Journey of a Screenwriter Part 1: The Beginning

by Karl Redgen.

I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker for as long as I can remember. I have vivid memories of the way movies captured my imagination when visiting the cinema and I still remember the many hours spent choosing a film from the video store, playing it on a Friday night, and to the annoyance of my father and brothers, talking nonstop about all the tiny details that no one else seemed to notice. Even though we grew up in a small country town, I was still able to watch new release films including classics like The Matrix, Men in Black, and Toy Story all before turning 12. This family tradition of spending Friday nights in front of a TV rapidly blossomed into a small obsession.

Cinema has always fascinated me and for my whole life, I have been excited about all the endless possibilities you can achieve with the art of film. To no one’s surprise, I started studying film in Year 10. I bought my first camera and began making cheesy movies with my friends and family. We made all sorts of films. We experimented with jump scares and fake blood, we made tacky music videos to depressing songs, and made gangster films where we used bananas and custard instead of guns and blood. I used that camera so much that I wore out the tape mechanism and begged my grandparents to buy me a new one. A lot of that footage has disappeared now due to moving to the city and a shift to the digital age. However, after high school, I jumped straight into a film degree and pushed my passion to its limit. As much as I don’t think university is completely necessary to get a job in the industry, it definitely teaches you the fundamentals, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded creatives. It also gets you access to expensive film gear that normally you wouldn’t be able to afford.

After that, I was hooked! I caught the film bug and quickly creativity was coursing through my veins. I worked on every film set I could get on and learned as much about filmmaking as humanly possible. In the beginning, I worked as a DP and actually wasn’t too bad, I even won some awards at local film festivals. I learnt a lot working on those films in those early days and owe a debt to the many creatives that were willing to lend me their time and their ear to boost my skills. However, when I was working on these films sets, I noticed a common trend; there was always one key crew member missing that made shooting more complex and stressful than it needed to be. That missing ingredient was of course the First Assistant Director. I’m not sure if was because of budget constraints or because inexperienced directors and producers thought they could do it themselves, but long story short, I ended up as an AD.

I’m not going to lie; filmmaking is a tough business. It’s expensive, it’s hard work, and usually, working on micro-budget films rarely pays the bills. It takes a certain kind of person to want to make a career out of this industry. I worked as an AD for five years and after countless long days, false promises, and little recognition from key creatives, I hung up my clipboard and left the AD world behind me. During my time working on sets, I learned a lot about scripts and storytelling and this led to my new passion: screenwriting. I have always wanted to tell stories and be a writer, and I was lucky enough to get firsthand experience breaking down scripts or re-writing scenes to help them fit a bit better with the constraints we had, so in 2016, I bit the bullet and wrote my first script: a zombie comedy exploitation film set against the backdrop of Melbourne music scene. I raised a small amount of money, called in every favour I could find, and gathered a ragtag team of filmmakers to shoot it. Although Evil Fred still sits on my hard drive, I learnt a lot about how to make movies during the stressful period, and to be honest, it was a lot of fun to make.

Over the next 4 years, I dedicated my time to being a screenwriter. I treated it like a full-time job. I woke up a 9 am, started writing by 10 and worked until 5 every day. During the time, I was able to write 3 shorts, 4 features, and now I’m currently working on my 5th. But during those bleary-eyed late night editing sessions, I always asked myself: is this industry any easier? It’s hard to say really. On the one hand, I still work as hard as I was before for pretty much no money and haven’t received any recognition yet, but on the other hand, I truly do admire writing and love the moments when a whole world comes to life on the page where no world existed before. There’s something rewarding about creating meaningful characters and building new worlds for them to live in.

Maybe there’s something wrong with artists and writers? We work so hard at our craft, but in a way, I think the passion for words might be a bit deluded. We work such long hours for no real financial gain, hoping that one day that all this hard work will pay off. Maybe this hard work will yield fruit and we’ll sell a script to a studio or get a job in a writing room, who really knows? Sometimes I think that it would have been easier to start a trade or open a business, then I wouldn’t have to work so hard, or I’d possibly be at a different part of my career, but where’s the fun in that? It’s always been about hard work and the doing what you love. I still have a lot to learn in this industry, but now is the time to use all those skills I developed over the years to try to do something meaningful with my writing and career.

There’s no better time to start than now.

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