Screenwriting: Afraid To Show People Your Work?

February 2, 2010 at 12:46 pm

The Athletic Nerd Screenwriting Blog

I write because it’s fun.

Finishing a screenplay is pretty much outstanding and I’ll always love telling stories.

I’ve been a screenwriter since high school yet I’ve always dealt with a nagging phobia that I just couldn’t seem to get over…

I was terrified to show people my work.

My trusted inner circle of friends and family were sent copies of my scripts but I usually ended the distribution there.  When I was younger, I just couldn’t wrap my head around people reading something I wrote.

Anybody else with me on this?

Now, I’m not afraid of receiving criticism.  For many, that’s the number 1 reason why work remains unread collecting dust in a closet.  I welcome any and all opinions of my writing.  I just can’t get passed the idea that someone is reading my scripts.

What does American Idol have to do with this?

You can look at this a number of ways, perhaps I wasn’t afraid of criticism back then because I knew my inner circle would never really tell me I was a terrible screenwriter.  Or it could be that I just wasn’t ready to put myself out there.  It’s a struggle because you’ll never know if you’ve got what it takes until you put yourself out there.

It’s like the awful singers on American Idol. (The real ones, not the fakes who just want 2 minutes of fame.)  These people are built up by their families and friends.  Constantly encouraged to follow their dreams.  They truly believe they are the next idol.  I believe they should believe in themselves yet it crushes me every time Simon and crew rip them apart.

When you’re passionate about something, you work so hard to achieve success and hitting a wall like that must be the most devastating feeling in the world.

This is my greatest fear as an aspiring filmmaker.

Getting over it.

However, I’ve learned over the last few years to work around my fears.  There is a line between having a dream and going for it.  At some point, you have to make the decision to move forward and break through the walls in front of you.

Starting 17 West Productions was a way of forcing myself to show people my screenplays.  The theory is simple:

If you want to write and produce movies, you have to let people read the script!

After we created a few short films, I started to gain some confidence in my abilities.

Then I entered the original draft of The Climb into a competition and came 4th out of over 1200 scripts.  It was the first time I was ever judged by people outside my precious circle.

Click here to see the results of that contest.

Click to read: Is My Screenplay Ready For Competitions

I think these tiny victories are important.  By no means did I expect to fire off a feature and win Final Draft’s Big Break contest or something similar.  I’ve always believed that would have been discouraging.  Many people have dreams of making it big and rocking the cover of Variety as someone who burst onto the scene.  I have the same dream but I’ve always been extremely critical of my writing and so I decided not to go for the big splash.

Playing Through was another leap forward for me.  During the auditions, I was terrified of listening to people perform my words.  It was baffling that people were nervous to read in front of me.  I wanted to tell everyone of them that I was just as scared.  It was an eye opening experience because many worked so hard to nail their performances.  After the first few auditions, I began to really enjoy listening to the lines being read by passionate actors.

To me, if you aren’t passionate and completely dedicated to the project, there is no point working on it.  Beyond that, you have to surround yourself with equally committed artists.

Working within an enthusiastic environment is an inspiring way to work.

I got over it.

It was that spirit that finally broke my fear of showing people my scripts.

I still beat myself over the head with endless rewrites before I show anyone but eventually it gets out there.

There are so many dusty scripts in my closet.  I should have gotten over it long ago.

PS: If you’re thinking I may dust the old scripts off and send them out into the world you are mistaken.  Those old scripts are terrible.  We all started somewhere right?  I’ll leave it at that.