Why Introvert Screenwriters Need To Collaborate

B. O'Malley

Screenwriters don't do teams, but need to

Screenwriters don't do teams, but need toEver since I started writing, I’ve been an introvert writer. At first, out of necessity, then out of pure mimicry of the supposed lone, struggling artist banging away on his typewriter, then, as I got older, and time grew shorter, out of the desperate pursuit pure chronological efficacy.

I’ve never been an introvert socially; just as a screenwriter. At a party, I’m the guy that finds everybody fascinating and can talk to anybody and everybody.  (And believe me, scriptwriting and script coverage are endless topics of conversation). But behind that word processor, I’ve always been a laser-focused lone wolf, on a mission to avoid teaming up with my fellow screenwriters at all costs.

Recently, however, believe it or not, I’ve actually started putting away some of my baggage about collaborating with other writers, at least in some degree, and to my surprise, it’s actually improved my screenwriting, and improved me as an artist. (EDIT: Said baggage can be found in my somewhat-critique of collaboration in my mentioning the species of screenwriter “teamus uppus excessus” in my post on the various types of screenwriters found in the wild here.)

Twice the screenwriterly processing power

Here’s the straight dope, aka my opinion:  If you’re an introvert screenwriter, your skills grow at a rather, well, fixed, rate.  But if you can team up with someone on a script, that rate can double, even triple, or quadruple.

Think of it in terms of a personal computer.  And take the CPU, or central processing unit, for example. The CPU in any computer is generally thought of as the computer’s “brain.”  And that’s where all the calculations take place.  For example, when you’re editing video and you need to apply a crazy effect, that task usually falls mostly on the CPU, where all that raw calculation power resides.

As a solo screenwriter, you’re a single CPU.  Sure, that CPU might be a 12-core, hyperthreaded hotrod with all the bells and whistles (read: you might be a super-smart mofo), but you know what beats one of those?

Two of those.

Case in point:  I recently took right around 40 total hours to “beat out” a new script idea I’m working on solo.  But for another script I’m working on, I teamed up with a fellow writer.  And lo: it took us 6 hours to beat out a very similar script. (As well as crank out a roster of awesome characters by outlining them using verbs only). Why? Because it’s was two brains, working in tandem.  Riffing off each other. Improving. Evolving. Expanding. Shaking things up.

A wider pool of experience to draw from

Not to mention we two screenwriters have two huge pools of life experience to draw on.  Two brains that have absorbed hundreds, if not thousands, of different books, movies, television shows, short stories, traumatic events, family moments, dates with supermodels, etc.

Put simply, two brains in a room hashing out a beat sheet are better than one brain, any day of the week. And all that brainpower flying around the room?  It’s like Miracle-Gro for screenwriters.  You learn bits and pieces of what the other screenwriter’s craft, and she learns yours.  It’s a screenwriting education on steroids, without the harmful drawbacks of screenwriting steroids.

Of course, when it comes to turning that beat sheet into a screenplay, it can be a totally different story.

Results may vary when out of the outlining stage

Two screenwriters sitting over the same computer writing a screenplay, at least in my experience, is usually a slow, slow process.  Every line tends to be over-thought, over-debated, or over-focused upon.  Huge beats and scenes that were agreed upon in the beat sheet can be second-guessed, or groomed beyond recognition, or completely overwritten in the name of perfection. True, you might have a totally different experience when it comes to collaborating on a script, but mine, while overall quite fruitful, was sure as heck a big timesuck.

So take heart. If you’re an introvert screenwriter, you’re still okay in my book, but in my opinion, every introvert writer owes it to themselves to beat out a script with another writer, and/or sit down to actually write with another writer, in order to expand your craft. So that might mean getting out of the house and meeting another screenwriter for a writing session or brainstorm session, or maybe even (gasp!) getting to know a fellow screenwriter or several screenwriters in order to see if you’d like to work with them to begin with, but I assure you, fellow lone wolves, it’s well worth the experience.

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