Kissing the devil's rump was a required foreplay at the witches Sabbath, in that one must show respect in order to profit. A similar tradition plays out when a producer asks a freelance writer to pen a screenplay based upon their own idea. If you want to join the party, pucker up. This idea (and they all sound the same) already has cast attached, a distribution deal and money in the pot! All it needs is writing! And that's when the lie is at its most unimaginative.
A more realistic sounding temptation is usually the 'eternal optimist' approach, requiring the producer to convince the writer to abandon his reason and common sense. To believe that a film can be made for literally nothing and that everybody will benefit in the long run. 'We can make it for two thousand pounds and earn fifty thousand pounds!' is one such lie I was recently told. What, you pay yourself and I and nobody else involved? The producer and writer benefit and the entire pre-production/production/post-production staff and crew go without? And you can sell it via advertising with no money and expect in excess of fifty thousand pounds return?
The above examples are just two experiences I have encountered over the years of being a freelance writer. Two of countless experiences in which I have been fobbed off, ripped off, underpaid, not paid and wasted weeks and months of my life writing for what I call the 'amateur professional' - that sordid brand of media wannabe parasite who has nothing to show and yet somehow manages to convince people they have a product worth investing in based upon their original idea. Of course, they haven't. It's a lie and one of many they will tell the writer - anybody, in fact - in order to hook them in with a false sense of promise. Let me give you an example.
Producer: 'Ray Winstone has shown interest in the script.'
Translation: 'I contacted Ray's agent regarding the script and was advised to send it for consideration once complete.'
The above is a real-life example of how the amateur professional reasons. To them, it's not a lie, but a bending of the truth, a delusional hope that, because the agent advised them to send 'their' script once complete, it stands a chance of being read by Ray Winstone and therefore has the actors 'interest'.
I have encountered many amateur professionals. They are all squalid, venal little rats with self-promotion at heart. They want adoration, praise, to look impressive and get someplace without actually doing any work. They will lie, beg and fantasise their way to success and it's a poor soul who is suckered in by their showmanship.
There is no money in writing. The gigs are short and shrift and it is nigh well impossible to earn a serious living from it. I am a thrice optioned screenplay writer, a contracted author and have been fortunate enough to have various short stories and poems published online and in print, but it's not something I make a living from. Which makes it all the more important to be paid for whatever work I do outside of my own private interests.
I recently asked a producer for six thousand pounds to cover a screenplay and buy out fee for myself and my co-writer. A ridiculously cheap amount of money, considering this was the chap who expected to earn in excess of fifty thousand pounds from his little two-grand enterprise. His reply was predictable: 'It's a tad high.'
A tad high and yet you want me to write, from scratch, a complicated psychological screenplay with a running time of seventy-five minutes for two people in a one room location? To do so, I would have to plan out the entire three-act structure, work in excess of a full working day for six weeks in order to produce a satisfactory draft (which is usually a second draft) then send it over to you, have you make suggestions, sending me back to my computer in order to craft a revised draft until you are satisfied with the results. You will not pay me to do so, promising me a share of fifty thousand pounds magically split between us at the expense of everybody else on the production, and my quote - to be paid for the work you want me to do and to pass on any profits made - is 'a tad high'?
Writing is not easy, folks. If it is, you're doing it wrong. And it's not made any easier by people such as the amateur professional. And the terrible thing is that they are on the rise, these Taliban of wannabe's! The digital revolution in film has actually been a minor blessing and a loaded curse, because now - literally - anybody can pick up a camera and say 'I'm a filmmaker!' Well, you're not. You are a film enthusiast, a hobbyist, an amateur until you make a film with professional standards and start as you mean to go on by paying your writer to work.
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