The Story Plan (3)

Outside of the system, there is very little room for any writing career in China. But in the US or even the less Bible thumping worlds of Europe, the big bucks go to the conformists, the purveyors of nothing in-particular, while the more nuanced, the critical, the original or just plain eccentric, rarely find finance.


by Lawrence Gray

If one is writing with an independent voice, one does well to be a writer/director who finds his or her own funding and audience!

 The big bucks goes to the conformists,
the purveyors of nothing in-particular

And who knows, you might, if you can wangle the grants or grab just enough celebrity attention, be a David Lynch or a Terrence Malick or a Pedro Almodovar or Lars Von Triers. On the other hand you might just be an Ed Wood. And you might never know where you fit in until you are too old and bitter to be able to re-align your career.

Which brings me back to the question: what’s your story?

Are you aiming at being the big bucks five-picture deal guy, the TV show runner, or the indie filmmmaker? Are you going in search of your own voice, and courting failure because it may be years before you discover that you have nothing special?

Or are you going in young and green and willing to do the donkeywork of re-vamping old formats hoping that one day you will have the power to make the “passion projects”? Or perhaps, nothing in particular, may well be enough for you?

 Are you aiming at being the big bucks five-picture deal guy…
or the indie filmmaker?

Most of us think we can be all these things. We think we can be artists and technicians and writers of hits and writers of “important” game changing pieces of work.  But we cannot. And worse, if one makes a choice, it can be the wrong choice.

Trying to write action films aimed at teenagers when you have no talent for it, is as worthless as trying to write great art when you really just want to film things being blown up! Having talent for one thing rarely translates into talent for the other. And the rewards for either are not the same.

If the bucks are big, you can rest assured that the competition is big and the winners so often are not those with a talent for writing, more with a talent for having the right parents and connections.

Life for the writer is hard. They have to work out where their talents and interests lie and where the politics of the day lie and where the money goes and what the audience responds to and what they think the audience should respond to and how much suffering and general indifference and rejection they can take.

The earlier you understand what your story is going to be, the better it is for you, because then you can understand the finances of your chosen arena and the personnel of your career line and factor into your life various solutions to the problems of making art and making a living.

The earlier you understand what your story is going to be,
the better it is for you

But of course being a character in the story is a lot different from being the writer of the story, and that I am afraid is going to prove your greatest problem at all times.

Lawrence Gray


In a prior life, before moving to Hong Kong in 1991, I helped found the London Screenwriters Workshop, and since coming to Hong Kong I founded the Hong Kong Writers’ Circle.
I was chairman of both august organisations and have only just stepped down from the Writers’ Circle, considering myself far too damaged to continue leading the charge for the great unknowns of Hong Kong literature. [more]
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(Creative Commons License photo credit Construction Schedule: Eric Fischer)
About the Author

Lawrence Gray

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