Tips to survive the crushing blow of feedback and criticism…

October 26, 2019 § Leave a comment

First rule of pursuing a screenwriting career and dealing with criticism: Do not end up like Joe Gillis. We don’t want to find you face down in a swimming pool of a Beverly Hills mansion. Failure is part of a screenwriter’s journey, but make sure it doesn’t lead you to act out in desperation. It’s not worth it. Sure, Joe constantly received less than positive feedback on his scripts, and one project was about the Okies in the Dust Bowl, but when it reached the screen, the whole thing played on a torpedo boat. Yes, he ended up broke and working for a nutty actress in her giant mansion — “A place that seemed to have been stricken with a kind of creeping paralysis — out of beat with the rest of the world, crumbling apart in slow motion.”  Be careful when you have expectations and open yourself up to feedback and criticism, you could turn down a dangerous path and end up in the papers for the wrong reason.

We all have expectations after we complete a script. You know the creative high that you felt during writing, and now you might be coming off that high as you turn in your draft to a reader, a contest, or a producer and await feedback. Weeks or months later, did you get the feedback and it’s not exactly what you expected? Were you disappointed they didn’t appreciate the work enough — or maybe didn’t understand it enough? Maybe they felt your execution of the treatment was off? Maybe you aren’t writing at the level you thought and suffer a harsh reality check. Perhaps you become down on yourself as the insecure voices scream in your head about your lack of ability? You may even question what you thought was some of your best work only a week ago. You are not alone my fellow writers.

handshake cartoonWe all need a pat on the back or just a “job well done” once in a while. Especially when we finish a new script. Writing the script is one thing, turning it into someone and waiting for feedback is another. It’s easy to take notes personally because your script is your baby, and your writing exposes yourself and your talents to criticism. If you can’t handle criticism, start to work on acceptance as it will make your journey as a working writer a lot less bumpy. Notes and changes are a given with a screenplay. Perhaps it will make the process easier to always remember that writing is rewriting.  Detach from the material and expectation from any outcome.  “Act without expectation.” —Lao Tzu. Do not hang on every word or sentence.  I know, it’s the hardest thing to do in the process. You’re not alone. A writer’s journey is a tough one at best.

changeNow, as writers we have to stay open to constructive criticism. We will always receive notes as a script is a changing blueprint for a movie. When you start working professionally, producers, a director and actors get involved and there will be many changes. You should welcome the creative input from your co-creators on a project. These fellow artisans will bring the work into to an entirely new level. But if the process gets dragged down by so many changes, you can become frustrated and feel like throwing in the towel. Stay positive, focused and persistent at executing the notes and turning in a better script. Find the passion you had for the first draft, and put that energy into shaping a new draft that will please not only yourself, but the talent it will eventually attract.

pitchAlong with the successes, I’ve had to deal with disappointments and frustration throughout my writing career, but I continue to love the craft of writing. I’ve been able to view the entire process from a larger perspective and focus on the task at hand — to get the script into better shape. If you are lucky enough to be paid to write, it becomes your job. You go to work, write all day, go home, come back tomorrow and wash, rinse and repeat. Writers have pages to write and without filling those blank pages there would be no script. Take your feedback seriously, but don’t take it to heart. Trust in your writing abilities and if you allow the disappointments to take you into a bad place, address your feelings but then focus on the task of executing your notes. Stay out-of-the-way of the story and put your ego aside.  Everyone is here to serve the story to the best of their creative ability. Production is all about compromises, and many times you’ll have to make changes you don’t entirely agree with, but you do them and move on to write another day. If you want to play with the big boys and girls, at some point you’re going to be bruised and beat up. It’s just the rites of passage necessary for the growth of a writer.

Part of the deal is that you want people to read your material, right? If producers or executives agree to a read, give them ample time to get back to you. A gentle nudge in a few weeks is completely acceptable, but if you contact them before, you’ll seem desperate and no one likes to be hounded. I remember a producer warned me, “Stay on me about your project, because I tend to get busy.” That’s fine. But use common sense and put yourself in their situation for a second. Your script is the most important thing in the world to you after you finish, but you have to understand that it’s not on their front burner at the moment. One E-mail or text is fine to check up — four are not.

Be open to the entire process of writing — the notes, rewrites and all. Always be writing. No disappointments only triumphs when you complete a project. There will always be creative highs and lows. Do your best not to allow your disappointment to be perceived as a failure and then sink into the morass of fear and insecurity in your creative soul. This will lead to the horrible act of chasing screenplay notes.  Avoid this at all costs.

Be patient. A career does not happen overnight and part of your journey is becoming a better writer and finding your unique voice — one that producers will grow to love, trust and hopefully employ!

@Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2019 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE blog.

“The poor dope — he always wanted a pool. Well, in the end, he got himself a pool.”

Follow me on Twitter / Periscope: @scriptcat

Subscribe to my new YOUTUBE CHANNEL for screenwriting video tips.

Do you need professional, in-depth screenplay consultation? Check out my services. Click on the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information.

script consultation2

My new screenwriting survival book is available on Amazon.

Check it out. Click on the book cover for the link.

22 FIVE STAR REVIEWS!

Master CoverR2-4-REV2

Need helps with your screenwriting goals?  Check out my on-demand webinars. Now available as a streaming rental. Click on the icon below for the link to the website.

checklist 2

Click the photo for the link to the webinar.

