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Screenwriters: Why Having Multiple Projects Is Killing You and Your Career

Indiewire By The Film Doctor | Indiewire October 14, 2013 at 12:33PM

Below is an article printed originally on the website of London-based script doctors the Film Doctor, the name of the consultancy run by Oli Gots and Andy Wooding. You can check out their website here.
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Film Doctor

Below is an article printed originally on the website of London-based script doctors the Film Doctor, the name of the consultancy run by Oli Gots and Andy Wooding.  You can check out their website here.  

Now, you may have been told on courses or by word-of-mouth that having a huge selection of projects is a great idea. You are being safe. You are being flexible for the market. You are ‘keeping your options open.'

‘If you happen to bump into a horror producer and only have a rom com then that’s a chance wasted. You should have a Sci-fi, a horror, a Romcom, a Comedy, a Period drama ALL ready and waiting so whoever you bump into, you can pitch.’

The sentiment there is all well and good, but in reality things are much bleaker. If you are a writer, producer or director and are working on limited resources, team and cash-flow, what exactly are you going to do once you’ve got 3 different money people/agents/actors interested. Do you have the manpower to deal with all three projects?? If so, great (!!!) but if you’re more or less working alone or with a skeleton team, you’re most likely going to be bouncing around between the 3 different projects trying to ‘polish’ here and ‘re-draft the budget’ there over the next 2 years and chances are by the time you’re done, all interest will be lost.

The cold hard truth that you must accept: if you work on too many things at once, you may end up with a dozen failed projects instead of a handful, or even one, successful one.

This industry is risky enough without dividing your attention between several different possibilities. Your projects need you and you must be giving them the right amount of nurturing at the right stages.

Now, why is it that you’re working on so many things??

THE REASON BEHIND YOUR MULTIPLE PROJECTS

If it’s not because you’ve been told to have multiple project then, it’s just because you’re dedicated right? Kind of.

Part of it is you being sensible (which is a good thing) but what many writers/directors/producers do is sort of ‘actively procrastinate’. This is working on multiple projects at different stages to give themselves the feeling and illusion of working hard and going somewhere but without actually finishing off and having to face failure if it doesn’t go to plan. It is cowardice. It is avoiding that scary leap into one project and trying for the best.

Committing to something takes real guts. Anybody can have a dream or start a screenplay or make a few phone calls. Anybody can dabble here and there in different forms and areas. To get behind something takes knowledge, conviction and faith – a dedication that you may not have had for something before. You’ve got to get fully behind your projects (and yourself) to know what you’re capable of and do those deals/improve on your craft (whether writing/producing/directing).

How many projects have you actually finished? How many have been produced? Get yourself a back bone and commit to one of them!!

‘I have so many and they all get good feedback/I like them all. How do I choose?’

HOW TO GET TO THE COMMITMENT STAGE…

How do you know this is the one? You never do fully (there are plenty of fears and doubts along any tough journey) but usually you just know. You can feel it – the concept, the characters, the team – it all feels right and the responses from outside parties confirm this.

Let’s face it, we’re creatives. We always have something going on in the background. Another project, another idea, another dream. Even the biggest and the best have several projects running concurrently. So how do we reach the stage where we know we’re ready to commit?

The concept pitches well, the script reads great, the budget doesn’t seem ridiculous for where you currently are in the industry and you know yourself, no matter how long it takes, that the story has something in it that will keep you going to the end.

Look through your past projects, the ones that never made it. See what was missing in those. They always felt right at the time – like the best project imaginable – but focus on what aspect made them fall.

Now what about your current projects? Is the concept strong? The writing good? Have you taken it to the appropriate markets (AFM, EFM, Marche du Film)? Put the ones that aren’t working to the side, have a back bone and stick to one  and get it done.

This article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit: Screenwriting