Thursday, July 26, 2012

If you can make it here, you can make it.... anywhere?

Only three and a half weeks to go til I embark on a 17 hour journey in a tin can, watching straight to DVD movies and eating trays of plastic food! Sold the house last week and I’ve moved back into my folks’ place for the next month. I still can’t believe the house is finally gone, and with it a MASSIVE, building-shaped weight off my shoulders.

So there’s only the small matter of getting three scripts into shape and putting together a list of agents and managers to contact.

With the 3 scripts, I know what I have to do to fix them and make them gorgeous. But time to do the plastic surgery was low what with the house move and all. Now that that’s over, I need to get off my ass and do the work.

What I have noticed is that the more scripts I write, the more I seem to know a. when stuff needs fixing and b. in a general way, what needs to be changed. This is a shock – could it be that I’ve learned something, totally without realising it? Time was when I used to write something and then have literally no clue what to do to it unless I got feedback. Now, the feedback is often just confirming what I already know. I’m no screenwriting genius, but at least my writing Spidey senses seem to be kicking in.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what I’m doing in moving to the States for a while and about the Irish film industry versus the U.S. one.

I’m going to confirm what I’ve already hinted at – I haven’t given the Irish industry a proper go. Apart from some half-hearted query letters, I haven’t knocked on producers’ doors. I haven’t applied to the Film Board for a First Draft Loan. I have networked a good bit and gotten stuff read that way, plus I’ve produced and/or written three Irish short films. But I haven’t had any kind of game plan for getting a feature film made here.

So what makes me think I can do it in the States? I’m going from a small industry where I have at least some useful contacts to a massive one where I know hardly anyone. Here’s what I’ve come up with when someone asked me that (very valid) question:

I haven’t got one decent Irish feature script. Not one. No script that I’d stand over and say “This is an ace idea and I’d be delighted to see it made”. Whereas I have 2 already decent American-based scripts that I’m about to make even better, as well as solid ideas for 2-3 more. My American scripts have won prizes, whereas my Irish scripts are furry with dust and lying in a drawer.

I don’t really know why this is, except to say that a lot of my ideas tend to be “big”. Bigger than could be made in Ireland, maybe. But also, I’m still waiting for that great idea for a film set in Ireland.

My gold standard for an excellent movie made outside Hollywood is currently District 9, in that it looks like 50 million dollars (but didn’t cost anything like that), is perfectly in keeping with its South African setting (in fact it’s impossible to imagine it being made anywhere else) and boasts a fantastic premise with a well-executed script. Basically, until I have an idea for a film as fab as that, I can’t really say that I have a script worth shouting about.

So my main goal for the rest of 2012 is this: to come up with an idea – not even write a script, just get a concept going – for a great Irish-based script that won’t cost the earth to produce.

Apart from that, my other answer to the valid question is that I don’t know whether it’s going to work out in the States. I may arrive in L.A. and think “Nope, I can’t stand to live here”. I may realise after three months that I hate the Hollywood film industry and am longing to come home. But the only way to guarantee that I won’t make it is if I don’t give it a chance.

I’d like to hear what anyone else thinks about the Irish versus the U.S. industries. If you walk into the Irish Film Institute bar and throw a rock, you’ll hit a writer who’s talking about going to Hollywood “one day”. But is that the be all and end all of being a writer - to end up emigrating and live dolefully abroad like Joyce, thinking longingly of home (yet knowing that you'll never write anything as amazing as Dubliners)?

And what is it that’s holding them back from going? Is it family responsibilities? The visa issues (which are admittedly a pain)? Lack of information about the U.S. industry? Or a hope that if you wait long enough, the Irish film industry will suddenly be awash with cash for making movies?

Answers on a postcard…..


aggiebrett said...

This is not specifically about Ireland vs Hollywood, but in my experience (eclectic and sad as it is...) most people would do or risk most anything in order to avoid being pushed out of a well-established comfort zone.

Talking about all the great things you might one day do is a lot more fun and less risky than quietly setting yourself to the task of actually trying to make those things happen, so it occurs to me that (perhaps) "what's holding them back" in the specific case you ask about is the fear of ridicule (internal or external) from having tried and failed. If one never actually picks up a bat and takes a turn at the plate, one never has to make that long walk back to the dugout, suffering the jeers and catcalls of the crowd after having struck out.

'Course, until and unless you take that same potentially humiliating turn at the plate, it's impossible to hit a home run, too, but you can always dream about what you *would* do and make grand claims about what successes you would surely experience... if only...

(shrug) Or maybe it's all about visa difficulties.


eilism said...

No, I think you've nailed it Brett - unfortunately! And I can't talk myself, I've sat in a comfort zone for a LONG time. It's much easier to do that than risk failing, but I don't think being unchallenged is a good way to live. Makes you feel "small".

I love the baseball analogy - though my biggest fear (with softball, not baseball) was getting whacked with the ball. Which happened a surprising amount cos I used to get into a trance watching it...