Becoming a screenwriter by Michelle Law
This blog post has been contributed by JUMP 2012 artist Michelle Law providing a fantastic insight into her journey as an emerging screenwriter. Enjoy!
I started working on television projects a few years ago with Brisbane entertainment company Hoodlum. At the time, they were after young writers looking to partake in story development and developing multi-platform content for a show called SLiDE for Fox8. As someone who has always been fascinated by the processes that happen behind-the-scenes on film and television projects, I jumped at the chance and was lucky enough to work with a stellar and extremely talented team. Some time later, I got called back to work on some other Hoodlum projects and got stuck into writing multi-platform content for FlashForward (ABC). And this year, we won an AWGIE award for our work on SLiDE.
Afterwards, I signed with an agency (RGM) and set to work on the television adaptation of my brother Ben’s book The Family Law. We’ve been working with Matchbox Pictures, who are the folks responsible for The Slap and Underground: The Julian Assange Story. Working with Matchbox has been a surreal experience because they’ve given me the opportunity to collaborate with some of Australia’s most gifted and generous writers and producers in the business. It’s also been surreal because I once auditioned for a role in one of Tony Ayre’s films and he must never find out because the audition was atrocious.
For me, screenwriting has been a massive learning curve, and each day I learn something new. I also love working in a team. Writing can be such a lonely practice and to me there’s nothing more fun and inspiring than being in a room of like-minded people bouncing ideas off each other and slowly becoming diabetic from the amount of snacks you’re eating. At the moment I’m working on The Family Law, a short film called Bloomers, and a half hour broadcast documentary in development with the ABC.
Build up a portfolio and find an agent. Speak to them about your work and try to get an endorsement from someone you know and have worked with in the industry. You hear it over and over, but in the creative industries it’s all about connections. That said, if you want to be a screenwriter and have some fantastic ideas, there’s nothing stopping you from writing and making work. If you’re starting out, find people in the industry who share your ideas and will change and build on those ideas with you until they are as strong as they can possibly be. Then take them to an agent.
Making projects & the process
As a screenwriter, it’s important not to have a big ego. Yes, it’s vital to stay true to your core ideas, but working in a team means that your ideas will be stretched and cut and morphed into different creatures and it’s your job to suck it up and stay true to the project and a collective vision. In some ways this is the beauty of screenwriting, in that you have a whole group of people bringing something different to the table and creating something you couldn’t have done on your own.
But most importantly, keep at it. Some projects are long (months and years long) and don’t pay very well, especially if you are an emerging writer, and they’ll really test whether or not this is what you want to do. But if it is, keep going! As long as you have strong ideas, are hardworking, have a penchant for sitting…and then sitting some more, and aren’t averse to the idea of developing a vitamin D deficiency, there are always opportunities.
Bloomers is my first short film. It’s a tragic-comedy about a teenage misfit named Stella who is miles behind her classmates in terms of physical development and is desperate to fit in. When Stella discovers that she’s the only girl in her grade who doesn’t have her period, she tries to fast-track puberty with the help of her best friends (Martin, her semi-closeted best friend, and Gabby, the token Asian kid) and take down the school bully in the process.
I wrote Bloomers because I wanted to tell an honest story about a young girl and growing up that doesn’t revolve around getting a boyfriend or having a makeover. And because there aren’t enough realistic stories about periods—besides Carrie, which is a horror story.
I’m currently running a Pozible crowdfunding campaign for Bloomers (ending 14 January 2013) that you can check out here: www.pozible.com/bloomers. Make a donation and there are plenty of prizes on offer, from film credits, to signed DVDs and books, to magazine subscriptions.
You can also watch a “Modern Guy’s Guide to Inserting Tampons” featuring my brother Benjamin Law and Lawrence Leung here: http://youtu.be/9soZ85x9Iig.
Or you can keep updated with the campaign’s progress by liking us on Facebook.