The longer you’re screenwriting, the more you realize it’s all about collaboration…

September 8, 2018 § Leave a comment

rewritingAhhhh… that sweet aroma of victory when you finish your spec screenplay. Every word is yours, every scene is yours, every line of dialogue is yours… it’s a joyous dream world filled with everything that came from your head… and now reality hits with a spec release and if you end up working in Hollywood—it’s always a collaboration. The moment you unleash your script for others to read, you will receive notes, good, bad and ugly and open yourself up to criticism. It’s hard when they burst your protected spec bubble and you realize that just because you write a screenplay doesn’t mean anyone has to like it or produce it. Time to toughen up and strap yourself in for the bumpy ride. If you can’t handle criticism and notes about your screenplays, don’t type FADE IN.

handshake cartoonThe key to survival as a writer, and working in Hollywood if you do land a job, is mastering the fine art of collaboration. Filmmaking by its nature is a collaborative art form.  No single person makes a movie. It can take one hundred people or more to make a decent budgeted film. So accepting the concept of collaboration is vital to your survival over the long haul. No screenplay scene or line of dialogue—or any screenplay—is worth losing a job over because you don’t want to collaborate. Professionals want to work with other professionals and not divas. Producers, executives, agents, managers, and directors look for workhorses—screenwriters who go above and beyond and realize the opportunities they have landed. If you want to work in this crazy business where it’s nearly impossible to get anything produced on any size screen—detach and get the script produced. You want to be the “go to person” who helps the producer, executive, and director move the project through the development phase toward production.  A collaborator and team player does just that without grumbling or being defensive about every change to the material. Your experience and attitude can determine if you’ll stay on the project or be fired. Have you learned how to take constructive criticism and mastered the ability to execute producer’s notes—and not gripe and grimace during the experience? If not, learn it now.

Most producers and executives have their radar up to detect if a screenwriter is easy or difficult when it comes time for the rewrites. They test you when you don’t expect it. Can you pass the test? The minute you’re viewed as problem, you’ll be branded as “difficult” and it’s a hard to dispel that reputation. The next step? You lose the job and they hire another writer who is a collaborator.

Hollywood is a small town when it comes to people knowing each other.  The producer I’m working with now knows and has worked with everyone I’ve worked with in the past. If word gets out that a producer or director had a difficult working relationship with you, it can mean the death of your next job. Let’s dispel that old stereotype and prove them all wrong. We’re the writers who want to work and make it all happen. Make a point to clearly show the producers how invaluable you are to the project and why they need to keep you around. As you’re the screenwriter, be the repository of knowledge about the script for the director, producer and actors.

Do everything you can to help the producers craft the script they need and  lend all of your support to get the movie competed. That’s the end game—getting your movie produced and receiving your credit.smash head in wall Initially, you may not receive the praise or validation you feel that you deserve for all of your hard work. I know it feels like you’re banging your head against a wall and coming up short. If this happens, patience is a good discipline to follow, as it will eventually pay off for you over the long haul. Your praise will come in the form of a payment for your writing, a produced film, and a vital part of your screenwriting career—a credit.  Produced film credits will determine your payment quote for your next project and secure you as a working professional. You’ll always find opportunities to be a collaborator team player and build your integrity as a professional screenwriter.

Collaborate! Every new project is a chance to build new relationships and show the producers and executives they can trust you by being a person of your word.  If you promise to do something—do it.  Over time, these professionals will know they can count on you, that your word means something, and you are a willing and able collaborator. Your talent is equally as important as your professional work ethic and your attitude. These are the characteristics of a professional screenwriter and your reputation of being a the ultimate collaborator will precede you.

Keep filling your blank pages because if you stop writing, you’ll never have a shot at any success.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2018 by Mark Sanderson on his blog MY BLANK PAGE.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, join me for my new seminar “Staying in The Game: Surviving as a Working Screenwriter in Hollywood” on Tuesday, September 25 from 7-9 PM. In this 2 hour event (after there will be a Q & A), I will take you through my journey of graduating from UCLA Film School and how I balanced various odd jobs with my writing for years until I finally established a screenwriting career. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t glamorous. My story shows it’s possible to live your dreams and in this discussion, I’ll share the particulars of how I established a screenwriting career in Hollywood. Hope to see you there! Tickets available on Eventbrite only by clicking on the icon below.

seminar

Click on the photo for the link to purchase tickets (online only).

