I’ve received a couple million dollars to write and direct my own picture. I am in doubt as to whether or not I have the talent to pull it off.
I hear writers always talking about horrible writers and great writers. Does that actually exist? If so, what is it that makes great writers great and bad writers bad?
Also do you feel that in order to write an amazing screenplay your knowledge of grammar and your size of vocabulary are important factors? I feel that vocabulary and grammar are my weaknesses. However, I continue to think what Ron Howard once said that, “Your screenplay should make sense to an eight year old.”
In stating that, what is the most important thing for me to work on? My lack of grammar knowledge? Or my lack of vocabulary? Or do these two factors have any relevance at all to a screenplay? To sum up, what should I be focusing on?
You should focus on being very careful as you cross the street, because I suspect there are several hundred aspiring writer-directors reading this right now who might “accidentally” run you over. That’s why I’m not printing your last name.
Seriously, Matt. “I’ve received a couple million dollars to write and direct my own picture.” Did you win the lottery? Rob a bank? Blackmail some rich old guy?
I ask because you clearly didn’t get it by any ordinary means. See, most people don’t get to write and direct a multi-million dollar film out of the gate. Rather, they write a few scripts. Direct a charming short film. They do something that proves to the People With Millions to Spend that this young writer-director is worth the investment.
No offense, but that doesn’t sound like you, Matt.
The only reasonable scenario I could envision is if you’re actually tremendously talented in one of the other filmmaking crafts, and are now getting to direct for the first time. Maybe you’re a terrific production designer like Bo Welch, or an acclaimed cinematographer like Jack Green. Could be.
Or maybe you’re just really effing lucky.
Regardless, if someone is giving you several million to direct your own picture, make sure you don’t let them see this self-doubt. More than anything, the money people want confidence.
As to your actual question: Does grammar or vocabulary have any relevance to a screenplay? Um, yeah. A fair amount. It’s easy to get a smart person to help with your grammar. Vocabulary is tougher. I’d advise against a thesaurus, however. In my experience, they’re helpful in finding exactly the wrong word for the situation.
If you’re really in doubt, the best idea might be to spend some fraction of those several million dollars on a screenwriter with a strong grasp of grammar and vocabulary. (Along with character, dialogue, structure, pacing, atmosphere, tone and theme. Those help, too.)
For what it’s worth, good luck. I really don’t begrudge anyone getting to make their movie.