by Peggy Bechko
“Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.” William Goldman
If you’re writing screenplays or teleplays you know who William Goldman is – a writer with many hats who’s been writing, publishing, etc. for many years. Screenwriter is among his numerous hats. Mr. Goldman is approaching 85 now according to what I can find and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he’s still writing. That’s the glory of being a writer. You do it until you drop dead usually.
I admit to being a bit of a Goldman fan and have read some of his books along the lines of Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell. And I’ve enjoyed Butch Cassidy And the Sundance Kid and loved The Princess Bride. The above quote is pretty plain and right on. And it should give every writer some hope.
Nobody really knows what’s going on from one year to the next or one venue to the next (i.e. movies, TV, web streaming) so there’s absolutely no reason why you, writer that you are, can’t get a script purchased and produced. Hey if you’ve written a fantastic story or come up with a remake idea that will roll just about everyone back on their heels, go for it. Just make sure your writing is the very best it can be and don’t be shy.
Of course along that path to ‘fame and fortune’, there’s another great quote from Mr. Goldman, “There is one crucial rule that must be followed in all creative meetings. Never speak first. At least at the start, your job is to shut up.” And may I add to that, have another project you can mention if asked, pay attention to the notes, scream inside your head, then follow through on the notes.
Or, conversely if you hate the guy giving notes, scream AT him, walk out and contemplate whether anyone will ever take a meeting with you again. Your choice. Oh, wait, there’s another possible. They like the story. They don’t like you. They offer to buy it but someone else does the rewrites. My advice? Like I have to say it…take the offer and run – straight to your next project. Maybe next time they’ll like the story, like the writing and even like you.
But Mr. Goldman has something more to say about screenwriting and the screenwriter, “Being a screenwriter is not enough for a full creative life.”
Hmm, what now? Well, that certainly can be all you do if that’s your choice and maybe you can prove him wrong. But, I, personally, am not going to argue that point. When I haven’t been writing novels published with major houses I’ve written scripts I’ve optioned, comic books I’ve created (writing and illustrating) with a partner and Indy published.
When I’m not doing any of that I’m squishing precious metal clay into various configurations and firing in a kiln, or making felt bunnies I put in plastic bags and leave in cubbies at places like coffee shops to be found by whoever might need one. So, from all that you can readily see, I’m sure, why I wouldn’t disagree with Mr. G.
My creative outlets are many and I do suggest writers at least try something else to see if it both adds to their own creativity and enhances whatever script or novel being worked on. It truly is amazing how one thing feeds off another. How creating with hands, for example, molding clay, can free the mind to new ideas and whole new directions for stories in the works.
So I’m sure if you’ve read this far you can see why I can appreciate William Goldman for his fine creative (and award-winning) work in film, his fiction and non-fiction and his succinct and pithy remarks.
If you want to know a bit more about a man who definitely knows something, here are a couple of links:
Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and don’t forget Peggy’s wonderful blog. Whew! Busy woman!