 

Master CoverR2-4-REV2Check out my new book available on AMAZON. Click the book cover for the link.If your passion drives you to embark on this crazy adventure of a screenwriting career, you’ll need to prepare for survival in Hollywood’s trenches. Talent is important, but so is your professionalism and ability to endure criticism, rejection, and failure over the long haul. The odds may be stacked against you, but the way to standout in this very competitive business is to create a solid body of work and build a reputation as a team player and collaborator. The rest is just luck — a prepared screenwriter who meets with an opportunity and delivers the goods. “A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success” will help you prepare for your own journey with the necessary, tips, tricks and tactics that I’ve developed over the past twenty years of working in the film industry. It’s time to start living your dream as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” — John Lubbock

“Fame and money are gifts given to us only after we have gifted the world with our best, our lonely, our individual truths.”—Ray Bradbury

“Just do the best you can every time.  And if you’re going to stay in the movies, and you like movies—and I love them—you’d better love them a lot, because it’s going to take all of your time.  If you want to be in the movies, it’s going to break your heart.”—director Richard Brooks

“You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.” – Billy Wilder

 

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My new live seminar: “Staying in the Game: Surviving as a Working Screenwriter in Hollywood.”

September 6, 2018 § 1 Comment

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Click on the photo for the link to purchase tickets (online only).

LOS ANGELES screenwriters! Save the date and join me in person for my new live seminar in North Hollywood. In this 2 hour event (that will include Q & A), I will take you through my journey of graduating from UCLA Film School and how I balanced various odd jobs with my writing for years until I finally established a screenwriting career. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t glamorous. My story shows it’s possible to live your dreams and in this discussion, I’ll offer up my tips, tricks, and disciplines that can help you establish your own screenwriting career. You’ll also have a chance to purchase my new book, “A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success.

It’s a long haul journey to reach any level of screenwriting success. If you want to pursue this as your career you have to follow disciplines and focus on the bigger picture. It’s not the romanticized ideal of what most people think of a screenwriter’s life in Hollywood. It’s certainly a lot of rejections, failures, and criticism and if you can’t handle them — don’t type FADE IN. If you’re going to play in the majors, you’re competing with the best and you must accept that sometimes you won’t find the validation you need. Many times you will be disappointed from your feedback and your high expectations may be squashed. Your ego’s bruised, beaten to a pulp and you to doubt your talent and chances for success. Don’t take it personally, because feedback is a rite of passage necessary for the growth of any aspiring screenwriter. You’ll need to survive over the long haul of a career to endure disappointment criticism and rejection. As you embrace this process, you’ll begin to look at constructive feedback as a positive experience that helps make your script better and teaches you collaboration as a team player.

You’re certain to experience many disappointments as you pursue a career, but do not perceive any of them as failures or setbacks. These experiences are part of a screenwriter’s journey and you’ll always succeed if you keep a positive outlook and never stop writing.

I look forward to seeing you there, Tuesday, September 25th from 7-9 PM at 5628 Vineland, North Hollywood, CA. 91601. Tickets only available online.

Scriptcat out!

 

 

Screenwriters need down time to recharge their creative batteries…

August 25, 2018 § 1 Comment

recharge your batteriesSound advice we should follow as writers. Our constant use of brain energy and visualization can burn us out quickly. Not to mention the meeting of deadlines and the sacrifices it takes to achieve those goals. One week was especially busy for me finishing a new assignment screenplay, working on a screenplay consulting job, preparing for an important upcoming meeting, and working an outline for a new movie I’m writing with a director. It’s been mentally exhausting and my noisy mind is getting too loud and the gears are grinding to a halt. I’m lucky to be aware of my situation and my need for a slight break after I complete my work.

After I completed my work, I took much-needed breaks and read, watched movies, and went for a good run. The run still represents the journey and the ability to keep a commitment with myself with regards to exercise. Writers need a sound body to have a sound mind.  It also helped in a physical way, but I also needed just to vegetate and not think about anything — especially my current projects.  I knew exactly what to do, I popped some corn and went on a Bogart tear watching The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not, and The Treasure of Sierra Madre.  All were great films that inspired me to do better work.

In addition to relaxing, it’s also homework to further expose yourself to the great filmmakers of cinema. You can study where they succeeded and failed in various projects. The key to a stable and healthy creative mind is being aware of the creative lows and doing your best to recharge your creative batteries as you slip into this dangerous place. If you get stuck in the creative lows, they can make you procrastinate and avoid getting to work on your next project because you’re fresh out of ideas. You never want to go back to the well and find it dry. Avoid this soul-sucking place by immersing yourself in other artist’s works for inspiration.