There is only one way to avoid criticism: say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”—Aristotle

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” —Alexander Pope

“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“If good, you learn from it. If bad, you learn even more. Work done and behind you is a lesson to be studied. There is no failure unless one stops.”—Ray Bradbury

I am never indifferent, and never pretend to be, to what people say or think of my books. They are my children, and I like to have them liked.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Don’t mind criticism. If it’s untrue, disregard it. If it’s unfair, keep from irritation. If it’s ignorant, smile.  If it’s justified, learn from it.” — Old Chinese Saying

The less you share about your progress the better and only celebrate when the check clears…

October 7, 2019 § Leave a comment

never believe them untl the check clearsI know writers can get excited about anyone’s interest in their work. This also goes for a meeting, or a request to read their screenplay. Sure, on the surface it’s all positive forward movement, but many times you’ll learn that the final results don’t always live up to your high expectations. That’s why you have to always do what Lao Tzu recommends, “Act without expectation,” so you don’t suffer the ups and downs of the screenwriting journey and its emotional roller coaster.

What can you do as you’re navigating the trenches on your screenwriting journey? Keep the intimate details of your work to yourself. Do not continually post on social media or talk about the status of your projects, about an upcoming meeting, how many pages you wrote today, or how each project is moving forward or not. It’s only to seek validation from people you don’t know and that’s the hardest quest of all. It’s similar to when you’re playing poker. You keep your cards close to your vest and only play your hand when you really have something. I’ve seen too many writers get excited and post on social media about their upcoming meetings, or how a production company wants to read their script, only to learn a week later the meeting was just a general meeting, and the production company passed on the script. Why share that private information only to have it end with rejection?

I know we work so hard and seek validation from others, but look for that validation inside when you complete a new project. It’s tempting to share the intimate details with friends and family or even strangers, but keep your business to yourself. Your stock reply should be, “I’m busy working on a handful of interesting projects.”  Hemingway said it best, “I still believe, though, that it is very bad for a writer to talk about how he writes. He writes to be read by the eye and no explanations or dissertations should be necessary. You can be sure that there is much more there than will be read at any first reading and having made this it is not the writer’s province to explain it or to run guided tours through the more difficult country of his work.”

time warp in HollywoodThe main reason to keep your business to yourself is because you will find Hollywood has a bizarre time warp that works on its own schedule. Every project will take longer than you ever expected and you don’t need people thinking that you’re blowing smoke when you talk about the status of your material. I’ve experienced the head of a production company tell me in person that my script was going into production within three months. Of course the deal fell through as it does most of the time, but what if I told everyone that I knew about my good fortune only to have the rug pulled out from beneath me? When the supposed production date neared, those people would certainly be asking me about the status of the project. I’d have to waste precious energy telling them the bad news or trying to string them along as I kept the news alive not wanting to explain what happened out of fear.

quote of the dayMaybe after a series of events that failed to materialize into anything, people might believe that you were exaggerating for effect or just blowing smoke. Maybe they would think you weren’t talented enough if the project fell apart? The reality is that financing does fall through, schedules change, companies pass on your scripts, and there is a myriad of things that can and do happen completely out of the writer’s control. When these unforeseen issues happen the naysayers will respond to you with, “Man, I don’t know how you do it. That’s such a hard business.” As if you didn’t already know this fact, right? And as if anything worth achieving in life was easy? And then you’re judged based upon events out of your control. You might even have others look at you like your dreams are a fool’s folly. It’s not the first time someone has heard about a friend writing a screenplay with hopes to sell it and launch a career. Forget that you not only secured the paid gig to write a script on assignment and it made it through development… but that’s not impressive to those who don’t know just how hard that was to achieve. You’ll have to fight against believing their criticisms and advice because it comes from their own fears projected upon you.

hang onThe truth is that it takes an incredible amount of time for any aspiring screenwriter to gain and hold new ground and for any script to find a home and eventually get produced—if ever. Sometimes the less you say about your progress the better. Focus on the work and if anyone asks you what is going on, politely explain that you’re constantly “working on a lot of projects and they’re moving forward.”  I recently ran into an old friend who asked how things were going, and when I mentioned a project and its recent upswing in progress he replied, “Haven’t you been trying to get that made for a few years now?” Why, yes I have… and thank you for reminding me of that fact. It’s not as easy as you’d believe to get someone to just give you a few million dollars to make a film. This is a perfect example of how every project is a new adventure and has its own ups and downs that are out of your control. You’ll survive the journey by having as many solid projects out there working as possible for your benefit.  Sometimes they all hit, one hits, and other times nothing hits. It’s the nature of the business, but you keep soldiering on.

rejectionWe all have our own inner voice of self-doubt as artists, but why give fodder to your critics and skeptics who will use it to squash your dreams? They’ll even taint any good news you share and use it to belittle your success because they didn’t have the guts to risk everything to pursue their own dreams. I have a friend who just landed a gig on an indie movie and the pay isn’t great, but it’s a fantastic opportunity and might open up a whole avenue that never existed before for him. He mentioned that he told another friend about this good fortune, and his friend questioned his decision to take the job and even pointed out that he’ll “barely break even financially—so what’s the point?”  The friend couldn’t see the bigger picture and how in the film business, many times you take a job because you can see past the immediate opportunity and look to what other doors it can open.

Again, beware of opening yourself up to negative criticism by sharing all of your private business especially on social media. Sure, you will find those who support your achievements, but the dark side of social media is where the trolls reside. It only takes one or two trolls to crush your spirit even when so many others are supportive of your screenwriting journey. It’s like fake currency because it’s as easy for people to just click a heart as it is to respond with a jealous or nasty comment. Tread lightly and don’t expect everyone to support your journey. The trolls lash out with jealousy and try to demean you so they can feel better about their shortcomings. You don’t need the added distractions.

