Too often great people have been told by someone, a class teacher, a friend, a parent or a neighbor that ‘you can never be this or that’. Check it, almost all great people have had that vote of doubt cast over their life.
I’ve had my share. It was the winter of 2005, in the outskirt of Lagos, somewhere in a secluded guest house, close to the beach. It was a gathering of screenwriters and directors; it was a script conference of international magnitude. I was green and optimistic about the vast opportunities this will portend for me.
How wrong could I be, after the head writer went through my first draft, after breakfast with every writer present and seated, he took time to comment on everyone’s screenplay. When it got to my turn, he bluntly said I just didn’t get it at all. I took it in well though feeling quite embarrassed in front of other writers; I sunk deeper into my seat with an air of injured dignity.
I cried a lot beside the beach that night and was unable to do a rewrite because I didn’t even know where to start. In screenwriting parlance, a head writer could find fault with either your dialogue, or structure, or plot, or character authenticity, redundant scenes or combination of two or three that could be fixed but to be told that your full screenplay sucks is disheartening. So after drying my tears the next day, and having been evicted anyway, I summoned courage to ask the almighty Head writer what aspect of my screenplay sucks. And his response dazed me, he said, ‘your dialogues were on the nose’!
I made a silent scream and protested, ‘just that, of course it can be fixed, why didn’t you just say the problem was with the dialogue? And then he launched into a depressing speech to tell me ‘how I could never make it as a screenwriter; the best that could happen to me was to be a Government propaganda writer’. I swallowed hard, silently entered the bus that was waiting to convey me back to town.
It’s 7years since that incidence and I have done well for myself as a screenwriter, teaching and writing screenplays within and outside the country. I’m yet to do anything propaganda in nature for the Government and I don’t see that happening any time soon. I’m no huge fan of Government.
To everyone out there who have been told you can’t and you did, please share your story.