Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Lately I’ve been trudging through one of my worst writing slumps yet. It’s the kind of slump that forces you to sit in front of the computer for hours on end without banging out a meaningful sentence. Stretch that over a period of 3-4 weeks and you know what I’m going through. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the last bad slump I had was around this time last year, which happens to be one of the busiest stretches for me at work. It’s tough enough to get the pages flowing when you’re mentally exhausted by the time you sit at your computer, but it’s another thing when you’re mentally exhausted and you don’t know which of your ideas you should be working on.

I don’t have a manager just yet to tell me “That idea is great and it’s got current appeal. You should work on that now, I know just the person who would be looking for it.” It’s up to me to reach in and grab one of my ideas, which seem to be constantly shifting their order of potential and priority. Right now I’m torn between writing what I want to write and writing what I need to write. In one hand I have several ideas that are more high concept and big budget in nature. These are the kinds of scripts that I enjoy writing most, especially if I’ve got one that’s historical in nature. They’re my “want to” scripts. In the other hand I have a series of script ideas that are more low budget and contemporary. These are the scripts that I feel like I need to write, largely because they balance out my body of work. Of my scripts that are most industry ready, they are definitely expensive, hard sells. Another reason why I feel like I need to write some of these smaller scripts is that the stories are more personal in nature. There’s more opportunity for me to put first hand emotional experience into the characters in these stories than in the bigger, high concept pieces.

I suppose it could always be worse. I could not even have an idea to choose from. Instead, I have several ideas that I feel are all above average. I just keep going back and forth, struggling through a few pages of one script before having a mini revelation and deciding that the other project is what I should be struggling through. How do you gain momentum when you keep switching creative vehicles? I feel like ultimately I’ll have to abandon one idea and focus my limited energies on the other until things improve and the slump lifts, but there’s still the question as to which one. I’m curious as to what some of you might think of a situation like this.

If you’ve got a distinctly character driven story and a distinctly concept driven story, is there ever one of the two that’s the safest bet? I know that can depend on so many things, but let’s enter the realm of fantasy and say you’ve got the best concept driven story ever and the best character driven story ever, but you can only do one. Which would you choose?


ScreenplayJ said...

It's hard, cause like you said, there are other factors involved when you're writing a screenplay.
if i had to choose one, i would go with the sory one. Cause, the story would be the main focus and the character would just be the one making it go forward, carrying it and not the other way around...
Not an easy decision fo a screenwriter..

Zombie said...

I feel like I'm in the exact opposite boat as you... All of my ideas are low-budget, character pieces, and I really don't have all that much to pass along as far as a "big" film script.

I ended up working on another low-budget piece... several characters, only one location, etc.. I'm afraid that might bite me in the ass, but it's also the idea I feel like I'm able to write best at the moment.

Is it all really about writing the best possible script, and hoping the right person would come along who fits it? Whenever I try to write the high-budget flicks, I feel cheap - mostly because it's not the genre I'm skilled in, and because I'm only writing the idea because I think it could sell.

DOA said...

Actually, just last week I was torn between writing a new script that is very low budget but with wide appeal, and the current script which I started last year and vowed not to drop until it is done. In the end, I stuck with the current script, mainly because I realized that the only reason I started the new script was because of frustration toward my current condition. I will go back to the low budget new script one day, but probably when I don't have any new script idea.