Protect your dreams from the naysayers who enjoy raining on your parade. They’re unable or unwilling to take that leap off the cliff and that’s okay—it’s what us dreamers do every day. Keep your work close to the vest and don’t post it on social media until there is something real to talk about. A meeting can just be a meeting. And it’s great that a production company requested to read your script, but that a long way from them wanting to option or buy it. It’s baby steps at first before anything major happens, and it takes years of writing and networking. It was six years after film school for me when I landed my first professional writing job. Even when projects move forward, they can still die in development, during production, and even after they’re produced. Projects can also languish after you’ve been paid to write them as they sit on a shelf never to be produced. It’s happened to me at least five times. What do you do? You move on.

The less you share about your progress the better. No one ever truly knows the fate of any screenplay or film and it’s mostly out of your control, so stick to what is within your control—keeping your private business to yourself until there is something concrete to share. And only get excited when the check clears!

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2019 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE

Follow me on Twitter / Periscope: @scriptcat

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

script consultation2

masterclassFREE!  My seminar “Staying the Game: Surviving as a Working Screenwriter in Hollywood” sponsored by Film Courage. It’s two hours of me talking about my screenwriting journey and I share my tips, tricks and tactics that have helped me to become and stay as a working screenwriter in Hollywood for over twenty years. Click on the icon for the link to the video.

 

Need help navigating Hollywood’s trenches as you pursue a screenwriting career? Check out my new book on Amazon. It chronicles my past twenty years of working professionally as a screenwriter in Hollywood and shares my tips, tricks, and tactics that helped me to stay in the game. Click on the book cover for the link to Amazon.

Master CoverR2-4-REV2

Subscribe to my YOUTUBE CHANNEL for screenwriting video advice.

Losing focus on your screenwriting goals? Maybe my archived webinar can help—now available for streaming rental. Click on the icon below for the link to rent the webinar.

checklist 2

 “Act without expectation.” —Lao Tzu

“Seeking support from friends and family is like having your people gathered around at your deathbed.  It’s nice, but when the ship sails, all they can do is stand on the dock waving goodbye.  Any support we get from persons of flesh and blood is like Monopoly money; it’s not legal tender in that sphere where we have to do our work.  In fact, the more energy we spend stoking up on support from colleagues and loved ones, the weaker we become and the less capable of handling our business.” —Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“‘I never feel the need to discuss my work with anyone. No, I am too busy writing it. It has got to please me and if it does I don’t need to talk about it. If it doesn’t please me, talking about it won’t improve it, since the only thing to improve it is to work on it some more. I am not a literary man but only a writer. I don’t get any pleasure from talking shop.”—William Faulkner

“The thing is to become a master and in your old age to acquire the courage to do what children did when they knew nothing.”—Ernest Hemingway

Everyone holds his fortune in his own hands, like a sculptor the raw material he will fashion into a figure. But it’s the same with that type of artistic activity as with all others: We are merely born with the capacity to do it. The skill to mold the material into what we want must be learned and attentively cultivated.”—Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

How to find a screenwriting mentor.

September 26, 2019 § 1 Comment

yoda-lukeEvery teacher had a teacher. Every mentor had a trusted advisor. It’s an ongoing process of learning and staying humble about the fact that what you don’t know about screenwriting can actually hurt you. If you’re lucky enough to work on film productions, you can make the necessary contacts with professionals and learn from their experience. This is a vital element in your continual growth as a filmmaker and screenwriter. Do your best to find a filmmaking mentor and apprentice under them, or at least have access to them as they are working. Study how they handle their business and ask questions about the craft. They’ve already survived many of the pitfalls that you have yet to experience and their knowledge will help you better travel on your journey to success.

I’ve been blessed in my career to have worked with Academy Award® winning producers, veteran directors, and Academy Award®, Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominated actors on the films that I’ve written. Because I was working with them on a professional level, I was able to study first-hand their disciplines, techniques, and how they practiced their craft in a professional environment. After the productions, many became my friends and mentors, and I continue learn and seek their advice as I travel along on my screenwriting career.

I’ve become a better screenwriter because of my access to these veteran film professionals, and it’s certainly helped me to become a professional as well. Their vast experience and credits have been a priceless tool box to draw from and expand my knowledge as I gain my own experience. I’ve learned the importance of writing a more effective screenplay and how to make it production ready. That is vital if you want to stay on the job during production you must become a production savvy writer. I’ve also created projects with my mentors and we’ve pitched them together, continue to work on projects, or they ask to read and consult on their projects.

Now, if you haven’t yet written a film that’s been produced or had access to the various talent, you can look for busy screenwriters who might need an assistant and are willing to pay an hourly wage for the job. It’s a great way for aspiring screenwriters to learn while getting paid to work. If you can’t find a paid position, offer your time to a working screenwriter in exchange for access to their process, their daily routines of pitches, and meetings, or get them to give you access to a movie or TV series set. Another way for access is volunteer to work for a film festival and you’ll get to see the movies for free, but more importantly meet the various talent associated with the films and possibly make new contacts for mentors.

handshake cartoonA true professional is always willing to give back and share knowledge. When you’re able to observe these working professionals, ask questions, learn their personal story of success, and study how they conduct themselves. It’s the behind the scenes action that’s the most important.  It’s your job as a screenwriter to continually learn your craft and that includes seeking out working professionals and learning from them. We should never stop learning as artists. Eventually when you become an accomplished filmmaker yourself, reach back and pay it forward helping others who are a few steps behind you on their journey. It will feel good and you’ll be keeping the proper old school mentorship alive in the screenwriting community.

You’re always in the game if you keep writing. So keep filling your blank pages on your road to success.

Scriptcat out!

Follow me on Twitter / Periscope: @scriptcat

Subscribe to my YOUTUBE CHANNEL for screenwriting video tips.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay and need in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information. You only get one chance to make a first great impression.

script consultation2

Master CoverR2-4-REV2Check out my book!

22 FIVE STAR reviews on Amazon. Click on the book cover for the link to purchase.

It’s a long haul journey to reach any level of screenwriting success. 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.

