Screenwriting : Y B a Screenwriter? by Doug Nelson

Doug Nelson

Y B a Screenwriter?

His is one of those questions that continually haunt me. You and I could be anything from an appraiser to a zoologist if we really want. So why become a screenwriter? What motivates you? I’ll return after a few responses.

C.m. Andino

The simple answer to that is don't become a screenwriter. If you have a choice in the matter, run the other direction as fast as you can. But the fact is most of us don't have a choice. We are writers. Even if we're not putting anything on the page, we're still developing the stories in our heads. We'll never be "normal", so we may as well exorcise our demons in a way that has the potential to benefit us. I've yet to have any of scripts produced, and even if I never do I'll still write on. I can only imagine the high that must come from seeing your vision come to life. That's the high I'm after.

Cherie Grant

I don't really buy into the 'mystifying' of why we do this. 'We have to', 'we're not normal' blah blah give me a break. I think it's cool and I enjoy writing not just screenplays, but practically everything else too. But I'm a visual person so screenplays seem to fit and they are less daunting than novels. I love comedy and I love the idea of writing a comedy tv show. Being there while the audience laughs at my jokes would be amazing. It's a crazy dream that won't likely come true, but if I don't at least try then it definitely won't come true.

Debbie Croysdale

C.M is right. It's what we are. (That's how I feel, I realise others may feel different). In past jobs I've "clocked off" and abided by others rules, watching the clock with zero passion. With writing I'm absorbed body and soul 24/7. Lol. Even on Easy Jet I write ideas.

Jorge J Prieto

Because writing is not only my life, but it saved my life, when I was a bullied teen, with fears and secrets that I wanted to run away from and I did because I could be anyone I wanted through my characters. My characters were not afraid, were not geeks who looked gay, were not wimpy or scared to fight back . Now days is a way of life for me. I write because I enjoyed it and to answer your last question because everything inspires me, from a song, to a story I read or watch, to one a friend or family member told me and my brain goes on overdrive and of course my personal experiences inspire me to write about them as a form of catharses. As I just heard just an hour ago from an Exec that happy writers had via a webinar, " the heart of a story (emotionality) and character that grabs them" I write because I need to , it's my passion and a calling. I used to write lots of short stories in college for a creative writing class and right before graduation I ran into the Professor (Not teacher) and he said "what ever you do, keep writing because you're good at it.". I'll keep writing until God allows me. Thanks.

Debbie Croysdale

@Jorge it's good to hear writing got you through a bad patch when younger. The pen truly is mightier than the sword, writing can take people anywhere, with no boundaries and infinite possibilities.

Doug Nelson

I find it interesting. Most of you respond with warm fuzzy-touchy-feely answers to a cold hard-edge question about your career choice. Why so? Screenwriting is a profession (like appraisal, accounting, architecture…) – don’t kid yourself. Recently, we have seen a split:: There are those who adhere to the old tried & true story structure (group A) and there are those more adventitious souls that veer off down more creative pathways (group B). Group A churns out the schlock that Hollywood uses to make a buck – and they’re well paid for it. Group B writers tend to look down their self-righteous nose at group A writers for turning out all that drivel but seem envious of their economic status. So, why do you write - for fun or profit?

Reggie Walsh

I just keep coming up with ideas, stories all around us, they just go into files and I sit down and come up with a script. The Question isn't "Why" It's "Why not"

Debbie Croysdale

Hi I agree with above @Reggie. "Why not." It's better to build a library of creativity, than waste ideas, or idle the time away wondering why we aren't being asked to write a Hollywood sequel.

W. Keith Sewell

At first I started writing because I loved to create stories and see them dramatized. But I didn't love it as much as eating, so I got practical, learned a trade, pursued a tech career. But the stories never stopped generating... Now writing is a means of getting from point A to point B - to actually producing what I see in my head. It all starts with the writing and creativity, but my mind is also on the biz side of things now.