When you recharge your creative batteries you’ll fill your well and will be ready to start your next magnum opus. Catch up on movies or TV shows that you’ve always wanted to see and study. I’ve recently been on a western movie tear and have watched nearly a dozen classics of the genre. I watched a masterpiece that was brought to my attention and its story structure was an inspiration. The film energized me to work on my old action spec that I’ve been tinkering with over the years. Recharge your batteries by listening to music or attending a concert, poetry reading, art exhibit or museum, sketch or paint, seek out local architecture, do something creative to breathe fresh life into your own work and feed your creative soul.

When you take your much needed break from writing, it’s okay to do something completely different to stimulate your mind and recharge your creative batteries. It’s also important to get away and take a vacation for a few days or longer. Your new experiences will add to the authenticity of your writing, so you can consider living actual research for your writing. Imagine the great ideas you’ll get from your adventures in a foreign country where new experiences can be found around every corner.

Who knows, maybe you’ll be like me and inspired or influenced by something and it will energize your creativity when you get back to your work. You’ll thank yourself the following week as you find yourself deep into meetings and deadlines, but now with a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of purpose.

Keep writing and keep the faith because if you stop writing, you’re guaranteed never to have any shot at success.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2108 by Mark Sanderson on his blog MY BLANK PAGE.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay? Is it time for in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the icon below for link to my website.

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Master CoverR2-4-REV2

My new book now available on AMAZON.

18 FIVE STAR REVIEWS!

If your passion drives you to embark on this crazy adventure of a screenwriting career, you’ll need to prepare for survival in Hollywood’s trenches. Talent is important, but so is your professionalism and ability to endure criticism, rejection, and failure over the long haul. The odds may be stacked against you, but the way to standout in this very competitive business is to create a solid body of work and build a reputation as a team player and collaborator. The rest is just luck — a prepared screenwriter who meets with an opportunity and delivers the goods. “A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success” will help you prepare for your own journey with the necessary, tips, tricks and tactics that I’ve developed over the past twenty years of working in the film industry. It’s time to start living your dream as a screenwriter in Hollywood. CLICK ON THE BOOK COVER FOR THE LINK TO AMAZON.

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Need screenwriting inspiration with your morning or afternoon coffee? Check out my COFFEE RING CARTOONS MERCHANDISE for screenwriters. Over a dozen different designs. Click on the photos for the link to my online store and the products offered

 

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” — John Lubbock

“Fame and money are gifts given to us only after we have gifted the world with our best, our lonely, our individual truths.”—Ray Bradbury

“Just do the best you can every time.  And if you’re going to stay in the movies, and you like movies—and I love them—you’d better love them a lot, because it’s going to take all of your time.  If you want to be in the movies, it’s going to break your heart.”—director Richard Brooks

“You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.” – Billy Wilder

Always remain humble on your screenwriting journey…

July 26, 2018 § 1 Comment

PILE OF SCRIPTSHumility? It’s respecting the reality of your journey and the mountain we all climb daily to reach any level of success as screenwriters. It’s knowing you’ll never be bigger than your craft, as screenwriting is a lifelong learning process. It’s accepting there will be massive sacrifices to get even one movie produced and distributed. It’s accepting the journey is not a sprint with shortcuts but a long haul marathon with no guarantees of success. It takes three or four scripts just to learn the format and find your voice, and it may take ten scripts to sell your first one. Do yourself a huge favor early in your journey and respect these facts. The great Rod Serling said, “This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”

script oddsAlso don’t be lulled into the belief that somehow it’s going to be different for you because you’re “special” or more “talented” than the next screenwriter. Approximately 50,000 precious screenplays bounce around Hollywood every year and nobody really cares. Most of the scripts are poorly written by aspirants looking for their easy “big break” or a huge sale bringing them fame and fortune. This is why Hollywood continues to build the walls higher and higher to filter out those who are not serious about the craft. Hollywood doesn’t owe you a read, a sale, or even a career. Just because you’ve put words to paper doesn’t mean anything to the bigger Hollywood community because it’s inundated with screenplays. In fact less than 100 specs sell in any given year. In recent years, it’s been more like 70 or less. Those figures are not to scare you away from your pursuit, but a reminder to humble about the journey and what you are up against. This way, you will treat your screenwriting career pursuit with the seriousness and dedication it needs.

