Silent Killers That Might Be Infecting Your Film Project Or Your Career.

The creative industry is a crowded industy filled with many people all competing for attention. And competing for rewards. Like breathing in the germs from fellow commuters on an overcrowded rush-hour train, it’s easy to breathe in fatal germs. I call these ‘germs’ the silent killers that could be infecting your film project.

5 Silent Killers That Might Be Infecting Your Film

The germs that kill film projects come in five basic forms. Filmmakers and screenwriters can be infected by any or all of them. Regardless of which ‘germ’ infects you, the death of your project is certain. Understandably, this death will be painful.

Read below to see if you have already been exposed to any one of these silent killers. If you have been exposed seek urgent professional attention. Don’t delay. The silent killers work swiftly. with few outward symptoms.

1. Oral Diarrhoea

A terrible curse, and one that quickly kills deals. Presentations that are confusing and meander are a telltale symptom. Conversations that are littered with a complete lack of clarity another. Suffering from oral diarrhoea will mean potential investors and collaborators will run a mile. And because no one in the industry will say ‘No’ sufferers of this silent killer often think they are being successful.


You don’t get to meet qualified prospects to collaborate with or fund your project very often. Are you able to succinctly and clearly explain what it is you are trying to achieve? For example, can you pitch your story in a few sentences. Are you able to create word pictures that connect with anyone?

If you’re pitching for money, are you able to get to the point swiftly? Are you able to demonstrate that you have an audience? Are you able to show how you can de-risk their investment? Are you prepared to answer investors’ questions? And when you answer, you need to be dis-ambiguous. As crisp and clear as you can be.

Learn pitching skills. And learn how they say No in the film industry.

2. Scope Creep

Scope creep is one of the leading causes of project failure. I’ll wager a night’s sleep you won’t know what scope creep is unless you’ve been to business school.

All scope creep refers to is when a project over-runs. As a writer have you ever been asked to do unpaid revisions? Or as an editor unpaid new drafts? Before you know your project is dead. And so are you.


Set strict policies and guidelines about how you work. Most importantly make it clear when and where you expect to get paid. And stick to your guns. This doesn’t mean you can’t do favours or mates’ rates. Just make sure that your pricing strategy works for you personally, and for your clients and collaborators.

3. The Money Grub

Are you charging too much for your services? Is the budget unrealistically high for your film? Or, are you charging too little? (one of my personal failures)


Over or undercharging for your services, or for your film are each equally damaging. This is one of the least understood of the silent killers.

The solution is remarkably simple: consult with colleagues and professionals. Alternatively read the trade papers like the excellent Hollywood Reporter, Variety or Screen International. Before you know it you will understand what the market can bear. You’ll be able to adjust your price or budget accordingly. Hopefully adjusting upward.

4. The Anti-USP Virus

You see? Everyone in the industry is looking for your individual Unique Selling Point (USP).

Are you sure that you are creating content that is bold, fresh and dynamic? Or are you regurgitating stale stuff that has the “I’ve-seen-it-all-before” scent? If you haven’t you are almost certain to succumb to this silent killer.


If I – or any other doctor – had a known cure for this I’d be driving a Rolls Royce. Or flying a spaceship to the moon. But I don’t. All I can suggest is a lot of good healthy exercise. Chew some valerian root. Make sure you get plenty of sleep. Hope that these simple healthful exercises will give you the clarity of thought to evaluate your project(s) to make certain they are as bold, fresh and innovative as can be.

You’ll know when you have succeeded in beating this virus off when no on else has ever thought of your idea, but everyone wants it. Kerching! You’re gonna be in a very good place.

5. Posture

I’m not referring here to whether you slouch or stand bold upright. I’m talking about how you position yourself with your audience. It’s not exactly personal branding either. Although personal branding is just about the most important thing you need to nail if you want to succeed. (More about personal branding here)

This killer is just about the most silent of them all. And it moves very very slowly too. Often the symptoms are barely noticeable. But watch out! If not treated correctly you’ll suffer quite an ugly and slow demise bringing down your projects too.


The trick is to create a vortex of energy around you. Get this right and opportunity will be drawn to you like iron filings to a magnet. Try and think of the things that make you and your projects totally unique. Remember always that if you don’t truly believe in yourself, no one else will either.



Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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