Debbie Croysdale

Hi @Doug "Write for fun or profit?" Both, hopefully. There is nothing wrong in having passion involved in any given career. Eg Nurse who delights in seeing patient get well, Car Mechanic who spends free time tinkering with certain models of car, etc, etc. Of course as you point out serious money is often found Hollywood, with similar story structures, but I prefer non linear Indie. However I don't consider myself to be in "Group A or Group B", if I was offered a job in LA, I would be willing to Adapt myself to Old Style Story Structure. I think a writer should be open to change and challenge, within their craft, and not always leave the tests and adventures to their "Protagonists.". Happy Weekend All.

Doug Nelson

Remember; there are no absolutes here so there is no right or wrong answer – but I’ve noticed a trend during the past few years as the old Hollywood dinosaur continues to stumble about while a new breed of more nimble indie filmmakers evolve. This has implications that we screenwriters must come to terms with. The cold, hard facts are that nearly all of us need to make a buck every now and again in order to survive, recognize and this burgeoning indie world is not quite ready to support us group B screenwriters. We write because we are addicted to the creative process – not driven by financial rewards (although few of us would turn down the money if offered.) My advice to my fellow group B screenwriters is to keep your day job. There will always be a need for a very few group A writers to churn out the Hollywood claptrap and stoke the old star maker machine. And there will always be a few who aspire to membership in the group A clan but beware; group A is a very small, tightly knit, extremely turf protective and ruthless bunch and those of you who aspire to membership are almost certainly doomed to be road kill. Lets hear it for the group B screenwriters (Scriptscribes as I like to call ‘em.)

William Martell

No choice... there's a bomb attached to my keyboard and I must type at least 50 wpm or it explodes. Real answer: I have written novels and short stories and ransom notes, and used to make short films on super8mm and then 16mm... but the cost of film became so expensive that I switched to just writing the movies instead of writing them and then filming them. I still write prose fiction - a writer is a writer.

Jorge J Prieto

Here's another interesting comment from a guest speaker on Film Courage YouTube channel, that in some way reinforces what I said of how I got into story telling as an introverted, repressed teenager. I had stories locked inside of me and these stories and experiences are a big part of the stories I write today as an adult, who's of course has seen and lived through more tragic experiences than as a teen, even though those early traumatic experiences left me with scars that I can erase, but feed from when ever I need to create pain and emotion in my characters. So, in some away I'm grateful to have them and survived them, even though at the time I just wanted to escape them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDqMZsRt2Dw

Doug Nelson

So for some, writing – any kind I suppose – is a form of healing from life’s everyday trials and tribulations. That’s a good thing but it leads me to sort of a side-bar comment: I’ve noticed that young writers tend to create flat, cardboard characters poinging me to the conclusion that the creation of intriguing, interesting and multi-faceted characters requires more life exposure and observation than younger writers have yet to experience. I feel that this has a lot to do with today’s Hollywood drivel – most of the group A writers are pretty young and when a truly good script does pass through the hands of a lot of younger corporate executives – it is sadly dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. But keep the faith - the indies are coming.

Debbie Croysdale

@doug. Good observation, I've on occasion watched a film with a great plot/script, but the intrigue was dampened by weak or simple characters. The key players characters could have been mined, to show deeper layers eventually brought to the surface. Also the mind play between each person could have been richer, and interactions between protagonist/antagonist much stronger. As you put it well, "dumbed down to the lowest common denominator." You're right to keep the faith ......Indies are coming!

Cherie Grant

You know Doug I said that once on here and got lambasted.

Doug Nelson

Lambasted for saying what? That most young writers don’t know their nose from a hole or that the big studios have been overrun by a bunch of money hungry MBA airheads? (I have an MBA – I know from whence I speak.) Remember that an awful lot of folk can’t handle the truth.

Reggie Walsh

I just want to do what I love and support my family.

Cherie Grant

Yes Doug. Just that, but much kinder actually. Funny how same people aren't having a go at you.