If you did finish your screenplay, congratulations because you’ve accomplished more than most. Usually aspirants talk about their writing process more than actually writing.  Humility also comes from knowing that you’ll have to create a solid body of work to standout. One script isn’t going to do it and ten poorly written scripts will definitely not do it. I finally made some noise with my fifth spec screenplay—it sold and was eventually made into a film and distributed. That opened the door to assignment work, and I’ve rarely written another spec since as I’ve been too busy getting paid to write.

What about competition? There is always someone who wants a career in screenwriting more than you and is willing to work harder and sacrifice more than you’ll ever be willing to do. That’s okay. Don’t worry about the outside competition, the only real competition is with yourself to become a better screenwriter with every successive script you write.

We’re all special and unique, but we all still have to learn and write our way to any type of success by doing the necessary work, to follow disciplines, drive, sacrifice, and passion. We all have to fill those blank pages to get any shot at success. Even with talent and a fantastic screenplay, there are still no guarantees of success. Screenplays that sell can get lost in development hell and never produced. Some projects even get lost in the mire of financing or losing the lead actor and they fall apart.

poor screenwriterIf you are not humble and thankful for the little successes along the way, the film business will quickly humble you. Be humble, as it will serve you well on your long journey to reach any level of success. Know the monumental journey ahead of you, respect it, and get on with the hard work of creating fresh, authentic, and unique stories that showcase your talents. The rest of it is a roll of the dice, but you have to keep rolling to stay in the game.

Keep writing and keep the faith because if you stop—you’re guaranteed never to have any shot at success!

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2018 by Mark Sanderson on his blog MY BLANK PAGE.

Did you just finish your latest screenplay or draft? Is it time for in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the icon below. You never get a second chance to make a first great impression so take the time to get your script right.

script consultation2

Master CoverR2-4-REV2My new book now abailable on AMAZON.

18 FIVE STAR REVIEWS!

If your passion drives you to embark on this crazy adventure of a screenwriting career, you’ll need to prepare for survival in Hollywood’s trenches. Talent is important, but so is your professionalism and ability to endure criticism, rejection, and failure over the long haul. The odds may be stacked against you, but the way to standout in this very competitive business is to create a solid body of work and build a reputation as a team player and collaborator. The rest is just luck — a prepared screenwriter who meets with an opportunity and delivers the goods. “A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success” will help you prepare for your own journey with the necessary, tips, tricks and tactics that I’ve developed over the past twenty years of working in the film industry. It’s time to start living your dream as a screenwriter in Hollywood. CLICK ON THE BOOK COVER FOR THE LINK TO AMAZON.

NOW AVAILABLE!

Need screenwriting inspiration with your morning or afternoon coffee? Check out my COFFEE RING CARTOONS MERCHANDISE for screenwriters. Over a dozen different designs. Click on the photos for the link to my online store and the products offered.

“It is no small feat to get a movie made, on any subject, on any screen.” — JJ Abrams

“Just do the best you can every time.  And if you’re going to stay in the movies, and you like movies—and I love them—you’d better love them a lot, because it’s going to take all of your time.  If you want to be in the movies, it’s going to break your heart.”—Richard Brooks

When you start a movie script, it’s like entering a dark room: You may find your way around all right, but you also may fall over a piece of furniture and break your neck. Some of us can see a little better than others in the dark, but there is no guaranteeing the audience’s reaction.”—Billy Wilder

 

Screenwriting tips for your journey in Hollywood’s trenches…

June 28, 2018 § Leave a comment

FADE INIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, first of all—THANK YOU!  I truly hope you’re busy creating and forging ahead on your screenwriting journey and you’ve been able to take away a few nuggets of advice that helped. As you may know, I’ve been adding short posts (nothing is EVER short on this blog!) and sharing various survival tips. I do speak about these in the various articles on this blog, but this feature will be a quick reference to glance over and consider as you navigate your screenwriting journey. So, in addition to my tips on Twitter (@scriptcat), I’ll be posting new ones here from time to time.  Thanks for reading and as always: Carry on, keep the faith and keep screenwriting!

TIP #1        ONE SCREENPLAY WON’T DO IT…

PILE OF SCRIPTSYou may write a half-dozen specs that don’t sell before one of them secures you an assignment job from a producer or studio. Keep writing and finding your unique voice, keep mastering your craft, and really think about why you are writing your spec. What you write about is as important as how you write it.   You never know the perils that await you on your pathway to success, but the road is definitely paved with your spec screenplays—it just might take a half-dozen or more.