 

“…That’s why an artist must be a warrior and, like all warriors, artists over time acquire modesty and humility.  They may, some of them, conduct themselves flamboyantly in public.  But alone with the work they are chase and humble.  They know they are not the source of the creations they being into being.  They only facilitate.  They carry.  They are the willing and skilled instruments of the gods and goddesses they serve.“—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.  The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” — Joseph Campbell

“Take a person like Picasso, you know, who does double profiles and has gone through cubism and God knows what, but he knows every muscle in the human body. If you ask him to draw the figure of a man or a woman, there wouldn’t be a muscle out of place. You’ve got to know your craft in order to express the art.”—Alfred Hitchcock

“Believe me that in every big thing or achievement there are obstacles — big or small — and the reaction one shows to such an obstacle is what counts not the obstacle itself.”—Bruce Lee

Need inspiration with your morning coffee?

NOW AVAILABLE!

My COFFEE RING CARTOONS MERCHANDISE for screenwriters. Over a dozen different designs. Mugs, glassware, T-shirts, mouse pads, notebooks, even note cards. Click on the photo below for the link to my online store and the products offered.

expiration date mug

Tips to survive the disappointments your screenwriting journey will bring…

September 4, 2019 § Leave a comment

megaphoneWe all have expectations after we complete a script. You know the creative high that you felt during writing it and you want to let the world know that you finished. You’re also probably coming down from that high as you turn in your draft to a reader or contest and await feedback. Did you receive opinions that were not exactly what you expected? Many times we are pleasantly surprised, but too many other times we are let down by our expectations.

Were you disappointed they didn’t appreciate the work enough — or maybe didn’t understand it enough? It’s hard because we assume that everyone else is as excited about our screenplay as we are when we finish. If this was an assignment gig, maybe the producer felt your execution of the story outline was off?  (I’ve had this happen before and had to rewrite the outline). Perhaps you become down on yourself as the insecure voices scream in your head, “I’m a fraud and they’ve found out!”  You may even question what you thought was some of your best work only a week ago, but now because of the reaction, you feel it’s crap. You are not alone my fellow writers.

handshake cartoonWe all need a pat on the back or just a “job well done” once in a while… even if it comes from within and not from external opinions. Writing the script is one thing, turning over to others for feedback, or to a producer or contest, and waiting for a reply is another experience. It’s easy to take notes personally because your script is your baby and your writing exposes yourself and your talents to criticism. If you don’t handle criticism well, start to work on acceptance. It will make your journey a lot less bumpy.  You will always deal with notes and changes as long as you write and for your entire career. It doesn’t change when you become a professional writer. In fact, more is at stake because you are being paid and your reputation is on the line with every project. Maybe it will make the process easier to always remember that writing is all about the rewriting.  Detach from the material and expectation from any outcome.  “Act without expectation.” —Lao Tzu. Do not hold on to every word or line of dialogue so tightly. This trick will help you on the long haul journey of a screenwriter.

changeAs writers we must stay open to constructive criticism. We will always receive notes as a script is a changing blueprint for a movie. Even during production there are changes made. Once producers, a director, and actors get involved, there will be many changes and you should welcome the creative input from your co-creators on a project. These fellow artisans will bring it to an entirely new level of creativity. But if the process gets dragged down by so many changes you can become frustrated and feel like throwing in the towel. Stay positive, focused, and persistent at executing the notes and turning in a better script. Find the passion you had for the first draft and put that energy into shaping a new draft that will please not only yourself, but the talent it will eventually attract. This is vital to your staying on the project through production.

pitchAlong with the successes, I’ve also had to deal with soul crushing disappointments and frustration throughout my writing career, but I continue to love the craft of writing.  I’ve also been paid to write movies that were never made and got lost in “development hell.” Imagine being told by the head of the production that your film will go into production in two months, only to find out it doesn’t happen. No, I didn’t go out and buy that expensive sports car! There are a myriad of reasons why a film doesn’t move forward—even if you wrote a terrific screenplay. These disappointments were the hardest for me to get used to when starting out as a professional screenwriter. I always thought just because they buy your script or hire you to write one, it was a guarantee of a produced film. There are so many hurdles to jump during development and some after production. After fifteen produced films and twenty-three assignments, I know the hard reality of the business that not everything gets made — even if you are paid to write it.

hemingwayI’ve been able to handle these disappointments by viewing the entire process from a larger perspective and focusing on the task at hand — to get the script into better shape and move it through the development process. Or if a script isn’t working after many rewrites, maybe it’s a flawed idea. You have to know when to walk away and start on something new. If you are lucky enough to be paid to write, it becomes your job. You sit at your keyboard, write all day, come back tomorrow, and lather, rinse, and repeat. So even if you are not a paid professional yet, treat your screenwriting like a job. If you have a “day job” then screenwriting is your second job or third.

Writers have pages to write and without filling those blank pages there would be no script. Take your feedback seriously, but don’t take it to heart. Trust in your writing abilities, and if you allow the disappointments to take you into a bad place, address your feelings but then focus on the task of executing your notes. Stay out-of-the-way of the story and put your ego aside. Writers must serve the story to the best of their creative ability. If you want to play with the big boys, at some point you’re going to be bruised and beat up.  It’s just the rites of passage necessary for the growth of a writer.

alfred-hitchcockreading-script-for-the-movie-rebeccaPart of the deal is that you want people to read your material, right? If producers or executives agree to a read, give them ample time to get back to you. A gentle nudge in a few weeks is completely acceptable, but if you contact them before, you’ll seem desperate and no one likes to be hounded. I remember a producer warned me, “Stay on me about your project, because I tend to get busy.” That’s fine. But use common sense and put yourself in their situation for a second.  Your script is the most important thing in the world to you after you finish, but you have to understand that it’s not on their front burner at the moment. One E-mail or text is fine to check up — four is not.

