Why I Started Writing Screenplays

Peter Clarke
The Startup
Published in
4 min readNov 24, 2020

It’s often said that the best writers are currently in Hollywood working on movies and TV shows. The first time I heard this, a number of years ago, I was deeply skeptical. I’d always taken for granted the idea that film is a director’s medium — primarily a visual rather than a literary art form. At some level, I think I even believed that you could put a director in a room with some actors and voilà, you’d have a film.

Imagine someone seeing a stage production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and thinking, “Wow! I can’t believe that director and those goofy actors created something so sophisticated!” The factor missing in this equation is William Shakespeare.

Once upon a time, the best writers wrote epic poems. Then came stage plays. In the 1900s, everyone wanted to write the great American novel. Today, if you’re up to speed with the times and want to reach a large audience as a writer, there’s a good chance your name is Charlie Brooker and you’re currently working on season 6 of Black Mirror for Netflix.

Aside from Mr. Brooker, notable authors who have written screenplays include John Steinbeck, Joan Didion, Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl, and Dave Eggers, to name a few.

How I Found Myself Wring a Screenplay

I’ve been writing short stories and novels for well over a decade. It never crossed my mind to write a screenplay. But several years ago, I was taking my lunch break at work, walking along a path beside the San Francisco Bay, when I started thinking about a novella I’d recently completed. A particular scene flashed to life in my mind. It seemed amazingly cinematic. “I have to film that,” I thought.

Awesome! I’ll get some friends together, I figured; we’ll get a camera and some sound equipment, hike into the Santa Cruz Mountains, and make it happen!

I fantasized about this project for only a few minutes before I realized I would never be able to pull it off. There’s no way I could muster the resources, let alone the talent.

Giving up on my initial scheme, the next logical prospect was to get someone else to film it. However, to do that, first you have to write a screenplay. “No problem,” I thought…

Peter Clarke
The Startup

Author of “The Singularity Survival Guide” and Editor at JokesLiteraryReview.com. Read more at petermclarke.com. Follow me on Twitter @HeyPeterClarke