Screenplays: The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress

…said Philip Roth.


I’m guessing Roth’s talking about his novels and stories, because though a few were adapted into films, I’m not sure he wrote the screenplays.  (I just checked Portnoy’s Complaint and the writing’s credited to Ernest Lehman, for example).

As a sometime writer of screenplays, ‘works-in-progress’ is my middle name. (Here, I’m talking about my screenplays which have been optioned by a film-maker or production company, rather than screenplays that are themselves works-in-progress.)

A film-maker contacts me. “I love your script XXXX. May I have your permission to make it?”

After checking out the guy/girl/company and putting a few provisos in place, the main one being, ‘please keep me in the loop,’ I almost always say,  ‘Yes, I’d be honoured!’

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And then, time goes by…and more time goes by…and sometimes, my emails aren’t answered any more…and…

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It seems strange to me, and not at all courteous, to show such an interest in someone’s work, to be given (usually free) permission to use it and then neglect to keep me (the writer) informed if plans change – and they so very often do. Believe me, I know stuff happens which makes progress impossible. What is NEVER impossible is to be in communication.

I chased one guy up recently, who’d said he’d hear by the end of January whether or not he’d get funding for making one of my scripts. He hadn’t succeeded but hadn’t bothered to tell me.


Tsk tsk

There’s a guy in Toronto who asked to make one of my short screenplays, then also talked me into writing a longer screenplay based on his ideas – which I did, for no fee because it seemed certain it would go ahead. (At that time I was dead keen and unblighted by weary cynicism.) He seems to have disappeared off the radar – at least, when he gets communication from me. I shall keep trying…

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(not as by Justin Bieber)

But yesterday – success with one of those works-in-progress.

I saw the girl’s name on LinkedIn. She’d just set up her own production company. I contacted her. She was very apologetic and said how bad she had been feeling, and if I would allow,  could she make my script as her very next short film?

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I’d be honoured.’

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