Be open to the entire process of writing — the notes, criticism, rejections, rewrites and all. Always be writing to gain that precious experience. Detachment from the work is hard, but it helps so you’re not crushed every time you receive disappointing feedback. No disappointments only triumphs when you complete a project. There will always be creative highs and lows. Do your best not to allow your disappointment to be perceived as a failure and then sink into the morass of fear and insecurity in your creative soul. This will lead to the horrible act of chasing screenplay notes.  Avoid this at all costs.

Be patient. A career does not happen overnight and part of your journey is becoming a better writer and finding your unique voice — writing that producers will grow to love, trust, and hopefully employ!

@Scriptcat out!

Copyright © 2019 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE blog.

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 the link to my website. You never get a second chance to make a first great impression.

*****

script consultation2

Master CoverR2-4-REV2My new screenwriting survival book is available on Amazon with 22 FIVE STAR REVIEWS!

Click on book cover for link to Amazon.

It’s a long haul journey to reach any level of screenwriting success. 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.

Editorial reviews…

“I have known Mark my entire life, and he is absolute living proof of the grit and tenacity it takes to make it as a writer in this business. Take your first steps toward your own career by reading the words of this true fighter.”Matt Reeves, writer/director
(Cloverfield, Let Me In, Dawn Of The Planet of the Apes, War For The Planet of the Apes, The Batman)

“A great book for anyone who ever aspired to become anything; Sanderson reminds us how important it is to have a life passion, how important it is to work hard at it, and how that, in itself, is a victory.”J. J. Abrams, writer/producer/director
(Mission Impossible III, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

“Mark’s work as a screenwriting guru is as thorough, as painstaking, and as insightful as his actual screenwriting was on Tides Of War, our submarine drama. As aspiring writers soon learn it’s a complex, changeable, lonely field of endeavor, so Mark provides not only valid professional advice but also meaningful emotional support for all those who stare into the abyss of an empty page. Read Mark, and your keystrokes will accelerate.”
Brian Trenchard-Smith, producer/director
(Dead End Drive In, BMX Bandits, Drive Hard, and 40 others)

“Not only have I collaborated with Mark as a writer, more importantly I have found him to be a true artist who walks his talk. Whenever the chips are down, whenever I’ve needed some creative or inspirational, perhaps technical help — even if it’s at 3:00 in the morning — Mark has been there invariably. Infallibly. As a screenwriter, director, or producer, this book is the very next best thing to having Mark in your corner at 3 A.M.”
George Mendeluk, writer/producer/director
(70 credits, over 300 hours of television, and 9 features including the epic Bitter Harvest)

“Mark is a journeyman screenwriter, my good friend and collaborator on several projects. This is a must have book of reference for those not only about to embark in a career in the entertainment industry, but also for those who want to learn from someone who’s been there and done that. Mark is extremely candid about what it takes and how hard it is to ‘make it’ in this business. This should be on everyone’s desk right next to their computer.
Greg Grunberg, actor and writer/producer
(actor Alias, Heroes, Big Ass Spider, Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Three simple tips to help you survive your screenwriting journey…

August 30, 2019 § Leave a comment

EXCUSESAh, summer is almost over and hope the screenwriting has been easy… well, maybe not so easy, but it’s always going to be a part of your working life. I was blessed to recently to complete a second draft of a new assignment screenplay, finish another draft of a short film I’m going to do with a director, I was a guest on actor/producer John Lehr’s podcast where we talked about the business, and I’m reading scripts for potential rewrite jobs. You have to keep moving forward and stay busy in all aspects of your writing.

I hope you’ve created new opportunities that have pushed your screenplays closer to success so far this year. Trust me, I know if can feel like you’re banging your head against a wall hoping for a breakthrough, but finding the same results of rejection and criticism. I truly hope you’re busy creating a solid body of work and forging ahead on your screenwriting journey. I hope that I’ve been able to offer a few nuggets of advice that you’ve found helpful. In addition to my tips on Twitter (@scriptcat) and my Youtube Channel. 

I’m also offering $25 off my screenplay consultation package for features and TV pilots through September 30, 2019 if you mention this blog MY BLANK PAGE. Thanks for reading and here are a few more useful survival tips for your journey…

TIP #1

DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY, “NO.”

no kiddin largeNo. It’s a powerful word if used properly on your screenwriting journey. Or better yet, “No, thank you.” If any deal does not feel right or isn’t right for you, don’t be afraid to graciously say, “No, thank you.” Yes, even if you haven’t sold a screenplay before. Your time is more important than being locked into a crappy deal and something that could set you back. You come from a place of power when you feel that something is wrong and you don’t cave to your fears out of desperation. You will thank yourself when a better opportunity comes your way and you’re free to take it. Trust me, producers can smell desperation in the room if a writer needs to pay the rent or needs some validation about the work. This is when you unknowingly might allow them to take advantage of you and then you accept a crappy deal that benefits them and not you. Sure, you might need to get your foot in the door, but it doesn’t mean they have to crush your toes in the process. Any opportunity to work is a chance for you to shine, but your time is important and if you are writing at a professional level to compete, you should come into any situation with a humble confidence. So, what if you find yourself on the side of the cliff dangling by a mere finger hold and running out of time? Hang on! Climb back up and work on another script, and another, and get better and build your network of contacts. When you’re at the lowest point is when it really matters how you stay in the game because it’s much easier for you to leave the business when all hope is lost. And time keeps ticking away. It can be your greatest asset or worst enemy especially if you put an expiration date on your screenwriting dreams—I have to make it by 30! When you’re struggling on the side of that cliff, fight for your long term survival. Never allow them to stomp on your fingers so you fall into the void and never to live out your splendid screenwriting dreams.

