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Screenwriting: it's a marathon

I’m a seasoned writer but when it comes to screenwriting, I’m green. I try not to compare myself to ambitious 20-somethings, who’ve got a leg or two up on me in terms of energy, enthusiasm, and ample time to make professional mistakes. But I do, and it’s a losing game. We all have something to offer. My advantage is I know things they’ll learn a decade down the road and life experience = superb insights. Especially in writing.

I’ve been transitioning to screenwriting over the last 3 years and the most glaring thing I’ve learned is you can’t self-publish a film. When dreaming, developing and writing my first screenplay I was naïve about this. I kept plodding along, unaware that writing for film (versus writing an article) is like comparing apples to, uhhh, bowling balls.

An article, blog or even book can be self-published. It needs a writer, editor and publisher and often, all 3 are rolled into one. But movies are a huge financial and time investment involving hundreds of people. Just look at the dizzying rolling credits from any Lord of the Rings film, which even includes a standby armor and weapons technician for gods sakes, and you’ll know what I mean. The screenwriter is but one of many making a story come alive on the screen; yet they are still a key figure—their idea must be intriguing, unique, doable and ultimately, bankable. Like any profession, experience and scope matter. Would you prefer to get into a taxi or into a car with a new cautious driver still taking lessons? It's a no-brainer: most of us trust experience.

I am experienced as a writer, but still learning as a screenwriter. This is where the patience I lack becomes visible. I want results NOW because, to continue with the same metaphor, I’m a great driver. Or at least I thought I was as I now find myself switching from a car to a 747 making a long-haul international flight. It’s clear I need to keep my day job while writing the next screenplay, and as for that old patience thing, well, I’m learning to have more of it each day. As writer CJ Walley puts it here, the film business is like running in a life-long marathon: it's about training, pacing, persevering and having a passion for the sport.

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