Dr. Ken Atchity, author/producer: They’re in love with image of being a writer. You know it’s the romance of being a writer, the struggle, the torment, the agony and the ecstasy, all of those grandiose concepts that writers have done to get bigger paydays, you know that’s all good.
I had a writer (who was been a client for years) a dear friend who we sold like 12 of his screenplays and it took him (honestly) a week to write a screenplay. And it took me three years to train him never, never to admit that.
And so I got him an agent and the agent was always beating him up and saying You can’t say that. You have to say you need 3 months. 6 months or whatever. You can’t say you do it in a week. They won’t…we’re trying to get a million dollars for this. And the truth is you can do it in a week. But you can put it aside for two months and go back and work on it some more and so on. Because the reality of writing is much easier than the myth of it.
“When you learn the mechanics [of writing] then you can be happy. And you can do it whenever you want to do it. Like any writer who knows it will tell you they can write on trains, busses, planes, they can write standing up, sitting down.”
Walker Percy one of my favorite novelist who wrote The Last Picture Show said Perhaps the secret of speaking is having something to say. And that’s what it’s all about, you have a story to tell, then you can tell it, it’s not a problem. Just don’t start writing it until you know the story. Like you don’t start telling the joke before you know the joke. You don’t walk in with 3 by 5 cards and tell a joke from the 3 by 5 card. You know the thing by heart and then you tell it.
When you learn the mechanics then you can be happy. And you can do it whenever you want to do it. Like any writer who knows it will tell you they can write on trains, busses, planes, they can write standing up, sitting down.
I had a dear friend (my client for years) Nancy Friedman who wrote on her back for the last 10 years of her life because she couldn’t sit up and she couldn’t stand up and so she wrote on her back and she just kept writing books.
And the writing is easier if you know what you’re doing. And whether it’s Harlan Ellison or Ray Bradbury, they’ll all tell you the same thing. But when you think it’s this huge agony and it is (like Virginia Woolf and so on), she’s never figured it out, that’s why. She’s believed that it has to be an agony to be good. And I don’t think Shakespeare was in agony. I think he was just dashing this stuff off as fast as he could write because he was reading everything that was coming from Italy and South of Europe and stealing it like crazy, redoing it, copying it. He heard stories all around and he just couldn’t wait before going to the pub and after going to the pub to sit down and dash it off. And he revised, he spent a lot of time revising. We know that from the folios but it’s not the living in the garrett, starving thing that has to happen at all. It’s just figuring out what you’re doing. It’s a craft, you know, it’s a craft that has to be learned.
And the art comes in, there are brilliant people who do the craft and there are not-so-brilliant people who do the craft. So there is plenty of room for art but it doesn’t have to be cutting your ear off kind of thing.
Question For The Viewers: What’s your reaction to someone writing a screenplay in a week?
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