A guest post by local screenwriter, Michelle Muldoon…
As a screenwriter, you need to understand the market you operate in if you want to find success. You can’t play the game and expect to succeed if you don’t know the parameters for a winning hand. The more you know, the more you do, the better your chances. Canada has its own unique set of challenges and the days of screenwriters blissfully typing away without a concern for them are over.
Writers have often been told not to worry about budget and let the creative juices flow. That advice is unrealistic. Larger Canadian budgets tend to come out of Quebec or are a part of co-productions. The greatest output of Canadian Film comes through the Telefilm Talent to Watch Program, formerly known as the Ultra-Low Budget Program. Last year’s Canadian Screen Awards Best Director Award went to the director of a film partially funded under Talent to Watch and came in with a $250,000 budget.
First-time writers have their backs against the wall regardless of the budget of the script. Why make life difficult. Get a first feature, short film, pilot or web series in the bag at a low budget because you need to develop…
If you aren’t in the game for the long haul, then you aren’t in the game. It takes time to create an identity within your film community. Work on other people’s projects in order to gain an understanding of production. When you’re ready, consider producing your own short screenplay. The knowledge gained on production processes and the accrued expenses will inform your next screenplay. At the same time, you’ll be creating an identity by starting your IMDB listing and thus proving that you can and do work with your film community. To move a feature film or television project forward, professionals need to feel confident they can spend years with you collaborating on the end goal. That belief starts somewhere.
Every screenwriter needs more than one screenplay or original TV spec script in their portfolio. It’s part of being a professional. The urban legend of the producer that responds to a pitch with, “Not crazy about that, what else you got” is not an urban legend at all. It happens and will happen to you. Writers write. A producer wants to be sure that they are working with someone who understands the process, can generate ideas and complete rewrites based on notes provided. Building a portfolio proves you have the commitment to build that career and the “stick-with-it-ness” to see something to the end.
The passion for writing fuels creativity while awareness of the business of film stokes a career. One cannot exist without the other if you want to make it in today’s market. Learn the expectations, boundaries, and requirements of a writer in today’s market, and you’ll feel more in control of the journey.
There is nothing linear about the path of a screenwriter. During the 2012 Winter Olympics, the Canadian Women’s Ice Hockey team wrote a letter to the Men’s team to be read right before the gold medal game. The most famous quote from that letter was, “The podium favours the brave.” So does a screenwriting career.
Be brave, be prepared and most of all, be ready for opportunity to come knocking by taking matters, and your career, into your own hands.
Michelle Muldoon is an award-winning writer and filmmaker living in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her films and screenplays have been recognized at Film Festivals in both Canada and the United States. You can read more of what Michelle has to say on her own blog. You can also follow Michelle on Twitter or Instagram, as well as join the fans following her latest award-winning all-female western short, Last Stand to Nowhere.