Anna Aizic

An artist, published my first book, took me long time introducing myself as a writer, let alone Screenwriter. More so, thinking about James Moffett and legendary Syd Field... Seriously...but apparently, writing become a merely additional form of painting with words, telling stories with pictures. When following an inner need with dignity without any expectation of being rewarded- as fame and money- the result may appeal to few, yet it is a raw material of truth. Thanks and happy M Anna

Emily Hu

I love my day job and find it really rewarding, so there isn't anything missing from it that I'm seeking in writing, per se. For me, screenwriting is a hobby pure and simple (albeit often an expensive one; thanks, profit-hungry Hollywood). On any given day, in no particular order, if I don't binge-watch something on Netflix, then I read, or go outdoors, or rent a movie, or do crafts, or write. It's fun and refreshing and gets the blood flowing, but it isn't anywhere close to being my whole life. As for screenwriting specifically, I started in prose but learned a few years back that all my stories play out like movies in my head before they make it to the page. Screenwriting seemed the logical medium for that.

John Garrett

I am writing short films for myself. I am making them. I am working on features with a vague notion that I will make them too. Although at least one will require a budget that appears might be a real stretch. So maybe I will pitch that one.

John Cougar

I love the visual writing form and marking up my writing with vision and audio in-mind, and yet finding that economy of expression that captures all of the salient details within the expressions themselves: art, science, form and function all rolled into one. An ultimate form of expression and communication within which to indulge my fantasies!

Geoff Hall

The compulsion for storytelling lies deep within me! I was attracted to screenwriting through the films of others. I wanted to know how they told stories like that and once I started, I just couldn't stop.

Doug Nelson

Now we got a discussion going. My original post had to do with why a screenwriting career choice more than anything else and frankly, I expected to hear from a few misguided starry-eyed souls that they were motivated by the money, fame and glitz. Whew! I glad to hear that most of you (writers) write because you want to, because it’s therapeutic and/or just because it gives you pleasure. You’ve renewed my faith in my fellow group B writers. I’m confident that the indie filmmaker world can make it after all. Evidently a number of you agree – I received eight requests to join in other’s network just this morning.. Sorry, no can do – you’re all outside my self imposed 100 mile radius, but thanx for the complement.

Andrew Bee

Hey Doug, excellent question and post. I write because it is a vehicle that, when I can access myself, my essence, allows me to express my deepest feelings, using words that originate from me. The first feeling is pleasure, just to create. Would I love to sell a screenplay? Of course, but it will never come from the fear, doubt and anxiety that I read so much about on social media. So, I just keep plugging away and focus on improving the skill.

Jeff Cross

It's a way to get stuff I want to see actually made.

Lynne Logan

OOPS. I think I just deleted my post. I''ll try it again. Bottom line, I write because I don't want to go to my grave with my story still in me. Simple as that. It starts as "art", then ends up as "work". The final piece . . . something that I hope shines light in the world while I'm in it. I just found this quote that sums it up: Stop thinking about writing as art. Think of it as work. If you're an artist, whatever you're going to do is going to be art. If you're not an artist, at least you're going to do a good day's work." - Paddy Chayefsky

Andrew Bee

Great post, Lynne.

Beth Bollinger

The stories - the ones in my head - that ask to be told - from a visual perspective - with conversations going on in my head - some of the stories, and their characters, are noisier than others - four stories have made it to final form (with the fourth being another person's story but I became the screenwriter and now, the story - and the characters - take up real estate in my brain) - they get stacked up, sigh - with time being the immutable factor that I face when trying to get from head to paper - Thank you for asking

Debbie Croysdale

@Beth Hi it's true some characters are noisier than others......some kick ass if I don't heed their voice.....and start to write.

Daniel Staley-Myers

It's great to be a screenwriter but people if they don't see you go to an office they don't think you work, it's a hard business to be in if people just see you on your house typing on a computer.

Doug Nelson

For any of you who remain unconvinced or are nonbelievers: Screenwriting = work (often hard work with no immediate pay-off.)

David Levy

Great posts from all! I love screenwriting because I enjoy seeing my stories play out as I write it. Knowing the joy and siles my work can bring to others. I used to work in sales and financial services. I was bored all the time. I would master my job and then lose focus because it would get boring. No excitement when you have to stick to the confines of others in a typical 9-5 setting. I am a creative person trying to make a living in noncreative jobs. Do what you love and stick with it, even if it means not being successful immediately. If screenwriting was easy, everyone would do it. Those who work through the hard times are better for it in the end. I love to write stories and short comedic ideas I know will make others smile. Can't do that selling insurance or long term care to a 55 year old! I have so many ideas to write from one hour pilots and sitcoms to full length screeplays and web series shorts. I love to write and create to make other smile, bottom line!

Bruce King

It's thrilling to create a story that can move audiences emotionally and perhaps change people's perspective a little bit.

Daniel Staley-Myers

What irritates me is when you have an excellent screenplay but directors are not willing to help you with applying to fund it, that makes it really difficult when 2 departments of film making don't want to help each other out.

David Levy

A former showrunner and writer friend of mine who is typically a comedy writer wrote a sic-fi screenplay that many loved. He kept thinking about getting the script into Steven Spielberg's hands. Well, one thing lead to another and Spielberg asked him to send over the script. Spielberg loved it. Spielberg said it was a great stpry and script, problem was, it would need a $500 million dollar budget because it was so high concept. This was about 10-12 years ago. Shit happens, scrape off the shit and keep moving forward.

Jeff Cross

For David: reminds me of how the only reason why X-Men and Avatar were unfilmable during the previous millennium because the requisite visual effects tech didn't exist.

Dean Steven Nichols

That's a great question, but if I can become a screenwriter, why do I want to become an appraiser, zoologist, and everything in between? Screenwriting makes me feel special, creating a world, its occupants, the happy or sad circumstances, the conflict, the horror, (my specialty,) seeing the character's arc on the screen and the audience booing or applause, regardless. It makes me feel supreme. I can be the appraiser, the zoologist, the Frankenstein, a demon, an angel, or anyone I want to be through my writings, and I love it.

Fiona Faith Ross

Grrrrrreat question! Of the many responses I hear bandied about, the commonest are, "I've written since I was knee high to a [insert insect or animal of choice]", "I always knew I blah blah..." etc., but the best explanation I heard the other day, from a dear friend (who is not a writer). "You have to do it because it's a compulsion," she said. Sums it up very neatly. I mean, nobody would be in their right mind to choose to go through all the pain, would they?

Elisabeth Meier

So true, Fiona, it took me decades before I could admit that I actually wanted to become a filmmaker and write films instead of articles, reports and books. It is inside me and I feel so much better and am healthier since I dared to follow and trust my innermost feelings and write screenplays officially. So, just as Fiona said, I had no choice if I wanted to survive.

Doug Nelson

Great responses one and all - very telling; my take away (actually, many) is that this forum’s participants are pushed toward writing for internal reasons (escape, creativity, therapy…) – not driven by economics. I’m confident that most/all of you would peddle your scripts for the right price (only you know your price) – but you’d still go on writing. I have yards of various screenwriting books on my shelves; they all point toward the economic benefits of screenwriting. Am I the only one who sees this disconnect?

Elisabeth Meier

LOL, Doug. Don't underestimate us. We are tough cookies when it comes to negotiating. Thank God so far no disconnect.

Doug Nelson

I certainly don’t underestimate the writers herein. As a matter of fact; I believe that the types of writers who regularly participate in forums such as this will have a critical part to play in the evolution of the film industry in the near future in guiding us away from today’s formulaic pablum. My only hope is that we can construct a viable economic platform for Indie films along the way

Debbie Croysdale

@Some more great views/insights from Doug above. We can all do it. "Indie Will Out!"

Elisabeth Meier

Doug, that sounds great. Maybe an extra lounge here at Stage32 to keep it all under one roof?

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Hi Elisabeth hope all is well.

Elisabeth Meier

Yep, and very exciting at the moment. How is it in the Upper East?

