Writing Big

Lately I’ve been writing bigger. That’s what I’m calling it anyway. Big. Bbig.

When I went from writing short comedy to long form screenplays I immediately started writing scripts that I thought I could manage on a shoestring budget. Small. Small scale. I wrote and wrote and this became my norm. In a country where a 1.5m film budget is what you shoot for and 5m is just obscene, can you blame me? Small country, small goals, non-existent audience.

But what does a budget matter? How is that the hallmark of a good story or even a good movie?

It’s not. But it is sort of a type of movie from a industry point of view. And that’s been my latest life lesson in pursuing this career of mine. This is an industry. A dollars and cents industry. It’s all well and good to make a movie - hey look at me, I’m making a movie! - but the party’s over unless you can sell it. Period.

See, there’s nothing about that little tid bit in the envelope with your government writing grant. Money from heaven. Ask no questions.

And what’s happened lately, as I’ve worked hard and had good fortune enough to have interest from the film industry down South, is that my collection of economical, small scripts don’t really amount to much. It’s like I’ve been invited to a potluck picnic and I’m the guy who shows up with a 2l bottle of Coke. An unrefrigerated bottle of Coke. With no cups.

So I’ve been writing bigger. It’s a hard thing to put a definition on but there’s a marked difference between a script that’s been written with a budget in mind and one that’s been written with abandon.It’s not just a matter of locations, effects, stunts and so on; there’s a language, a tone, that you allow when writing “art” scripts versus the broader appeal necessary for producing material fit for an actual film industry.

It’s got to be big.

Ironically, the closest I’d ever come to writing in this fashion previously is when I used to write those animated comedy shorts, lo so many years ago. Because back then I was writing for the audience. Not for other filmmakers. Back when broad was good, the target audience was wide and the intellectual brow was low.

So that’s been my little thing these days. That and this other thing that I’ve been wanting to announce to you for a long while. More on that… Eventually. In the meantime, go out and see a summer movie. A blockbuster. Revel in it. Marvel at how terrible it probably is. And appreciate just how tricky it is to get that terrible formula right.

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