Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Write what you know.......?

....unless you want to sell it or have any success with it.

I only say this if you're a first-timer really, eager to break into the scriptwriting world. My college film professor always told us to write what we know. And I did at first. They all sucked. My first 3-4 screenplays were terrible, bad bad bad. Their plots were something about post-college friendship.....ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Bad plot, dialogue, etc. Pointless. All bad, 100%.

But I'm glad I wrote them, it helped me get the "kinks" out. Whatever it is you're writing, if it's your first script, it'll probably suck. Maybe not, but probably. So don't get too attached.

Screenplay competitions and production companies will toss them, the autobiographical stories, that's my opinion, anyway. They're not the ones that win awards or sell for half a mil. But you need to write them.

So, do I write what I know? Well, certainly there's a part of me in my scripts, but I haven't gotten too personal in years.

And out of my successes, did I write what I knew? No.

Option #1 - 1998, a script called GOOD PEOPLE, bascially a small-town comedy.
Option #2 - 2001, it was a comedy involving porn.
Option #3 - 2002, a kids movie you could see Disney or Nick making.

The best situation to have is something like Noah Baumbach's The Squid & The Whale. He didn't write it and put it out there 10 years ago, he did it now, when he was a BETTER WRITER. And I think it really paid off.

What do you do with your 1st screenplay, that just might be about or have a lot to do with your own life? Put it away, move on or if you think it's worth a damn, maybe re-write it after getting extensive feedback. Just don't count on many people taking to it, if you get it in great shape, you might just have to go and shoot it yourself, which might not be a bad thing.

My ultimate advice? Write whatever the hell you want.

And on an unrelated topic, here's Charlize.......


Optimistic_Reader said...

Hi Patrick, found your link on the Bang2Write blog. I've always been fascinated by the "write what you know" versus "write what you want argument". Seems to me that if you write about what you want to write about, as opposed to writing what you think producers, reader etc will want to read, then to some extent you are also writing what you know, but in a good way. Because there is a reason we are drawn to particular subjects and themes. A lot of the things I write about, I haven't experienced at first hand but I identify with what the emotions that the situation may evoke and with what the characters are feeling. As a script reader, the majority of the scripts I read don't ring true emotionally and those that do, no matter what the subject, tend to be the scripts that get a recommendation. So I always say, write what you want to write about, but understand why you want to write it.

Not sure if that makes any sense, it's been a long day today...

Patrick J. Rodio said...

It made as much sense as my post.


No, I get what you mean, and I agree with you.

Optimistic_Reader said...


oneslackmartian said...

Maybe this is semantics, but Write What You Know is different from Write What You Want. Sort of separate issues.

(Let me just insert here, that after reading my response, all of this crap is very obvious. Don’t mean to insult anyone’s intelligence, but since you are offering up free and unlimited web space, I will continue . . . .)

Hopefully you know what you are writing about. If you try to write a CSI script, but you don’t know shit about forensics, it will be quite apparent. Of course you don’t have to be a CSI Investigator Guy to write this type of script, but you better at least research it, study it, and know it.

I have that Life After College script as well. Well, mine was a novel. Egads, I must kill the people who I let read that. I must bury and burn that thing.

And as far as writing what you want, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. Unless you are a “pro” for hire.

Okay, back to research for Slackers, Inc.

Patrick J. Rodio said...

Good points, I guess what I'm saying is your first scripts usually suck (and may be the most personal). If I wrote my post-college script now, it certainly would be much better than it was 8 years ago.

Also, take anything I say or write with a large grain of salt.

Anonymous said...

but what if my first script is also my second, third and fourth, ha! I did major twists and Herculean cut/paste jobs and now neither draft resembles the other but basically is still the same screenplay. The question is am I writing my Fourth now or still my first?

BTW, I still try to catch re-reuns of Cider House Rules to see Charlize's exquisite bum

Joe in Haddonfield said...

Whether you're a screenwriter working on your "Ferris Bueller meets St. Elmo's Fire" or a copywriter using cheesy puns in your headlines, frequently a writer just has to get those things out of his system.

By exorcizing those demons you free your mind and just by writing, you get better.

This ties into your hypnosis-writer's block post. There is a simple truth to writing: it's hard. But by writing you get better and by working harder you get through the blocks.

Patrick: glad I stumbled across your site. I live in Haddonfield and thought I was only one of two screenwriters in the area. With you, it's three that I know of.

Patrick J. Rodio said...

Joe, awesome, do you have a blog? I'm right in Collingswood.