Start Your Next Script: When More Is More

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Start Your Next Script: When More Is More

Some novice writers get stuck in writing, re-writing, polishing, and marketing their one and only script for years, a surefire recipe for frustration and disaster. They'd have better chances of sparking their creativity, boosting their output, and furthering their careers if they gave that script a break and started a new project.

"This business isn't about one project. It's about consistently returning to your contacts with the next great movie," says producer Hal Croasmun. "Do that and you'll build a career."

Writer Pedro de Alcantara gives us these tips for working on more than one project at a time:

Take a seasoned screenwriter you admire, and make a list of his finished projects. Let's consider Richard Brooks (Elmer Gantry, 1960; Lord Jim, 1965; Looking for Mr. Goodbar, 1977). His career spanned more than forty years and boasted several dozen finished projects, including several novels. Now imagine you're 80 years old and, like Brooks, you too have dozens of films to your credit. How will you have accomplished all of that?

Realize you need to juggle several projects at the same time. You won't fulfill your talents—or earn a decent living—if you work on a single project alone, from beginning to end, before taking on another one. The endless rounds of drafts, the possibility of rejection, the time spent in development hell could mean each project will face a 10-year slog with an uncertain outcome. That's just not fun.

Alternate between projects, and vary the level of commitment to each one. If you're under a tight deadline, that project ought to take precedence. But there's a lot of merit in your preparing, sketching, or simply "dreaming" another project at the same time. Take breaks from working on the main project and do a little research on the secondary one. Two hours one afternoon, a few moments Googling this or that another time. Breaks allow the main project to "rest" while another one "works." Before you know it, you'll have a new script shaping up even as you put the finishing touches on that urgent project.

Accept that the screenwriter's life includes many activities: reading, researching, outlining, drafting, revising, taking meetings, networking, attending screenings, and more. Working on any one project demands a variety of skills and the ability to do many things at the same time. If you already need to do six or eight things for your current project, it isn't that hard to do another one or two on another project.

Find the right number of activities for your temperament. Give each activity its proper weight, and find a fluid rhythm for alternating activities. You may discover that the best rhythm and the best alternation may well require a greater number of activities than you thought



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