Screenwriters Are Introverts and Extroverts at the Same Time

Iva Sirotić

The last coffee with guests happened on Thursday, with guest screenwriter, script editor and co-writer Christian Routh, who spoke about The Screenwriter’s Paradox. Routh first spoke about his background and his early days in the film industry and then proceeded with his presentation that consisted of the sayings by famous writers, playwrights, and philosophers.

A spontaneous discussion followed after the presentation, with questions posed by moderator Davor Švaić and the audience.

The increase of the number of creative producers (producers playwrights), whose abilities of budget planning, pitching, and making key decisions also include creativity, resulted in the spread of art film. Screenwriters also became much closer to the film industry in this century, which was not the case for many years.

Routh emphasised that a screenwriter is a person who needs to have the characteristics of an introvert for the creative process, and at the same time the characteristics of an extrovert for the collaboration side of the work. Making films requires strong social skill, as it is very competitive work, which is even more pronounced in the 21st century.

Other than writing being therapy of sorts for screenwriters, the story they are creating has to work for other people as well. It is important to tackle topics that the audience can understand – universality. They also have to be able to judge whether the timing is right for a certain topic, and whether the world is ready for it. The world is in a crisis right now, maybe people are not ready for this tragedy I’m writing. Write it, put it in a drawer, and wait for a more favourable moment, Routh said. Many successful projects have gone through more than a decade of preparation.

It is not unusual for the writing process to go down a dead end multiple times. It is important to accept that screenwriting is a job that never ends, or rather, one never knows where it really ends. Along with routine and pace, it requires perseverance.

Screenwriting is a lonely job, but screenwriters are not alone – all screenwriters, whatever stories they might be writing, go through the same process, and it is something to be accepted. All screenwriters will face being rejected. Dozens, even hundreds of times. It is important to find a trustworthy ally. Routh says one needs to be careful with the opinions and attitudes of others, and be prepared to learn from good and bad screenplays according to personal taste, but always believe in oneself.

Ever tried. Ever failed.

No matter. Try again.

Fail again. Fail better.

(Samuel Beckett, 1983. ‘Westward Ho!’) – from a slide in Routh’s presentation

Routh explained the difference between the US and European type of screenplay, as well as text analysis (common in European film) when the director is also the screenwriter or when they are not, which is more often the case in US films. Routh finished his presentation by concluding that one can make a bad film from a good screenplay, but not a good film from a bad screenplay.

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