TIP #2         YOUR TIME IS PRECIOUS!

hang onAnd what about time? You don’t get it back on your deathbed. It’s your greatest asset or your worst enemy. It depends on how you use your precious time to create a solid body of work and continue to become a better screenwriter. That’s why I ask if you have an artist’s mentality — or the insanity to believe that even as you stare into the dark void of the unknown, your burning passion will guide you across yet another hurdle. You’ll need to withstand continued rejection, criticism, failure, and even sometimes ridicule — and if you can remain strong and shout with confidence, “I am a screenwriter” and truly believe it, because you are doing the work. You are sacrificing the time to create a solid body of work and not just talking about what you’d like to be doing. Write more, talk less.

TIP #3       DEADLINES, DEADLINES, DEADLINES… 

praise or blameIf you want to eventually work professionally, as I’m sure is your goal, you will need to work efficiently under a deadline, and at the best of your ability. It’s basically working quickly at the best of your creativity on a schedule and under a deadline. The only way to train for this is to always set your own deadlines and meet them every time with your spec screenplays. If you’re not practicing working under a strict writing schedule now, I’d suggest starting it on your next project. Write the same time every day, make your page count and get the job done. Meeting deadlines is what separates the professionals from the aspirants. When you do land a screenwriting job, you don’t want to be without this vital ability and experience and then struggle to finish your new paid job under a deadline.

Keep writing and keep the faith.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2018 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE.

Don’t miss my two new thriller premieres coming up this week!

A Night to Regret

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Did you just complete your new screenplay or a new draft? Time for in-depth consultation? Check out my screenwriting consultation services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website and schedule yours today.

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Master CoverR2-4-REV2MY NEW SCREENWRITING BOOK available on AMAZON~

If your passion drives you to embark on this crazy adventure of a screenwriting career, you’ll need to prepare for survival in Hollywood’s trenches. Talent is important, but so is your professionalism and ability to endure criticism, rejection, and failure over the long haul. The odds may be stacked against you, but the way to standout in this very competitive business is to create a solid body of work and build a reputation as a team player and collaborator. The rest is just luck — a prepared screenwriter who meets with an opportunity and delivers the goods. “A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success” will help you prepare for your own journey with the necessary, tips, tricks and tactics that I’ve developed over the past twenty years of working in the film industry. It’s time to start living your dream as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Click on the book cover for the link to Amazon.

Having a hard time reaching your screenwriting goals? Maybe my on-demand webinar can help. Check out “A Screenwriter’s Checklist: 10 Questions Every Screenwriter Must Answer to Stay in the Game” now available in two parts, each $5.99. Click on the photo below for the link to the website.

checklist 2

Click the photo for the link to the webinar.

“We all have the tendency to want to take the quickest, easiest path to our goals, but we generally manage to control our impatience; we understand the superior value of getting what we want through hard work. For some people, however, this inveterate lazy streak is far too powerful.”—Robert Greene, “Mastery”

“If a writer stops observing, he is finished.”—Ernest Hemingway

“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure. But the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. [F]ailure means a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself to be anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believe I truly belonged. [R]ock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life.” ~ J.K. Rowling

This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”—Rod Serling

“Most writers can’t tell at the premise stage whether they’ve got a good story because they don’t have the training to see the deep structural problems in the idea before writing it as a script.”—John Truby

 

 

 

Always enjoy seeing the fruits of my labor and being able to share them with a global audience…

June 24, 2018 § Leave a comment

A Night to RegretThis is a busy week for premieres of movies that I’ve written starting last Sunday night with the premiere of my latest thriller on LIFETIME called “A Night to Regret” starring Molle Gray and Marguerite Moreau. It re-airs again Saturday, June 30 at 10:05pm on Lifetime and premieres on LMN (Lifetime Movie Network) on Thursday, July 5 at 8pm/7c on Lifetime Movie Network.

If you haven’t experienced it yet, being able to watch your own movies on TV or in the theater is something to behold. I’ve had both including premieres and it’s the icing on the cake of a long process to achieve. It makes up for all the hard work on your journey as a screenwriter. You know first hand the dedication and hard work it took to hone your craft, secure the writing job, doing the many rewrites, sometimes even on set rewrites, and now you get to experience the result of everyone’s hard work and creativity. Does that mean the end product perfect? Nothing is perfect and rarely movies, as there are so many working parts to assemble. Unless you directed or produced the film, your screenplay is open to a lot of interpretations by other creatives and you hope it’s in good hands.  I’ve been blessed to have my scripts in good hands with the creatives I’ve worked with who elevate my screenplays to a higher level. I’m blessed to have been the writer chosen to make the blueprints happen again and again. You have to let go of any regrets and just enjoy the fruits of your labor and accept the good with the bad. The victory is that one of your films gets produced, screened for a mass audience, and seeing your credit—oh and don’t forget getting paid!