TIP #2

CONSIDER YOUR SPECS AS YOUR CALLING CARDS AND NOT A MILLION DOLLAR SALE.

bag of money

I know it’s hard to accept the spec you are writing now probably will not sell and may end up being only a writing sample, but you need to put your specs into perspective. If you don’t put in the necessary work with solid rewrites from constructive feedback and create professionally competitive material—your specs could end up in a drawer collecting dust or worse a dumpster and have a negative effect on your career aspirations. Specs are a necessary part of every screenwriter’s journey because they are the scripts you “cut your teeth on” to prepare you for when you do get hired for assignment jobs. My fifth spec is the one that opened the door to a career and landed me the fifteen assignment jobs that followed. Be smart about your career. Don’t waste time making the same mistakes over and over again. Before you start your next spec and burn precious time, consider how it figures into your overall screenwriting goals—not just the mantra that I hear from so many aspirants, “I have a good idea for a script and I’m sure it will sell.” Many times it’s not a good idea and if your goal is to be a horror genre screenwriter, why are you writing a romantic comedy especially when Hollywood isn’t producing that genre now? Think, plan, create a checklist, hit your goals, create a solid story treatment before you start pages, and then put your ass in a seat and fill those blank pages.

TIP #3

TALK IS CHEAP IN HOLLYWOOD!

quote of the dayYou’ll learn the longer you pursue a screenwriting career that talk is cheap in Hollywood and people want credit for their good intentions. Too many times the words are empty promises that end up wasting an eager and hungry writer’s time. Money makes it real. Take everything as face value for talk is the cheapest commodity in Hollywood. Many times interest in you or your script and the endless talk is just that—interest and talk. Many times meetings are just meetings. Many times a producer’s upbeat attitude about your project can become infectious. You want to believe that others see your dream and can realize it. Why not? It’s what keeps us going as screenwriters—belief in our projects and the faith that success is just around the corner. I’m sure when producers and executives tell you that your project is going into production, they just might believe it themselves, but sometimes they tell a writer this to buy more free time. Producers want to keep a writer’s interest in hanging on until they “work out the pesky financing details” and it becomes the bait for more free work. If they can’t raise the money for the budget or they have no money in their development budget, there really is no money to pay the writer. Be understanding to a certain point and look at every situation through a risk/benefit filter. Are you willing to risk your free time with free rewrites on the possible chance a project “might” get produced? Get excited when a producer gives you a contract, you both sign it and you get paid. That’s the professional way—otherwise, you can’t live on the currency of good intentions. Now get back to your blank pages. If you stop writing you’re guaranteed never to have any chance at success.

Keep writing and filling your pages because if you stop—you’re guaranteed to never have any shot at success. This is a business with no guarantees even when you do sell a screenplay.

@Scriptcat out!

Copyright © 2019 by Mark Sanderson on his blog MY BLANK PAGE.

CHECK OUT MY BOOK BELOW! Click on the cover for the link to Amazon.

Master CoverR2-4-REV2

22 FIVE STAR REVIEWS ON AMAZON!

It’s a long haul journey to reach any level of screenwriting success. 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.

Also subscribe to my new YOUTUBE CHANNEL with weekly screenwriting video tips.

Do you lack focus or haven’t set goals for the year with regards to your career? Check out my on-demand webinar “A SCREENWRITER’S CHECKLIST — 10 Questions Every Screenwriter Must Answer to Stay in the Game.”

Part One & Two available for a streaming rental/purchase—$5.99 each.

(click on the icon below for the link to the streaming rental/purchase)

checklist 2

Did you just complete your latest magnum opus? Time for in-depth screenplay consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information.

Take $25 off thru September 30, 2019 by mentioning my blog MY BLANK PAGE.

script consultation2

“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?” ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“The time we have alone; the time we have in walking; the time we have in riding a bicycle; are the most important times for a writer. Escaping from a typewriter is part of the creative process. You have to give your subconscious time to think. Real thinking always occurs on the subconscious level.”—Ray Bradbury

“I never feel the need to discuss my work with anyone. No, I am too busy writing it. It has got to please me and if it does I don’t need to talk about it. If it doesn’t please me, talking about it won’t improve it, since the only thing to improve it is to work on it some more. I am not a literary man but only a writer. I don’t get any pleasure from talking shop.”—William Faulkner

“Deliberate practice, by its nature, must be hard. When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend. Regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.”—Florida State University’s Anders Ericsson

If you’re worried about failing, you ought to get into a different business, because statistics will tell you that sixty or seventy percent of the time you’re going to fail.  By fail I mean that the movie won’t make money.  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, director of Blackboard Jungle, Sweet Bird of Youth, In Cold Blood, Looking for Mr. Goodbar

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

It’s a long road to reach any level of success as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Start training now for the time when you do land a job so you’ll be able to keep it and stay on the film.

Tempted by a producer to work for free? Beware. It’s a slippery downward slope.

August 25, 2019 § Leave a comment

BoulderFlatIf you are starting out and not a credited screenwriter, at some point on your journey you will be asked by a producer or production to make free changes. It’s a offer you must refuse. Sure, they may praise you with “interest” in your project and the potential of moving forward with it… “if you just make some changes for free.” Real interest shows respect for your time and some form of payment for your work. Otherwise, you can be strung along for unlimited drafts only to be dropped at the end without any risk from the producer. The risk has been all yours by wasting your precious time and getting nothing in return. It’s empowering to say “no.”

interest promiseWhen is it okay to do free work? It’s certainly okay to work for free when you are screenwriting your specs. You own them and it’s a necessary investment in yourself. But do your best to avoid any free work for a producer or production company.  Some will dangle a carrot at every step and try to entice you to work for no pay. They’ll offer you a “possible option” or grandiose promises of actors they can attach or a distant production date. Forget it. Promises don’t pay the rent. If they are truly serious, they will offer a contract and pay you for your writing services. It’s the only way a professional works. Hollywood’s feeder fish live at the bottom of the food chain and look to prey on hungry screenwriters who are eager to work for anyone who shows interest in their work.  Avoid these scumbags at all costs.  Don’t be afraid to walk away.

