When the postman stops at my door, it’s usually to deliver bills or junk mail. Today, however, I opened a parcel containing two very promising books: The Art of Script Editing by Karol Griffiths, and Reading Screenplays: How To Analyse & Evaluate Film Scripts by Lucy Scher.
Beats a damn bank statement any day. And the nuggets of knowledge they contain are likely to be worth more than the cover price for those who are going it alone.
One of the apparent downfalls of not taking a postgraduate course in screenwriting is the lack of immersion in your chosen craft. (Note that word, ‘apparent’.) Access to lecturers is shunned; the regularity of face-to-face interaction with fellow creatives is greatly reduced; and knowledge – that magical word that is commonly known to dispel fear – is a little more difficult to come by. Not to mention the self-discipline required to push on when there’s nobody around to actively encourage you during the tough times.
Today’s world is a lot different than it used to be, however. Now there are groups like Tuesday Night Writes, run by the spiffing Janine H. Jones both online and via weekly meetings in Cardiff Bay. And with the ever-growing availability of knowledge that is either free or a damn sight cheaper than current postgraduate fees, indulging in constant study is easier now than it ever has been – with or without uni. (No Bono impressions here, thank you.)
Of course, it is far from being all about the money.
I have read a fair number of screenplays, even analytically and with a view to providing my own evaluation of them. But as an autodidact there’s always that monkey whispering: “What if you’re doing it wrong?”
Well, thanks to books like these I can get a better idea of the tree up which I’m barking. They will take their place on my shelf alongside the books of John Yorke, Christopher Booker, and Linda Aronson to name a few, and I will doubtlessly dog-ear their pages for years to come.
Knowledge dispels fear. Without the right kind of mindset, that fear can drive some to spend thousands of pounds on an education that you could have got for a few quid in late fees from the local library (to paraphrase Will Hunting). At worst, it’ll cost you a fraction of your monthly wage and as much time as you’re willing to sacrifice – which, if you truly love your craft, will be as much time as you have to spare (and a little more on top).
With or without uni, professional writers put themselves out there, do the research, read the right material and get their pages down. There is simply no substitute for getting it read and getting it written.
Do that enough times and you might even get it right.