays and the light bulb was shining bright. I imagined my stories in the form of film, eureka! The course was moulded around The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogler.
After finishing the workshop and reading the handbook we each received, I rushed out and bought a copy of Vogler’s book. That was it. After a workshop that lasted about ten hours and one book, I was ready to write the best screenplay in the world.
I was ready to write the best screenplay in the world.
I spent the majority of Sundays in the year 2006 writing my treatment and then my screenplay. I should say first draft, but it wasn’t to me. It was brilliant. I knew it was quite different from what was already out there, but that was what made it so great.
I also attended some other community college courses on filmmaking in order to improve my overall knowledge of filmmaking (‘shooting short films’, ‘editing’ etc.).
Early in 2007 I sent it to Metro Screen – a local facilities and learning center for emerging filmmakers – and was introduced to my editor. I’ll never forget the confusion he conveyed when he tried to explain how muddled and incomprehensible my masterpiece was.
Once I recovered from the initial shock, I quickly discovered that my editor was not simply shooting me down in order to make himself feel superior. He had every intention of helping me improve not only this script, but my practically non-existent screenwriting skills. He sent me on my way with a recommendation of a DVD he thought would help me and the instruction to return with a step outline next time instead of a complete screenplay.
The turning point: finding the structure
Slowly but surely I was improving and I must say I was really enjoying the process. I attended different workshops and short courses and did my best to network. I became a regular member of The Sydney Film Industry Meetup Group and The Sydney Screenwriters Meetup Group.
Slowly but surely I was improving and I must say
I was really enjoying the process.
I finally figured out that I was trying to cram way too many ideas into one story. After this realisation I was able to practically tear my story in half and really go deeper into one particular theme. It was extremely liberating and the new screenplay finally came together and took form.
I applied for the AFC’s new screenwriter’s program and was turned down. I must admit this really knocked the wind out of me. But only briefly. 2008 was a new year and I had a story itching to break out. This time I would use the skills I had learned to shape the story before I began, instead of trying to force a square story into a round hole.
Starting fresh with all the tools at my disposal, the story flowed out and took shape quite well and with my editor’s help I created a screenplay for a film that I could honestly say I would love to go and see. I even found time to make one of my short scripts into a film and enter into Tropfest. This was unsuccessful and of course, that hurt. But I learned a lot and am very glad I entered.
I created a screenplay for a film that
I could honestly say I would love to go and see.
Life took an unexpected turn in 2009 and my filmmaking dreams were put on hold for awhile. But I managed to complete the screenplay and polish it up at the end of that year and into the beginning of this one.
When I write this, I have completed a draft that I am confident enough to send out to producers and that for me is a huge accomplishment. The query letters have been sent out and now I wait.
So what has it cost me to get here?
I cannot break it down in detail for you but after about five years of reading, attending workshops and short courses, watching instructional DVDs and listening to CDs, countless hours spent with my story consultant, tweaking, polishing and sometimes, totally re-writing, I probably spent around AUD$6,000.
I must face the fact that my story may never become a film and I am OK with that.
Strangely, my life has headed in another direction and I am now preparing to go to university and study psychology. I will probably never pursue screenwriting with the gusto I did in previous years, but I will always write. I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey and would not change a thing. I have met some really amazing and talented people and made some friends I hope to have for life.
I must face the fact that my story may
never become a film and I am OK with that.
I can honestly say that if no one ever replies to my letters and it all ends here, that I am happy and very satisfied that I gave it a red hot go. I will not die wondering. That is what I have gained from all this. That is the true goal anyone who embarks on this journey should pursue.
If you really believe you have a story worth telling, tell it.
Don’t worry whether it will ever be made or not. I don’t have to go into statistics for you to know what the odds are, but your chances are zero if you never write it.
So write it and don’t be afraid to stuff it up and learn as you go. Don’t be that boring person at the pub saying “I could’ve done something, but……….”
Since writing this piece, Nigel’s first script has been requested by a genre director with multiple credits. Nothing has come from this to date, but it is the start of yet another journey.