My actor friends constantly spec when they prepare for auditions. Many times a great deal of work goes into preparing for the part and the five minutes they’ll get in front of the casting director. This might also include some research and rehearsal.  Sometimes they’re asked to submit the audition by video and spend hours filming it and getting it just right. The entire process is unpaid, but the necessary spec work an actor must do to nail an audition and get the part.  If they get the part, that’s when the free spec work ends.

Screenwriters go through the same process when we spec out our ideas. The key is to know just how much work you are willing to do for free on any given idea, especially if it isn’t yours. I recently had a great meeting with a known TV actress who was looking for a writer to develop ideas with her for a show. There were no specifics, but once we met and bounced ideas around, I had a better understanding of what she was looking to develop, and I also was able to get a read on her personality.  I came up with an idea that I thought would be perfect for her and I wrote it up in a two page synopsis. Sure, I was doing this on spec and not getting paid, but took into account of who she is in the business and the doors she could open if she liked my idea.  It was a total of about ten hours of my time including our lunch meeting. Not a great deal of risk on my part.

She loved my idea and presented my synopsis to her manager and her potential co-star and they both loved it too. Surprisingly, I was able to leap over three major hurdles with the trio—any one of them could have disliked my idea and it would have died on the vine.  Now the stakes became raised as my idea moved into new territory by their combined interest.  I reevaluated this new scenario and had to consider just how much further work I was willing to do for free. Luckily, the synopsis was enough. I was not asked to do any more spec work as they are professionals who play at a certain level of the business.  They also know I am a professional who gets paid to write. As a nice extra, I was able to generate some new heat on myself as I was now “developing” an original idea with a known actress.

Eventually the idea did not go into development as the actress had a prior commitment with a company where she has a deal. She did ask me if I would be willing to revisit my idea sometime in the future and I agreed. As a result of this opportunity, I made a fantastic connection with her and showcased my ability to tailor an idea to a specific actor—all for just ten hours of my time. I genuinely feel the spec work I did was worth my time and it may payoff sometime in the future.

Always consider the players involved if asked to spec an idea for a producer, actor, director or executive.  If they ask you to write a detailed treatment, a full episode, or screenplay—politely refuse and remind them that you don’t work for free.  If you easily rollover and start working for free, they will lose respect for you and like a blackmailer—it never ends.  Each time you work for free, you end up paying them with your most precious commodity—time.  Professional writers get paid when they write. If someone shows interest in your project, they should pay you something to move forward.  It’s the test of a true professional on both sides of the deal.

no free script optionEarly in my career, I dealt with a producer who “loved” my screenplay, and I thought his interest meant that he was serious. Then came the notes and his expectation of free work on my part. He began to string me along and told me, “if you do another draft with our notes, we just might option your script.”  “Might?” I told him that I don’t work for free and quickly found out that his interest was just interest when he decided they were no longer interested. It’s the cheapest commodity around Hollywood having someone being “interested” in your screenplay. The real test is when they option or buy your script and pay you to make changes—that’s real interest. If you are going to spec an idea and work for free, consider the players and how much of your time you will spend.  If you agree to move forward with the free work, spend enough time to make it great, but not too much time so you feel used. Remember, never be afraid to say “no.”  They’ll respect you more when you act as a professional screenwriter by not working for free. You’ll also respect yourself for not allowing someone to take advantage of you.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright © 2019 by Mark Sanderson on his blog MY BLANK PAGE. Reprint only by permission from author.

Did you just finish your latest screenplay and need in-depth screenplay consultation? Check out my services. Click 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.

 

script consultation2

Need help navigating Hollywood’s trenches as you pursue a screenwriting career? Check out my book now available on Amazon. Click on book cover for link to Amazon.

Master CoverR2-4-REV222 FIVE STAR reviews! * * * * *

It’s a long haul journey to reach any level of screenwriting success. 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.

 

EDITORIAL REVIEWS:

“I have known Mark my entire life, and he is  absolute living proof of the grit and tenacity it takes to make it as a  writer in this business. Take your first steps toward your own career by  reading the words of this true fighter.”

Matt Reeves, writer/director
(Cloverfield, Let Me In, Dawn Of The Planet of the Apes, War For The Planet of the Apes, The Batman)

“A  great book for anyone who ever aspired to become anything; Sanderson  reminds us how important it is to have a life passion, how important it  is to work hard at it, and how that, in itself, is a victory.”

J. J. Abrams, writer/producer/director
(Mission Impossible III, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars the Rise of Skywalker)

“Mark’s work as a screenwriting guru is as thorough, as painstaking, and as insightful as his actual screenwriting was on Tides Of War,  our submarine drama. As aspiring writers soon learn it’s a complex,  changeable, lonely field of endeavor, so Mark provides not only valid  professional advice but also meaningful emotional support for all those  who stare into the abyss of an empty page. Read Mark, and your  keystrokes will accelerate.”

Brian Trenchard-Smith, producer/director
(Dead End Drive In, BMX Bandits, Drive Hard, and 40 others)

 

my seminar photo

Check out my free two hour seminar sponsored by Film Courage – “Staying the the Game: Surviving as a Working Screenwriter in Hollywood.” Click on the photo for the link to the video.