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Great. Rupert and I are scouting locations in Central Park on Sunday for our Doc ."New Yorkers on the Rocks". We are going to shoot it on an IPHONE6 with attachments. How is your project going with the children?

Elisabeth Meier

Oh, we had the first day today and these 9 year old know very well what they want. I thought they would like to make a stop motion - no way, they want to make a real film, a detective story, which will also be filmed by iPhone. So, in the first three hours today they created a plot and I shall now do the magic to bring these ideas into a screenplay. They'll then check it and tell me what to rewrite. :)) Next Friday they'll film the first scenes and try what works and what not. I leave it up to them, because it shall be completely their project. Great fun for all of us.

Jorge J Prieto

Great fun, its always great, Elizabeth. Best wishes to you and everyone involved, my darling.

Elisabeth Meier

Thank you, Jorge.

Jorge J Prieto

You are welcome, my lady.

Doug Nelson

Time to put this thread to bed - I'll start another soon on creativity. Thanx

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

I ask myself every day. Why do I want to be a screenwriter? I am 63 years old. I have had a very successful advertising/sales/telemarketing career for over 30 years. Why start this now? I don't know. Could be my family background. Could be I like to make people laugh. I just don't know. All I know is I love it. I can't see a day going by without writing. Will any screenplay I write be optioned, sold or produced? Who knows? I just know it is something I WANT to do. If I get paid for it one day, FANTASTIC. I may not know the destination but the journey is a kick ass ride. So to all my fellow "Happy Writers" who have helped me in this first year I thank you. I could not do this without the selfless fellowship that this community provides. And if you are new to Stage 32 or just coming back stick around. You just might learn a thing or two. I will end with this. I believe this is the greatest fellowship of writers since The Bard had the gang over for Mutton and Ale to talk shop. And a special shout out to our fearless leader. ALL HAIL RB!!

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Thank you Wolfman!

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Motivation from the Wolfman always works. Be nice to Little red riding hood too.

Jorge J Prieto

Steven, you are a natural comic. Lol.

Randa Karambelas

Because being any other thing seems wrong for me soul. So I write. :)

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Randa Karabelas---What is right for" me soul" is to write. Whether in the morning noon or night. The stories I tell make you smile. I hope on film they run a while. So on a cold day here in New York. I continue to write with lots of torque. I know these rhymes have no place. But It's Valentines day, I feel God's grace. Yeah Poetry not my thing. I'll make more money and be happier as a screenwriter. Sure beats telemarketing Yeech!! Phooey! Ugh!! Take that Batman! Hey Wolfman ! Cholent Boy where are you? Oh no Mr. Bill Oh no!! JOKE--- So a Priest a minister and a Rabbi are on a Fishing boat. And the Priest says," I 'm a little thirsty I think I'd like a nice Guiness", So he puts down his fishing pole walks on the water and comes back, The Minister says, " I could go for a sandwich", So he puts down his fishing pole walks on the water and comes back. The Rabbi in total disbelief says, "Oi Vay such men of faith such conviction, I think I'd like a drink also. So the Rabbi puts down his fishing pole leaves the boat and drowns. So then The Priest turns to the Minister and says, "You think we should have told the good Rabbi where the rocks were"

Bill Costantini

Steven - that was a good joke, and so was your rap. Maybe you need a nickname - like "Grandmaster Guteneshama" or something like that. Have you ever seen The Dancing Rabbis? They are a scream. I used to play guitar in a band that were all Observant Jews (except me). We used to take classic rock songs and they'd change the words to reflect lessons for Jewish kids. It was pretty...uh...interesting. Yes...interesting. 613 commandments they'd try to live by, and us Catholics have a hard time with our ten. Heh-heh.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Cholent Boy- Good to hear from you. Since I grew up in Canarsie, Brooklyn I am familiar with the Dancing Rabbis I think Jimmy Kimmel had them dance on his desk once. I am in the middle of a marathon viewing of "The West Wing" I am taking notes. I think Aaron Sorkin is a writing genius the way he engages us all with this machine gun, razor sharp dialogue that condenses more information into a minute of speaking than some people say in an hour. I know I want to succeed as more of a funny screenwriter. You know how much I worship Woody & Mel. But I have to tell you I am up to episode 6 of the first season. And I am seriously considering taking a crack at a more dramatic form of screenplay. Story I can always come up. We all can. But this kind of dialogue that Aaron Sorkin writes. WOW!! We can learn from a master of this kind of narrative I am truly impressed. A little jealous but truly impressed. When are you coming east? You know there are a few sandwiches I owe you not to mention some kinishes and a couple of Cel Rays. Later I want to get back to the White House.

