Screenwriting : Do you have to believe? by Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy

Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy

Do you have to believe?

I’ve been watching a William Goldman interview from 2010. Like many other established screenwriters, he contends if you don’t believe in a script idea/topic or don’t give a damn about it, you won’t succeed in crafting a good script. I don’t completely agree with him and have written a few scripts for producers where I wasn’t mad about the concept. Forum dwellers, where do you stand on this topic?

Craig D Griffiths

I think you have to believe in some part of it. Either it will succeed, that it is worth telling or that you can improve it.

Craig D Griffiths

To add to my other comment. I can write anything. But if true success comes from doing great work. I couldn’t do my best, aspiring to be great, if I didn’t believe.

So I have to agree with the Great Goldman.

Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy

Craig: It sure helps to believe in what you're writing about or drawing from personal experience. I've done it the other way and it's worked. But it isn't as much fun.

Steve Sherman

It comes down to passion for the project beyond that I think it's like phoning it in.

William Martell

I frequently turn down jobs when I don't care about the story and can't find a personal "window" into the story.

Phil Parker

When you're first getting your foot on the ladder and can't afford to be too picky, you have to find an angle on the story that gets your juices flowing. Injecting personalities/quirks/world-POVs into the characters based on people I know is one way I do that.

Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy

William: I just turned down writing a movie for a producer doing a Netflix project because he was married to a really crappy treatment a non-writer drafted. I've also walked away from producers that want to be writers. Often times, they're not very good at it.

Tony Ray

In my humble opinion, I think it depends on what you're working on. If you want it to become a work of art, you'll put in the sweat and love it. If you're just working on a run-of-the-mill, it's-been-done-5,000,000-times-before flick, then you'll only care as much as you need to. I've seen it happen at 9-5 jobs too, where people can put in the effort whether they actually give a damn or not.

My advice would be to try and be an artist as much as possible. As for success, it depends on your approach.

Axzavia James

I agree with Phil Parker. I always customize a story to fit my world. If I'm writing about Ninjas (which I am) I know I'm not from that culture but I've had many experiences that I can feed off of to flesh out the characters. Belief in a script idea/topic upon hearing it is not important. The key for me is to understand the idea and then make it make sense in my world. Once the characters are established the writing flows like water.

Ally Shina

Yeah, if belief in a script was a factor in writing a successful script, all those Hollywood remake and sequel writers wouldn't be able to do their jobs. In the end they write for the cheque, and a part of their soul dies every time it comes up in a Q & A session that they are the writer behind that soul crushing sequel.

Doug Nelson

Phillip - I have to agree with Goldman on that. You can always get a job in the Writer's Room for a ho-hum series. Hey, it's a paycheck.

Dash Riprock

Think of it like marriage: If you're not fully invested, you're just going through the motions. And if you're just going through the motions...

Lindbergh E Hollingsworth

If you can' "sell" it to yourself and be excited about it, then you sure as hell won't get anyone else excited about it.

Rosalind Winton

Speaking for myself, I live, eat, breath my screenplay. It's the first thing I think about when I wake up, it's the last thing I think about before I fall asleep. I believe in it so much, I'm passionate about it and it's been two years of pure joy to write and I'm still working on it. I'll talk about it to anyone who will listen and show it to anyone who wants to read it. I'm hoping to have it finished by early next year and then take it to the next step. It's a story I've wanted to tell from when I was 11 years old, I tried everything, writing it as a short story, trying to write a novel, which didn't work out, but once I discovered screenplay writing, I got to it and it's working. I think you have to have a little bit of passion for what you're writing, you have to have some belief in it. Having a personal investment in the characters you're writing for gives them more scope, more depth when you crawl into their personalities and traits. I think of it like acting, if you don't believe in the character you're playing, anyone watching the show won't believe in them either. You've got to write as though you're acting :)

Dan Guardino

I can't agree or disagree because I am passionate about everything I write. If I don't like the story idea I change it so I do.

CJ Walley

I think it depends on where you are in your career. The motivation to put food on the table will bring passion to pretty much any opportunity. When you're comfortable and get to pick and chose your work, not so much. This is one of the issues with established screenwriters giving advice to amateurs - they have often forgotten what it was like to break-in, broke in through contacts, or broke-in during a different era.

Ben Johnson Jr.

It's an interesting question. I haven't watched the interview so I don't know the context in which Goldman said that, but I think it depends on what you mean by "believe" in the story. If you mean believing that a story is worthwhile telling, I don't think you need to be personally moved by a story to tell it well. It helps to be moved, certainly, but it's not essential, if you're adept at the craft of writing. Even if it's not your cup of tea, world view, or life experience, you could, and should, do it well because your writing is a reflection of you and on you. But if you mean you don't believe the story will work as a story, that's a lot tougher. I was recently hired to do an adaptation of a novel which the author thought was amazing but in my opinion was full of plot holes and made a terrible film. He fought every suggestion or change we wanted to make. It was a truly horrible experience trying to write a good screen adaptation when I believed the original story was terrible, and wasn't given room to change it.

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