 

 

Be prepared for opportunities

Time is your greatest asset, or worst enemy… it depends on how you respect it.

July 12, 2019 § Leave a comment

hang onAs you travel along on your screenwriting journey, you’ll discover that time can drag on and on while you write your screenplays. Time is a screenwriter’s greatest asset to use or worst enemy.  If we don’t have the proper amount of protected time to write—we don’t create the solid body of work necessary to compete. Also time burns quickly in Hollywood. It can take years for your script to find the right producer, network or studio. Many specs never find a home and end up as learning tools. The spec that gets noticed is usually not a million dollar sale, but a showcase of your talents that could land you a coveted assignment job.  My fifth spec screenplay was the one that “launched” my career, it was optioned, went into development, finally sold and was produced and distributed. But that took seven years from the first draft until the first day of production. A long haul journey indeed!

So, the best discipline you can master early in you screenwriting journey is being mindful of your time. As writers we must regard our writing time as precious and do everything in our power to protect our working time from the forces of interruption and procrastination.  I know many non-writers who do not regard writing as real work and believe it’s just playtime like coloring with crayons because it’s creative. Ah, they don’t know any better. They’ve never tried to write a feature length screenplay.

“You can write any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or rather you can if you will be ruthless enough about it.”—Ernest Hemingway

And you do have to be ruthless about it. An ex-girlfriend used to tell me that I could “always write on the weekends” — as if writing was not part of my daily routine or schedule. If I have a deadline for a screenwriting assignment and friends invite me out and I turn them down, they always think I’m making up excuses when in reality, I’m actually working. Many times, screenwriters do not get weekends off. One time I had to work for twenty-four hours straight to complete a script, as the producer notified me the investors were in town and wanted to see a draft the following day. It was a seemingly impossible task, but I carved out the time and protected every moment by not answering the phone or spending time on the net. I sacrificed, protected my writing time, and I completed the assignment.

“The telephone and visitors are the work destroyers.”—Ernest Hemingway

IMG_1059When I’m working on a script assignment, it’s my job, and I try my best to write six to eight hours a day — every day.  I generally have a page quote per day and that can range from three to five pages. If I get ahead on pages, that’s great… but if I get behind… it will even out if the work is done every day. That’s the type of schedule it takes to complete a script by a set deadline and dabbling a few hours here and there will not do it. Writing is all about routines and schedules and when the writing gets hard, I know writers are easily distracted. I’ll admit it happens to me. This is dangerous because when distracted, writers tend to procrastinate and ultimately stop writing. This is the time when others chip away at our precious writing time and lead us astray. We actually do want to go out and have a good time, it’s just we have work to do and there will be no pages completed unless we sit down and write.

As a writer, you must consider writing as a job, and this helps you to think of yourself as a professional.  It’s good practice and prepares you for the time when you do get paid to write and the producer requires you to complete the script on a deadline. It’s no longer the romanticized dream of endless time to work on your spec—it’s go time as you have a schedule and a contract. The producer or executive expects greatness from you in four to eight weeks. You’ll already have this priceless experience if you stick to your own schedule by protecting your writing time from interruption and distraction.

the-isolatorWe have more things to distract us writers today than ever before, so it helps to turn off your phone and stay off the web. Choosing the right place to write will also help you to protect your precious writing time. If you’re constantly interrupted as you write at home, consider working at the library, a coffee shop or even renting a small space to write.  As renting an office can become expensive, many paid work spaces have sprung up where you can buy membership access to a quiet working environment.  When a producer hired me last year to write a script, he bought me a membership to a writer’s workspace in Santa Monica, California appropriately called The Office, and I was extremely productive every day.  The Office caters to screenwriters who take their writing time very seriously.  They even enforce a no cell phone or talking policy for all members. It’s a terrific spot for hard-core writers who take their craft seriously. If you’re there—you are there to write. As a result, I completed the script in a month because I was able to work uninterrupted. Look for a “creative space” in your city.

The longer you write the more you’ll get to know yourself better as a writer. You discover your strengths and weaknesses, if you can write for six to eight hours a day, if you write fast or slow, if you can execute notes, and if you’re easily distracted or if you can work in a crowded coffee shop. When the writing gets difficult, time becomes your enemy as you never know each day if your creative juices will flow or dry up. Do yourself a favor and always protect your precious writing time from the forces of interruption. You’ll keep on schedule, writing will become a habit, and you will be more productive than ever before.

Now get back to your blank pages. If you stop writing… you’re guaranteed never to have ANY chance at success.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2019 by Mark Sanderson on blog MY BLANK PAGE.

If you’ve just finished your latest screenplay or a new draft and need in-depth screenplay consultation, check out my services by clicking on the icon below. You never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your script.  Make the time to get it right.

July 2019 summer sale – take $25 off my feature screenplay consultation package!

Screenplay consultation services

Subscribe to my YOUTUBE CHANNEL for screenwriting advice videos!

Check out my latest interview on a popular U.K. podcast BRITFLICKS! Click on the icon for the link to their website and podcast.

britflicks

“… a basic “must” for every writer: A simple solitude—physical & mental.”—Rod Serling

“Being an artist means not having to avert one’s eyes.”—Akira Kurosawa

Stephen King with advice from his old newspaper editor John Gould: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

“Don’t think of it as art, think of it as work.”—Paddy Chayefsky

Hemingway said it best, I still believe, though, that it is very bad for a writer to talk about how he writes. He writes to be read by the eye and no explanations or dissertations should be necessary. You can be sure that there is much more there than will be read at any first reading and having made this it is not the writer’s province to explain it or to run guided tours through the more difficult country of his work.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”—Pablo Picasso

%d bloggers like this: