The story of getting a film made ........again!

Is Screenwriting a career option in Ireland

As with any creative endeavour, people find themselves drawn to whatever rocks their boat. An examination of ones own motivations is part of the process, but equally so, two other aspects worthy of consideration are these: 1. How much in terms of investment in time and money will be required to bring myself to a level of at least proficiency, so that I can earn an income and 2. Is there a market for the skills that I have acquired to render that investment justifiable.

I don’t believe that good screenwriters are born, I believe that they are honed from many hours of studying the craft by reading scripts, watching movies and writing on a consistent basis. There are always the prodigies who appear to knock off a brilliant script in two weeks and then go on the make films that break all the rules. Exceptions to the rule only prove the rule and besides, look at these films more closely and apply a little reverse engineering and you’ll find that in actual fact they pay close attention to what they appear to cast off, they just camouflage it very well. Of course when you mention rules, principles or paradigms, you are immediately labelled “Hollywood” and in the European film culture, to a large extent disregarded. But remember the only thing that Hollywood has succeeded in doing is build on the theories and observations of proponents of drama writing going as far back as Aristotle’s poetics 3,000 years ago and beyond. Give someone possessed of no craft the best set of carpenter’s tools and at best you will end up with an object of little use other than fire wood. On the other hand a good art film will throw out most if not all the rules, yet provide the viewer with an experience rarely achieved by “conventional” movies.

Those who find themselves drawn to make films and who perhaps posses a gift for transposing a script to gobsmacking imagery, find they have little alternative but to learn to write a script first. What happens if they prove themselves to be very weak at this. When Hitchcock was developing a script, he worked with story writers or scenarists until he was happy with that element of the process. He then passed that work on to dialogue writers as he believed some writers were good at story, but crap at the spoken word and vice versa. How many great Irish directors have we lost because they grew tired and frustrated at attempting to be good screenwriters before getting the chance to create their sublime images.

If you have decided the the investment is tolerable, then the question is, can screen writing in Ireland sustain you. David Kavanagh of Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild has said that most screenwriters in Ireland earn between €10,000 to €15,000 a year. I would suspect writing copy for radio soap ads would earn you many multiples of that. That kind of return is only justifiable if achieved on a part-time basis and that is perhaps one of the reasons why Irish films are failing at the domestic and international box office – it’s a part time activity. I’m not making the argument that screen writers should be paid more money (not because I don’t believe it, it’s just not likely to happen) but rather, is it not time to raise our sights and see that the film business is now global therefor, more of an effort to comprehend and penetrate that wider market should be made.

They say the definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing, while expecting a different outcome. The landscape in Irish film is unlikely to change for the forseeable future. Perhaps it is time to look beyond this little pond and begin to understand that maybe there are opportunities to be found beyond these shores.

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  1. Professional screen writing is an international undertaking and being based in Ireland doesn’t work. Working and living in other cultures can help shape and develop international script ideas. The best country in the world to be a writer/director/producer is France. Viva la France !

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