Family Vanished posterI also have another thriller premiering next weekend on Saturday, July 6 at 8p/7c on Lifetime Movie Network (LMN) called “Family Vanished” about a family whose home and identities have been taken over by a criminal family.  The movie stars Jennifer Taylor, Todd Cahoon, Kelly Packard, and Madison Dirks.

When you write a screenplay on assignment you must please the producer first—he or she is your boss and the producers also has people they must answer to in the way of executives, financiers, and even distributors. But as the great writer/director Billy Wilder said, “There is no guaranteeing the audience’s reaction.”  That’s for sure. As the great writer/director Preston Sturges said, “You can’t go around to theatres handing out cards saying, ‘It isn’t my fault.’ You go onto the next one.”  Yes, you move on to the next one —and you’re blessed if there is a next one. If the film is financially successful or gets high ratings for the producer, network, or investors, you’ll have another chance to work for them again—and working again makes a career.  These are the moments we aspire to experience as screenwriters — at least I always did — to be paid, credited, and have others around the world see the finished product.  In fact, millions of viewers during the première airing. In fact, I was in Italy earlier this year and got to see one of my movies airing dubbed in Italian. That was huge treat and truly shows the reach of movies to an international marketplace. Again, you always work hard to craft the best script possible under the circumstances and then let others take over to create something bigger — the real movie.

Even after fourteen produced films and nineteen assignment gigs, I never take my journey for granted because I know the work I’ve done and sacrifices to get here. The distribution aspect of the screenwriter’s journey is always a kick and every time I make it out of the trenches and gain some real ground, I hold my new position with renewed vigor. It motivates me to work even harder to move forward again with humility, patience, and a renewed sense of direction for the next screenplay or assignment.

I’m proof if you keep honing your craft and creating a solid body of work, eventually one of your projects will open that door that leads you on your road to screenwriting success. As always, keep writing, learning, networking with integrity and humility, and remember if you stop writing you’re guaranteed never to have any shot at success.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2018 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE blog.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay and need in-depth consultation? Check out my screenplay consultation services. Click on the icon below for the link to my website and more information. You never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your script. Why not get it into the best shape possible before you unleash it upon Hollywood?

script consultation2

Master CoverR2-4-REV2If your passion drives you to embark on this crazy adventure of a screenwriting career, you’ll need to prepare for survival in Hollywood’s trenches. Talent is important, but so is your professionalism and ability to endure criticism, rejection, and failure over the long haul. The odds may be stacked against you, but the way to standout in this very competitive business is to create a solid body of work and build a reputation as a team player and collaborator. The rest is just luck — a prepared screenwriter who meets with an opportunity and delivers the goods. “A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success” will help you prepare for your own journey with the necessary, tips, tricks and tactics that I’ve developed over the past twenty years of working in the film industry. It’s time to start living your dream as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

expiration date mugNOW AVAILABLE!

My COFFEE RING CARTOONS MERCHANDISE for screenwriters. Over a dozen different designs. Click on the photos for the link to my online store and the products offered.

dscn5271

“It is no small feat to get a movie made, on any subject, on any screen.” — JJ Abrams

“Just do the best you can every time.  And if you’re going to stay in the movies, and you like movies—and I love them—you’d better love them a lot, because it’s going to take all of your time.  If you want to be in the movies, it’s going to break your heart.”—Richard Brooks

When you start a movie script, it’s like entering a dark room: You may find your way around all right, but you also may fall over a piece of furniture and break your neck. Some of us can see a little better than others in the dark, but there is no guaranteeing the audience’s reaction.”—Billy Wilder

 

 

 

 

Considering a screenwriting partner? It’s not all fun and games, so choose wisely…

June 1, 2018 § Leave a comment

IMG_1059Writing is usually a solitary endeavor as we primarily sit alone at our keyboards, sometimes late at night, and peck away at our screenplays.  It can get lonely because a writer must get away from the constant distractions of the day and escape alone into the world of characters on the page.  If you’re thinking about working on a project with a writing partner and never had one before, you have to ask yourself if you both share the same work ethic and seriousness about the craft.  Is this partnership for one project or are you becoming a writing team? What happens if your project sells? Is your partner easy to work with in regards to changes and notes from producers? Do you argue about the creative direction of your screenplay? Do you both have the same creative sensibilities? What happens if you don’t sell anything for years—is your partner still going to go after the dream and how long will you both give the partnership? All good questions to consider before you both sit down and type “FADE IN.”

