After slaving for months (weeks? …DAYS? You talented, inspired bastard), pounding away at your clickity-clackity keys, pouring yourself into your work, ignoring your basic needs, and overcoming the arduous yet fulfilling task of completing your great spec, it will always be heart-wrenching when a reader just doesn’t fucking get it. No matter how clear it is to you, no matter how meticulous your format, or how studied your concept, there will always be somebody, maybe many bodies, who fail to detect every nuance or reference.
And that’s okay. Surprise! Didn’t see that coming, did you?
There’s a quote by Marilyn Manson that springs to mind. “Art… is a question mark. I don’t think it should ever be an answer. People ask you what your painting means, what your essay means. That is your answer. That is your response.” Art is subjective. What could mean the world to one, could be drivel to another, and that seems to be especially true in screenwriting, where the competition is immense, and the select few are, well… Few.
One of my favorite specs is a psychological thriller I started in 2012, THE GARDENER. An older draft placed in the 2014 Nicholl Fellowship Quarterfinals (the top 5%, and don’t you forget it!), and I’ve been fortunate to receive feedback from a few industry professionals;
One reader told me the screenplay was verbose, and that the ending was too predictable. Another said that they didn’t understand the ending, that it was unclear– And yet another reader said that my work provided “fantastic visuals, strong imagery, and [that] the line between morbidity and beauty was nicely tread” (guess who’s my favorite reader?)
What I’m preaching is something I struggle with to this day; Write what you want to see.
If you “make it,” there’s going to be a time when you have to write something for someone else, and hopefully by then, you’ll know your voice, and how to marry it with some else’s idea. Until then, write for yourself.