Overcoming the disappointments a screenwriting journey can deliver…
June 24, 2017 § 2 Comments
It’s time again for a guest blogger here on MY BLANK PAGE! Appearing for his third time with another superb contribution about screenwriting in the trenches… let’s welcome back U.K. screenwriter Niraj Kapur.
“Overcoming the disappointments a screenwriting journey can deliver.”
By Niraj Kapur
In 2012, my movie Naachle London was released in cinemas across England.
Written in 2004, it won a writing award in 2006 and was optioned in 2007. Eventually, I sold it to a producer who changed it from a fun British romantic comedy into a Bollywood Family Drama Musical.
Although I only recognised 30% of the final movie as mine, it was an honour to spend a day on set receiving warm wishes from the cast and crew, attend a red carpet screening in London and have my name on the movie poster and trailer which you can see on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftwUGemp6Jw
I told hundreds of agents and producers about the premiere, convinced that after 20 years of options, commissions, setbacks and “almost making it” I would finally get my big break.
Not a single agent or producer turned up. Not a single job offer came in.
I was devastated.
After months of self-pity, my wife recommended Hollywood, since most of my favourite writers, directors and movies are American.
18 months after hiring an industry screenwriting coach and two script editors, I flew to L.A. to attend conferences and pitching events, armed with two screenplays.
The biggest regret in my career is that I never invested enough in learning, so I re-read the classics — Michael Hauge, Syd Field and Robert McKee, attended valuable classes from Pilar Alessandra, Jen Grisanti, Lee Jessup and pitched managers, agents or producers (MAP) at exciting events like Story Expo, Great American Pitchfest, and Fade In.
I pitched about 80 MAP and got 27 requests.
Eclectic Pictures, producers of Olympus Has Fallen and Lovelace, asked me into the offices after my first event to pitch the team and a deal was in place to buy my action screenplay.
My dreams were coming true.
The screenplay contract could be cancelled within 30 days of signing and on day 28, Eclectic Pictures cancelled due to internal issues.
18 out of 26 MAP didn’t read my scripts, despite me sending thank you cards and waiting several weeks before following up. Months after my emails weren’t returned, I tried phoning.
My calls were not taken. I even heard one producer say, ”Tell him I’m not there”.
The remaining 8 MAP said, “It wasn’t what they’re looking for” which offers no help whatsoever.
Having sacrificed holidays, a big promotion in my 9-5 job, time with my wife and daughter and taking a bank loan and credit cards worth £15,000 (approx. $20,000), I was devastated.
Dorothy Parker once said, “Hollywood is the only place in the world you can die of encouragement”.
The one smart thing I did was form a writing group who have been incredibly supportive. When you get rejected, fellow artists understand you better than anyone else.
Trying to figure out what went wrong, I paid for mentoring sessions through Stage 32 with Circle of Confusion and an executive at Lionsgate. Both were helpful and advised me to stop writing commercial Hollywood movies. Be unique, write something small and personal in England and get recognised that way.
Having spent 3 years learning to write big budget commercial projects and Americanise my language, it was back to basics.
Belfast Son — a father/son drama with a twist and Till Death Do Us Part, a female-driven horror movie are the results from the last 16 months.
I had to swallow a lot of pride, experience discomfort, endure sleepless nights and miss the glorious sunshine of L.A., although this made me a better writer.
My Hollywood career hasn’t worked out the way I planned, however, I didn’t give up on my dreams, I’ve simply changed how I got there.
Of course, let’s see how the industry reacts…
Written by Niraj Kapur
Niraj Kapur worked as a writer-for-hire on several kids shows on British TV with numerous screenplay commissions and options. His first movie Naachle London was released in 2012. Find him online: www.nirajkapur.com