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The Writing Life
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Should I Produce My Own Films?
by Laura Brennan
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I am interested in screenwriting, but I am very discouraged by the stuff on TV and in films. Even though I like movies, I have given up on watching modern ones and TV for the most part. Most of it is filthy and the stuff that isn't depraved is so poorly written that I shut it off after a few minutes. Other than producing your own works, what can you do about it?
While I agree that some dreadful stuff gets made, I personally see that as a good thing. After all, if dreck can find a producer, surely a terrific script can as well.
What you must understand is that it is never easy for anything to get made, good or bad. It takes an enormous amount of energy, dogged determination, and rewriting to get something on the screen. To my mind, it's not worth the effort if the screenplay isn't top notch. Excellence, like charity, begins at home, so make sure your writing is up to the challenge.
There are movies (and to a lesser extent, television) for every audience. The trick is finding producers who make the kinds of things you want to write.
First, figure out what you'd like to write. Family films? Romances? Dramas? Then make a list of every film you've ever seen that you liked in that genre. Ask your friends what movies they've liked. Go to the video store and browse by genre to find out what other movies may be out there. And when you're at the video store, armed with a list of movies like the ones you write, check out who produced each title.
Now you know who makes movies in your genre.
Contact them with your completed script, or with a strong pitch if you have an idea but don't feel the need to be the writer on the project (you can sell a pitch, but you probably won't get to write the project unless you have writing credits. Which is why, if you want to be a writer, I always recommend you have a completed script -- that way you'll at least get some screen credit.)
Or, yes, you can produce your own work. You might try producing something as a play first -- less expensive, more manageable -- just to make sure this is something you enjoy. Baz Luhrmann's first film, Strictly Ballroom, started out as a play. He produced the play all over Australia and used it to raise financing for the movie version which ultimately launched his career as an innovative director. Other filmmakers produce shorts that work as self-contained stories, but are also part of larger films. These shorts also serve to drum up interest and financing, especially if they win a few festival awards, and obviously cost a fraction of the price of shooting an independent film. Finally, you can jump right in and shoot an independent movie; although it's still preferable to shoot on film, digital technology is a more affordable option, and expanding cable outlets mean your finished product has a potential market outside of the festival circuit. For a tale of someone who believed in herself and worked like mad to make her dream happen, look no further than My Big Fat Greek Wedding, made for $5 million and currently the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time.
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Laura Brennan has written for a number of television shows, including The Invisible Man for the Sci-Fi Channel. She also co-created the children's series, Queen Augusta's Heroes.