What do you do when you can't get the words on the page and no one is around to keep you accountable? WRAC, Writer Accountability, was created to help writers set goals, be accountable and share tips and advice in a supportive community.
Lets face it, writing is hard. You have to be multi-skilled, have the discipline of an athlete, and be ready to put your creativity through a daily workout, which at times feels more like a military assault course than a pleasurable endeavour.
But what happens when you’re the only one in the blocks? Who’s firing the starting gun? Maybe you’ll just wait a while, head back to the car and reach for your mobile phone? I know this struggle, because this is me. But what if you had a way to set your own goals and be part of a group who does the same? I belong to a few online communities such as Zero Draft 30, run by Go Into The Story’s Scott Myers, and the Story Broads, both of which are daily check-ins for me. WRAC is another.
The team behind the curtain are Gary Graham (@theGaryGraham) and Michael Hennessy (@howUplaythegame). Full disclosure, I’ve known Gary and Michael since they set up a Sunday film club on Twitter, where you run your own copy and live-tweet using #TheFilmBrigade hashtag.
Gary wrote and sold his A Garden At The End Of The World script to Warner Brothers, after it was discovered on the Black List, and subsequently redrafted the script to fit the I Am Legend franchise. I recently spoke to Gary and Michael about WRAC and they were kind enough to answer a few questions:
Camilla Castree: Firstly, thank you both for doing this! So can I ask, for anyone who has spotted the hashtag #WRAC18 on Twitter but isn’t sure, what does WRAC stand for and how did it come about?
Gary Graham: Michael and I were discussing screenwriting at length somewhere towards the end of 2016. Goal setting was a common theme as we explored ideas of how best to utilize our time and energy as writers. Somewhere in this discussion, the idea of accountability on a group level spurred a few tweets and interest from others. The idea of setting goals and achieving them throughout the year with reminders and a cheer section was born. We needed a hashtag, which you came up with and provided, Camilla. WRAC is our acronym/hashtag for WRiter ACcountability.
Michael Hennessy: Twitter was the natural place for it to be born, as well. It was sort of a natural growth from screenwriter-heavy audience for the weekly film screening series we run, that started back in November 2015.
CC: Was it really 2015? Was Snowpiercer the first film?
CC: That was a great film. So, how many writers signed up for WRAC17 initially and how do you think the first year went? Reading some of the year-end tweets, it seems that it was positive for many.
GG: Michael will have the exact details. I feel like the year was amazing. So many people attained their goals. And those who didn’t were motivated to work harder. Michael was unrelenting with the weekly reminder he sent out. And we all needed and appreciated it. Beyond the goal setting, the most powerful aspect for me was the level of support. Writers reading the work of their peers, giving support on social media and all around good vibes. Writing is hard enough as it is but with WRAC maybe it doesn’t have to be such a lonely endeavour.
MH: Snowpiercer, then two weeks later we had Jim Hart joining us for Dracula(and in 2016 for Contact). For WRAC17, there were 116 writers/writing teams who submitted over 150 projects. One of the most common responses when we asked for feedback was that it helped writers write more than they thought they were going to for the year. It became clear that many people respond well to posting a deadline in public (on Twitter), especially combined with seeing other writers endure the same minor struggles and successes throughout the year.
CC: I concur. I didn’t reach my goal, but I did write more because of the deadlines, and the support of our community. Gary, I agree with the reads. I have read more scripts last year than ever before, and I felt that it was mutually beneficial. So what does WRAC18 have in store for writers and how can they get involved?
MH: We have pages on The Film Brigade’s website where people can read what the WRAC group is all about, and also, if they wish, submit a project and join the group. Like last year, we tweet reminders every week. We tag the writers who had a deadline (all deadlines are chosen by the writer) over the past week and also reminding those who have a deadline in the upcoming week. We are continuing the challenges through to the middle of the year (Logline Challenge, One-pagers, Draft) and we will be launching a second round of the challenge series on July 1st. Paired with The Film Brigade, we will again be bringing in film and TV writers to guest host screenings.
Other guest hosts in 2017:
Gale Hansen (Dead Poets Society)
Ben Collins & Luke Piotrowski (Siren)
Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
Jeffrey Leiber (The Verdict)
Debbie Moon (Pacific Rim)
Miranda Sajdak (Winter's Bone)
Tim Talbott (The Stanford Prison Experiment)
Jackson Stewart (Beyond The Gates)
Beth Schacter (No Way Out)
Hope Dickson Leach (The Levelling)
MH: Eric Heisserer was very generous with his time.
CC: Arrival was one of my favourite screenings. He’s one of the best people on Twitter. He spoke to a bunch of us at Austin Film Festival and was more than gracious and welcoming. One last question, what is the best piece of advice someone has passed onto you?
MH: It wasn’t applied to writing, but can be expanded to fit that as well: “At the end of the day, it’s the work on the table that counts.”
GG: Best advice was from Christopher McQuarrie. Not to me directly. He wrote it once on Twitter about how to write a script: “I come up with a problem. Then I create a character who is least likely to solve that problem.”
GG: So if you take that advice and measure it against any logline you write, you will immediately see the holes.
CC: Immediately, my protagonist looks too capable. Thank you Gary (and Chris!)
GG: The less capable, the more conflict. The wider the arc.
MH: You can see that right away in Edge of Tomorrow - Tom Cruise starts out as a PR guy on D-Day, winds up becoming a video game killing machine.
GG: Yep. Complete coward who becomes a hero. Super wide arc.
MH: “Through readiness and discipline, we are the masters of our fate.” Kind of like screenwriters.
GG: Jaws is always the great example for me. There must be internal and external conflict with regards to your protagonist. You need both. And you must express it in simple terms. Brody is a newbie sheriff of a small town, afraid of water who must venture into the ocean to kill a shark. So internal fear of water. External problems dealing with a community who doesn’t trust him. Solid character.
CC: Totally agree. Anything else you’d like to add?
GG: Michael is awesome.
MH: I’m Reed to Gary’s Dirk (referencing Boogie Nights).
GG: And neither of us can sing for shit.
GG: We argue over who looks more like Han Solo.
MH: What do you bench?
GG: You first.
Essentially WRAC is a spirited community of screenwriters and novelists whose goal is to achieve what they set out and encourage others to do the same. No strings, just pages, and we have some fun along the way.
Follow Camilla Castree @Cilly247 on Twitter.
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