Nollywood is structured in such a way that anybody can wake up one lazy morning and decide to make a movie. The same cannot be said about screenwriters. Anybody can sit with a laptop and type up a script. But not everyone is successful at it. A lot of people jump into it with high hopes and aspirations and jump out of it, disillusioned. And that can be ascribed to common Nollywood screenwriting misconceptions.
1. Writing one screenplay makes you a screenwriter
Sorry honey, that’s not true. You must be able to write more than one successful script to have the bragging rights of a screenwriter.
2. Filmmakers will buy your first screenplay
Nope. Truth is producers worth their salt in the industry are constantly bamboozled with a lot of screenplays from different corners. Yours must be able to stand out to gain their attention. And it isn’t going to be your first script. Your first script is usually where you’ll make all kinds of foolish mistakes. Even if you manage to gain their interest, they’re likely going to ask you if you have other screenplays. Be prepared.
3. You must have ‘connections’ to sell your screenplay
Oftentimes you hear something like, “Oh boy, dem dey look face for this industry o.” That’s not necessarily true. Suffice to say, this is one of the most common Nollywood misconceptions that wanna be screenwriters have. But you don’t write a blockbuster you’re sure a producer can’t resist and sit in your house daydreaming. It wont take you anywhere. Ask any top Nollywood screenwriter you know. They sought out their connections themselves.
4. You will ‘hammer’ once you sell
If you belong to the get-rich-quick school of thought, then screenwriting isn’t for you. Granted, a screenplay is the most important foundational aspect of film making. That doesn’t mean the screenwriter will get rich immediately. Filmmakers pay based on reputation. The higher the reputation, the higher the pay. So if you’re a newbie screenwriter and you expect to ‘hammer’ with your early scripts, my advise is concentrate on building a reputation first. ‘Hammering’ will come later.
5. You must have full control of your script during production
Writing a screenplay is like giving birth. And just like mothers, it is very difficult to let go. As far as you’re concerned, no one can understand and work perfectly with your script like you do. But you have to understand that once you sell your script, you have relinquished your ownership. The only thing the filmmaker owes you is writing credit.
6. You must not rewrite your screenplay
The golden rule of writing is “writing is rewriting.’ Once you’ve finally learned to let go of your spec script, the next thing is you’re not bothered what the filmmaker does with it. But then again, professional filmmakers don’t start shooting with spec scripts. There will always be some corrections and adjustments to make a shooting script. They can use the services of other screenwriters or they can call the original screenwriter to make such corrections. Please don’t resist when you’re called. It’s all part of the process.
7. Writing a screenplay is the same as writing prose or play
Very hilariously untrue. There’s nothing more literary complex than writing a screenplay. Prose gives you limitless opportunities to let your imagination run wild. Whatever limitations plays have, they make up for it with lengthy dialogues. But screenplays have none of such privileges. You have to squeeze a story of a lifetime within, at most, two hours of screentime. Great storytellers aren’t necessarily great screenwriters. The structure is different, storyline more specified, character more defined, dialogue brief and concise and so on.
8. Being a screenwriter makes you famous
Screenwriting is very private. The only fame you’re likely going to get is within the industry where filmmakers will be craving your services. As for the public, you don’t have to worry about the papparazi stalking your heels all the time. But if you crave such things, then I suggest you go into acting or other fields that give such exposure.
9. Bad movies are products of bad screenplay
Well, this is one of the controversial Nollywood screenwriting misconceptions. While it is generally accepted that bad screenplays make bad movies, it is not true in all cases. A bad director or editor can ruin a good screenplay. Sometimes, we see a potentially good movie with slow, dull and boring pace. Or they can be fast, full of action that don’t make any sense. It’s not always the writer’s fault.
10. Watching and critiquing movies automatically qualifies you to write screenplays
Absolutely wrong. You may be a movie addict and have watched countless movies to last a lifetime. That doesn’t mean you are well equipped to write a screenplay. It helps. But you have to do more than watching and critiquing movies to make your first attempt at writing a screenplay.
Screenwriting is a serious business. It takes someone with a valuable knowledge of how the industry works to maneuver his or her way to the top. To get there, you must do away with these Nollywood screenwriting misconceptions.
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