I was fortunate enough to come across producer and screenwriter Alan Denman on twitter, about the time I was thinking of learning screenwriting. Alan has been my tutor in this impossibly difficult craft. Here, Alan explains the personal philosopy that drives his work and creative projects.
Be creative, I dare you
If you want to live a creative life, you have to be prepared to step outside your comfort zone. It’s only outside your comfort zone that new ideas, new ways of thinking, new stories, music or images, can occur. True creativity requires RISK.
Nowhere is this principle more apparent than the film industry. There are many types of experts in the film and television worlds who are supplying a service or support in some way – set builders, focus pullers, production managers. Even film editors, production designers and cinematographers are for most of the time providing assistance to someone else’s vision.
It’s in two areas in particular that the creative juices are at their most potent in the filmmaking world – in the creation and writing of the script and in the direction and realisation of that script as a moving narrative image. Screenwriting and directing.
These are also probably the riskiest and most insecure roles in the industry. We live in a vast consumer world and for most of the time we are served with variations of the same fare. “The same but different” is one of the conundrums facing screenwriters. To create the new is – in business terms – a risk.
Get out of the comfort zone
However, if you want to be creative you have to be bold and take risks. You have to be prepared to put yourself on the line – your credit card, your mortgage, what others think of you – to sell your stamp collection or go begging for money. You may at times starve, feel desperate, isolated, helpless. These are good signs! You’re out of your comfort zone and open to new possibilities.
Depending on your perspective, I am doubly blessed or cursed. I began as a screenwriter over twenty-five years ago, taking to it like a duck to water. Then someone I was working for handed me a video camera and asked if I would direct a corporate film. A second duck to water! Directing, I realised, was about taking one image and joining it to the next, and so on, to form a coherent narrative. Screenwriting is about writing in “word pictures”, one after another. Same difference.
Short cut to success?
After making some shorts, I realised I needed to make a feature to avoid getting stuck. So I wrote a sort of low budget sci-fi Blair Witch and sent it to a friend at UCLA in Los Angeles, who gave it to a producer – and he funded it! The next stage of my filmmaking journey had begun: Los Angeles, California, where I lived for eight years.
Making movies is enormously hard work AND great fun. There are moments in the midst of stress, deadlines, failing light and racoons (the racoons joined us on the night shoots) that are simply divine. A bunch of actors, a director and cinematographer huddling together – and you’re creating this scene, a make-believe world, out of nothing. Once you’re hooked, there’s no going back, which is why I’ve just made a neo-noir short and set up a production company, Denman Pictures, with my son, Zac.
So how do I live my creative life?
All this time, running in parallel with writing and filmmaking, has been my script coaching and teaching. For me the creative feeds the educational: through writing and making films I see what works and then I feel I’m in an authentic place to help other writers. My focus now, after twenty-five years in the industry and developing my own creativity alongside my business experience, is to help writers not just write screenplays but to produce marketable scripts that have commercial potential and help them build a career for themselves.
Filmmakers need passion, patience and perseverance
Sometimes I think being creative is a bit like gambling: once you’ve been at the table long enough, you might as well stay there and see it out. And the longer you stay in the creative game the more experienced you become, the more people you know, and the more you understand what you’re doing. Passion, patience and perseverance – my three bywords for success. I’m looking forward to the next stage of my filmmaking adventure, Denman Pictures, and what it will bring!
About the author
Alan Denman is a writer, director and script consultant who has worked in the US and UK film industries for the last 25 years. Do you ask yourself often, how do I live a creative life? The discipline of screenwriting will teach you useful techniques. To find out more go to:
www.yourscript2screen.com (for script coaching)
Stay tuned for more news from Denman Pictures. We’ll post updates as we get them.
Cover Pic: A still from Immortality, Alan’s latest neo-noir short – a 173 year man who cannot die meets a corporate hunter who will stop at nothing to get his secret. By Denman Pictures.