If you decide to become a writing team, it’s a creative partnership first, but you both must share a bigger vision about where you both see yourselves as business partners. It’s a business relationship too and you both must agree on every decision because it now affects both of your careers and potentially your finances. You’ll both either swim or sink together and during the rough times, you’ll need a partner who will do everything he or she can to save you both if you’re sinking.

My overall experience with having a writing partner was very positive, but I’ve heard stories where friendships have ended because egos and the business got in the way. I’ve had a handful of writing partners over the years and together we worked on spec TV pilots and features, but my last and longest writing partner worked with me for nearly eight years. We met working together as waiters in a restaurant — he was an actor with credits, and I was a writer who had film school and a few feature specs under my belt.  We shared the same comedic sensibilities, work ethic, and were both extremely serious about pursuing a career as screenwriters. We were blessed to have crossed paths when we did and working for many years together.

When he asked me to join a brand new sketch comedy troupe, I jumped at the opportunity and it gave me the chance to also become a live performer. It was our invaluable experiences together writing, performing and producing the live show and subsequent pilot that helped to solidify our screenwriting partnership. We also became closer friends as a result of slogging through Hollywood’s trenches together.

After our live show ran for many years, we co-wrote and co-produced an independently financed film and that experience brought our working relationship to an entirely new level. After that successful experience, we both decided that we wanted to focus on writing feature screenplays. We secured a literary manager who then found us an agent at a mid-level agency and we were off to the races.  During this period, I also sold a spec script of my own that went into production the following year. But now they sold us to Hollywood as a “writing team” and our handlers constantly sent out our specs and set up dozens of pitch meetings.

As a writing team, we laid the foundation for producers to get to know our work and consider us for writing assignments or rewrites. Our scripts were always high concept comedies that were heartfelt and uplifting. This was perfect as the producers we were meeting made those types of movies and wanted to read our scripts. Many times, these producers brought our scripts to the studio level for consideration and we always felt with every positive step forward we moved closer to our big shot. It always seemed like just one script away from that big success that begins a career.

We knew each other so well that it was like having my other half with me in the pitch meetings. And trust me, I’ve pitched alone and when it goes badly, it’s nice to have your writing partner there to back you up and vice versa. We were mature enough to know our weaknesses and both allowed each other to use our creative strengths to help the overall project. We took all ego out of the creative relationship.

As a team, it felt like family and we were like brothers looking out for each other as family. We always seemed on the same page with regards to the bigger picture.  He always had some vivid wild dream and would come to me and pitch it, we’d work it out, and it would become our next project. I’d instantly see it in my mind and we’d structure the story, pitch it to our manager, and then write it.  We’d usually complete a spec in a month and take notes from our handlers and quickly execute those notes.  They liked that we worked fast and were so productive.

After our live sketch show ended, as a writing team we co-wrote and co-produced a feature film, completed seven feature scripts, took dozens of pitch meetings, and co-wrote and did voices for a Showtime pilot. We had a good run. He eventually decided to leave the business and open three very successful restaurants.  I soldiered on alone.

For me personally, I’m so thankful to have had a writing partner during those creative years and I know we had more output together than if I had worked alone. Remember that when managers and agents send you out, you will be a writing team and from then on it will be difficult for you to work on your own as well. If you become successful and hook a writing job together, they will want the writing team and no just you alone. At the time, I recall my manager not really wanting to push my solo projects, as I was part of a writing team now and that was her focus.

chaplinBefore you decide to write a project with a partner, you have to ask yourself if you both share the same work ethic and bigger vision about where you both see yourselves as a creative team. It’s a business relationship first and together you will make important decisions that will affect both of your careers. If your writing partner is a friend and your business relationship goes sour, you could lose your friend and the project in the process. What if your partner decides to go another direction and quit the writing team because you aren’t selling anything? What if your partner hates to execute notes and doesn’t get along with producers? Be sure about the person you decide to include in your own career path. Also remember that any money you make will be split between you as well. That big $100,000 script sale really means $50,000 each minus agent, manager, lawyer, and of course taxes. It’s half the work, but also half the money.

