Guest blogger Niraj Kapur: “How I turned my screenplay into a movie…”
July 24, 2017 § Leave a comment
It’s time again for a guest blogger here on MY BLANK PAGE! Appearing for his fourth time with another superb contribution about screenwriting in the trenches… let’s welcome back U.K. screenwriter Niraj Kapur.
In 1991, at the tender age of 19, I decided to be a screenwriter. Like most people, I thought writing was easy.
My first screenplay was an Irish love story called Secret Love and it sold after contacting only two producers.
Naturally, I thought writing was the easiest job in the world and flew to London from my small town in Northern Ireland.
My next script didn’t sell and the director of Secret Love wasn’t impressed by my attempts to rewrite, so he dropped the project. I was too embarrassed to tell my parents and friends who I swore I would never return home to until I won the Oscar.
So, I went on the dole, the American equivalent of welfare. Worst time of my life. I became a hermit and lived like a pauper on £33 a week, approx. $40 a week.
After a year, my father flew over and was shocked at my lifestyle. Freezing tiny flat, crime-ridden area and a large rat who would occasionally run around the kitchen uninvited.
Dad advised me that to be successful in any profession, I needed training.
Writing is no exception.
He kindly gave me $2,000 — so I invested in Michael Hauge and Robert McKee seminars, bought screenwriting books, went to every networking event and invested in a good script editor.
In 1998, I signed a development deal. For an unknown British writer to have one was unique. It was Rory Bremnar’s company, Vera. Had the opportunity to meet so many talented producers, directors and agents, write full time and get paid.
A year later, Vera decided to work on other projects. That’s how the business works. It’s nothing personal. Priorities change.
Nobody returned my calls or wanted to meet me. I went back to full-time office work, feeling sorry for myself since my dream had died. Then my wife told me she was pregnant.
Being a father gives you a positive view on life and lots of writing material. I spent months writing sample kids shows and after a year of calling every kids tv producer, I found work writing for CBBC, Nick Jnr, and Channel 5. Over 17 pilots were written, got paid for several of them and was hired to write for other shows, working to tight deadlines and producers’ notes, an invaluable lesson.
In 2004, I had the confidence to go back to screenwriting and wrote a female comedy that would change my life, Knights in Shining Armour.
In 2006, it won a writing award. Then three different producers wanted to option it in 2007.
It was important this movie got produced, and producers rarely guarantee that, so I sold it to Neville Rashid who had an idea to make it into a Bollywood family drama musical with a guarantee to produce it in five years.
Neville worked his guts out to raise the money. It was shot in London, I was invited on set, was treated wonderfully by cast and crew, and went to the red-carpet premiere. I only recognised 30% of the movie as mine. It was released in 2012. Here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftwUGemp6Jw
Naachle London broke even and played in cinemas across the UK. Seeing your name on a movie poster is a dream come true. Seeing it on the big screen was simply awesome.
Every agent, producer and director was invited. Nobody in the industry turned up.
Unable to find work, I turned my back on the UK and spend a few years flying to LA which you can read about here: https://scriptcat.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/overcoming-the-disappointments-a-screenwriting-journey-can-deliver/
Many valuable lessons were learned, just as important today as they were many years ago.
- Treat your writing like a career and invest in it like a degree.
- Don’t think you know everything.
- Writing is writing, no matter what genre or what platform.
- Never give up. If I can make it, anyone can.
As Jeffrey Katzenberg once said, “if you they throw you out the front door, go in the back door. If they throw you out the back door, go in through the window.”
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