I have always found the first question the writers equivalent of the dinner party favourite “So, what do you do?” It’s a way to size you up, put you in a box of one kind or another. And you know what? I am absolutely flummoxed about how to answer it.
A look at my current spec script portfolio shows features, TV and short scripts of all different shapes, sizes and genres. I don’t just write comedy. I don’t just write horror. I don’t just write children’s. But I realise when I say something along the lines of “I write whatever excites me” that I come across as fairly naive or unfocused. But its true. I start with an idea, and if I like it, I write it.
The second question, “What have you had produced?”, I must admit have always found vaguely unsettling. Although it has to be asked, again as a measuring tool, I do almost equate it to “What do you earn?” or “How successful are you?”
Until recently I had to say “I have had nothing produced”, but my line now – which is true – is “I have a number of short films in various stages of pre-production” seems to do the job.
But, and here’s the kicker to this question, and why I hate it…the response to your answer is just as telling, but this time telling about the questioner rather than the responder.
So, you answer in the affirmative and the questioner either a) feels somehow slighted that you have managed to get something produced when they are so OBVIOUSLY more intelligent/witty/brilliant (delete as appropriate) b) thrusts a dog eared script in your hand and begs you to give “honest” feedback when they actually want you to confirm their undiscovered genius or c) – the rarest of the all – is genuinely interested in how it happened and what the process was for you.
And if you answer negatively, “No Sir, I have not had anything produced”, the questioner either a) looks at you like you are something scrapped off their shoe and wonders why you are at the event or even in the building b) smiles politely and moves on to the next person having deemed you a waste of networking time or c) sympathises with you and blames “the system” for stifling talent and tries to lick their own ears.
You can’t win with these bastard questions – and yet, I find they are the first two out my lips when I meet someone. Perhaps I need better patter, or at least a better way to answer them!