Jorge J Prieto

Go for it, my dear Steven. Just LISTEN to your characters voice, just like in comedy, if they make you laugh, in drama, they will touch you and make cry. You have a life time of experiences and stories to tell as compared to much younger writers, generally speaking.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Jorge- As always thank you for your kind words. I still want to stay with funny. But I want to at least give Drama a try. I know it has to be a political thriller in the "All the Presidents Men or"Spotlight" area if I am going to enjoy writing it and of course HAS TO TAKE PLACE IN MANHATTAN!!! Thanks.

Aray Brown

it's my passion and i'm not good at anything else. Gift from God

Jorge J Prieto

You are right, Aray. Writing came to me when I was at my lowest as teenager and it was a blessing.

Debbie Croysdale

People grow and change every day. Some time ago I answered this thread in its youth. I'm a couple of months older now, and wiser for each day. So my answer now "There is no other Option."

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Wolfman- There you go again with them negative waves, These are mother loving beautiful stories and there are never too many to tell have a little faith Wolfman! Have a little faith. If we ran out of stories, we would run out of life. Stories are what defines our humanity and they will ALWAYS be told. AMEN!!

Jody Ellis

I can't remember a time when I didn't write, quite honestly. And I've always been an avid reader and movie-goer. The segue from prose to screenwriting just made sense to me. I've had a freelance writing business for years, which has given me a nice side income, but of course I would love to make money writing tv and movies. I don't see myself ever NOT writing in some way, but yeah, I want to make $ too. Color me mercenary, meh.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Jody Ellis-- The color of mercenary is always green. And it is a beautiful color. It allows us to buy red roses for our girlfriend. A new blue suit for our brother. Some yellow tennis balls for our sister. A pair of black shoes for our friend. Yes, and it all started with mercenary green. Writing is our talent. the joy it brings us and others however will always be PRICELESS.

Jody Ellis

Well there ya go Steven, green IS my favorite color! Haha

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Ka ching!

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

"When you say Bud. You say a lot of things nobody else can say. When you say Bud you want the king of Beers. you want nothing less It really is the best. Cause when you say BUDWEISER You''ve said it all. (Couldn't help it beer jingle rattling around in my head from 1987) . Anyone know the Miller jingle?

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Wolfman--Okay Beer sucks, Wine sucks, Whiskey sucks, Vodka sucks, But then again I am a friend of Bill W. So all alcohol sucks. I just like the jingles.

Tao Ryan Moua

Because I failed at math, and some others are: to express my thoughts, speak my mind about the world and the problems we have as human beings, and to try to understand our nature (Hint, like many other writers but a novel is too long to write: George Orwell, Anton Chekov, Yan Lianke, William Shakespeare, Earnest Hemingway, Jane Austen and many others).

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Wolfman-- No matter where you go there you are.

Fiona Faith Ross

There you go, SHA. :)

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Fiona Faith Ross-- I wish you well with what you write. When the spirit grabs you just take flight. With Comedy, Action or Romance. I am sure you know you have a chance. So as we all just write along. We hope a producer can help us a long Ka-Ching, Ka-Ching.

Fiona Faith Ross

SHA Thank you for your kind wishes. I've got my old verve back with this one. I'm really enjoying writing it, and I have total faith in it. :) Still, encouragement always helps.

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