A writing partner needs to be the right fit for the long haul because the team’s every success and failure will affect both of your careers. Like any relationship, it’s a give and take, so you have to seriously weigh the pros and cons of having a writing partner or choosing to go it alone. Choose wisely my friends.

Here’s a classic example of writing partners not working out from ‘Billy Wilder: The Art of Screenwriting No. 1’. Interviewed by James Linville in The Paris Review, 1996.

INTERVIEWER
I understand your collaboration with Raymond Chandler was more difficult?

BILLY WILDER
Yes. Chandler had never been inside a studio. He was writing for one of the hard-boiled serial magazines, The Black Mask—the original pulp fiction—and he’d been stringing tennis rackets to make ends meet. Just before then, James M. Cain had written The Postman Always Rings Twice, and then a similar story, Double Indemnity, which was serialized in three or four installments in the late Liberty magazine.

Paramount bought Double Indemnity, and I was eager to work with Cain, but he was tied up working on a picture at Fox called Western Union. A producer-friend brought me some Chandler stories from The Black Mask. You could see the man had a wonderful eye. I remember two lines from those stories especially: ‘Nothing is emptier than an empty swimming pool.’ The other is when Marlowe goes to Pasadena in the middle of the summer and drops in on a very old man who is sitting in a greenhouse covered in three blankets. He says, ‘Out of his ears grew hair long enough to catch a moth.’ A great eye . . . but then you don’t know if that will work in pictures because the details in writing have to be photographable.

I said to Joe Sistrom, Let’s give him a try. Chandler came into the studio, and we gave him the Cain story Double Indemnity to read. He came back the next day: I read that story. It’s absolute shit! He hated Cain because of Cain’s big success with The Postman Always Rings Twice.

He said, Well, I’ll do it anyway. Give me a screenplay so I can familiarize myself with the format. This is Friday. Do you want it a week from Monday?

Holy shit, we said. We usually took five to six months on a script.

Don’t worry, he said. He had no idea that I was not only the director but was supposed to write it with him.

      Double Indemnity (Directed by Billy Wilder)

He came back in ten days with eighty pages of absolute bullshit. He had some good phrases of dialogue, but they must have given him a script written by someone who wanted to be a director. He’d put in directions for fade-ins, dissolves, all kinds of camera moves to show he’d grasped the technique.

I sat him down and explained we’d have to work together. We always met at nine o’clock, and would quit at about four-thirty. I had to explain a lot to him as we went along, but he was very helpful to me. What we were doing together had real electricity. He was a very, very good writer—but not of scripts.

One morning, I’m sitting there in the office, ten o’clock and no Chandler. Eleven o’clock. At eleven-thirty, I called Joe Sistrom, the producer of Double Indemnity, and asked, What happened to Chandler?

I was going to call you. I just got a letter from him in which he resigns.

Apparently he had resigned because, while we were sitting in the office with the sun shining through, I had asked him to close the curtains and I had not said please. He accused me of having as many as three martinis at lunch. Furthermore, he wrote that he found it very disconcerting that Mr. Wilder gets two, three, sometimes even four calls from obviously young girls.

Naturally. I would take a phone call, three or four minutes, to say, “Let’s meet at that restaurant there, or, Let’s go for a drink here.” He was about twenty years older than I was, and his wife was older than him, elderly. And I was on the phone with girls! Sex was rampant then, but I was just looking out for myself. Later, in a biography he said all sorts of nasty things about me—that I was a Nazi, that I was uncooperative and rude, and God knows what. Maybe the antagonism even helped. He was a peculiar guy, but I was very glad to have worked with him.

film stockScriptcat out!

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Copyright 2018 by Mark Sanderson on his blog MY BLANK PAGE.

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“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.” —Leigh Brackett

“Starting tonight, every night in your life before you go to sleep, read at least one poem by anyone you choose. Poetry and motion pictures are twins. You’ll get more out of reading poetry than you will get out of any other kind of reading. You are people with eyes. You must find ways of extending this vision and putting it on film. As an experiment all of you could get out of here and shoot a cinematic haiku. Just go through a book of Japanese haiku and shoot a thirty-second film. They’re purely cinematic, very visual. You must read poems every night of your life in order to enable yourself to refresh your images. In forty years you’ll thank me for telling you this.”—Ray Bradbury, Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.” – Alfred Hitchcock

“If a writer stops observing, he is finished.”—Ernest Hemingway

“This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”—Rod Serling

“Give me a good script, and I’ll be a hundred times better as a director.” – George Cukor

 

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