I had never read a movie script before I came across screenwriting last year (2016) when I did my Cert IV in Professional Writing and Editing. I had no idea that screenwriting existed, well I did know about it, but never tried to find out more about it. “Writing a movie” had never come to mind. Figuring out how a movie is actually made never crossed my mind. It was always about writing books or blogging. And to be fair on me, I was not surrounded by people who knew or would talk about it, unlike today.
That’s why I am so thrilled I went ahead with writing and publishing my first book. It might not be a bestseller, but I gain so much knowledge from doing it. It got me to want to learn more and do a Cert IV and now studying creative writing at university. My parents and I don’t talk, but this is not something they would have supported. A bit like my daughter said: “Mum, a degree in Creative Writing is not going to give a job!”. But I am not doing it to “get a job” per se. Of course, I would like to earn money from just writing one day and stay self-employed but I also want to have solid knowledge, a solid base. This first semester at university already showed me there is much more to learn and like any things, you can learn something new every day.
So to get back on the topic of screenwriting, I was lucky that at the same time I started my screenwriting elective for my Cert IV, I went on a date with a screenwriter. He wasn’t boyfriend material but he was a hell of a teacher and he coming into my life was perfect timing. For this elective, I had to write a 10-minute short film.
It was around the time when Tom Clancy’s The Division video game came out. I love that game and when I found out about a series of short films commissioned by Ubisoft to promote the video game, I wanted to see a feature movie or even better: a TV series. That’s where my original idea came from.
My storyline wasn’t great and probably not suited for a ten minutes story but it was certainly good practice in learning how to use a screenwriting software such as Final Draft. I also tried Celtx which has a free option and ended up buying The Writer Duet screenwriting program.
I entered the Industry Insider Television Writing Contest with my idea organised by The Writers Store. I had to provide a plan for a 5-seasons TV series plan and won a place in the 50 semi-finalists, leaving about six weeks to write the TV pilot for a chance to get in the top 10.
My guess is that other contestants probably had their TV pilot already written. I’m also guessing that most contestants, had years of experience in the screenwriting industry. My date had 20 years experience and a degree in Films so it is fair to think his kind was most of my competition, on top of being a worldwide renown competition with 1000s of entry. It was so exciting to see my name on the website as a finalist – the first time ever I had been a finalist of any sorts. When I received the emails I was jumping up and down, trying to contain myself as it was about 6am and my household was still deep into sleep.
All I had was a 10-minute short film script and one month experience in screenwriting. But that did not deter me. Mainly because I really wanted to see a TV series and my son was also excited about the idea, so that gave me a bigger purpose even. And for six weeks, I worked hard at it. Questioning everything and every one for ideas, staring at a blank page for hours, crying for the lack of ideas, waking up in the middle of the night with a breakthrough and jumping on the computer to write it before I forgot. I have to admit, it was six weeks of pure hell. But I did it.
Unfortunately, this is not the kind of things you can tell when you enter a contest and I was utterly disappointed when I didn’t make it to the top 10. It was heartbreaking. I had poured out my soul in that six weeks process and ended up feeling like a failure for not making it through. This was my first official rejection, and it won’t be the last, but I had to go through it.