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How Video Game Writer Neil Pollner Is Finding Success in Screenwriting

May 30, 2024
7 min read time

If you’ve heard of the games Mass Effect, Guild Wars 2, or Star Wars: The Old Republic, then you know Neil Pollner’s work. He is a successful video game writer who wrote a genre-bending action-thriller that is bound to make waves in the market. After placing as a Category Winner in Final Draft's 2023 Big Break Screenwriting Contest, Neil signed with a manager he met on the jury and he has now received a couple of offers on his script Without a Hitch.

He was kind enough to share with us how Big Break helped him take his writing career to the next level.

Final Draft: What are the obstacles you encountered in your screenwriting career in the past 12 months? 

Neil Pollner: In general, the biggest obstacle for me personally is time. Between writing for games and taking care of my family, there just isn’t a lot of daily space to devote to my film and TV projects. The hope is to become able to shift from game writing full-time to screenwriting full-time.

The primary obstacle standing in the way of that is, well, Hollywood—the pathways to a sale and production are just so insanely strewn with counterproductive complication and idiosyncrasy. A company can be gung-ho all-in to acquire your script, but then let ticky-tack disputes in the negotiation process tank the entire endeavor. This literally just happened with Without a Hitch. We were moving forward—I was Mr. Facilitator and quickly found agreement on the terms (many of which were very lean and unfriendly)—and yet, something else that had nothing to do with me or the script tanked the deal. Something’s wrong with the process if the writer whose script you want is totally willing to bend over backward, and it still doesn’t happen.

FD: How did you overcome that obstacle?

NP: To solve the time problem, I quite literally took an elongated break in between game projects and reworked/polished the script that ended up winning. In other words, I made my household take a financial hit for half the year and created the time needed to put Without a Hitch into the world. 

The Hollywood obstacle hasn’t been overcome just yet. 

FD: How did Final Draft Big Break help you?

NP: Just over a year ago, I submitted the script to the competition on a lark, and now there’s action around it and real hope that it could get made  

Without Final Draft Big Break I wouldn’t have the possibilities that I currently have. The idea and hope of transitioning to full-time screenwriting from game writing would still just be an impractical pipe dream fantasy. Now it’s something I have a glimmer of hope might someday happen.

As daunting as the obstacles that keep you from writing can be, getting the industry to even read your work makes those obstacles seem minuscule. But agents, managers, and producers want to read your script—they ASK to read your script—if you’ve placed at Big Break. 

Specifically, my success at Big Break resulted in interest from one of the judges. That judge is a producer who’s now my manager, and he’s gotten the script to another producer who’s walking the walk and committed to making the movie with us. 

FD: If you could give a writer currently where you were a year ago one bit of advice, what would it be?

NP: The single most predictive difference between writers whomake itand writers who don’t is that writers who make it don’t stop. Perseverance is the biggest ingredient.

Oh, and never think you’re done learning. 

When you finish one thing, switch your focus to the next thing. Don’t get distracted or bogged down by post-writing hand-wringing over what will come of it. The work itself is the reward, not whether or not it gets picked up or made. 

FD: What is next for you and your career? Any current projects in motion, attachments, staffing, etc?

NP: I’m on the team that’s writing the next BioShock game, and in between the cracks of that, I’ll be inching along on a new feature. Without a Hitch is (possibly) about to be optioned, and I’m very hopeful that it gets produced. Fingers crossed!

Read More: Big Break: Screenwriting Contest for Career Success in Film and TV

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