The delicate dance when your agent suggests changes in your spec…

May 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

boxerI recently spoke to a screenwriter friend of mine who asked me about making changes to his spec from his agent’s notes. He obviously wasn’t happy with the prospect of reworking the script and wanted to know if this was a customary procedure. My advice was—make the changes. I told him this was the agent’s first test to see if my friend was a team player and collaborator when it came to changes. If my friend bristles at every note the agent gives, how would he react if the agent secures him a job and he flips out when the producer or executive gives notes? My friend could shoot himself in the foot early on by the way he reacts to his agent’s suggestions.

It’s been my experience that many agents don’t take a lot of time to give notes and managers tend to do this more because of their development or production backgrounds. I told my friend that it’s a question of how much he is willing to change his script and risk that the changes will help the agent feel confident about sending it out. You must remember, agents need to feel confident with the material they send out because it’s their reputation on the line with the producers and executives, and if they send out something that is substandard and it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t look good for their image.

Also depending on the size of the agency, the agent has a boss who is looking to see if the agent is commissioning and how many clients are selling and working. Also don’t forget that coveted holiday bonus or the invite to the agency’s Bermuda retreat. If an agent’s ten clients are not working and the agent can’t sell anything from them or secure jobs, how will that look to the agency or the business? The agent’s sensibilities will be in question and it’s a downward spiral from there.

Generally, I’ve had my managers give me more detailed notes than any agent. Usually my managers came from a production or development background and could actually help with story and getting the script ready to unleash upon Hollywood. My agents in the past had very little notes (not sure if that was good or bad) and once my agent was confident enough in my script to send it out to forty production companies. Yes, the script was “sent out wide” as they say on a Wednesday with a strategy forged by my agent and manager at the time with hopes for a bidding war.

Unfortunately at the time, my writing partner and I were uncredited and unknown screenwriters, and no producer really stepped up to the plate to buy our script by Friday at 5:00 PM. Needless to say it was a long and brutal weekend after that. On that Monday, the responses came in and mostly positive, but no sale. We heard that a few of the producers took our script to the studio level where they had their deals and it was considered, but again looking back the script was not strong enough to garner a sale. We took nearly a dozen meetings as a result, pitched our new idea and got back to writing.

After our big send out, our agent at the time asked us, “What other specs do you have?” Luckily we did have another comedy spec and he agreed to send it out, but to only ten companies. It was a lackluster strategy and again, that script didn’t garner a sale, but more meetings and opened doors. At this point our agent was pretty much done with us—and it felt like we were clinging by a mere finger hold outside on the agency’s tenth story patio waiting to be pushed. This is when my writing partner pitched our agent an old idea that he dusted off right there in the office. My eyes went wide as I didn’t know he was going to do that and went along for the ride. After the big song and dance, spinning plates and jumping through hoops, our agent ponders the pitch for a moment, his eyes go wide and he tells us: “GO WRITE THAT MOVIE!”

pitchSo, for next six weeks we hammered out that movie. We completed a first draft and our manager sent it to our agent and it took him three weeks to read it. This was not a good omen. Finally, the phone rang and it was our manager with the bad news, “Yeah, he read your new spec. He didn’t really care for it and said, ‘It’s not for me.'” BZZZT. That was our agent’s way of telling our manager and us that he was done trying to break us into the biz. He now had two clients who had two specs that did not sell and a new script that wasn’t what he expected. It was time to cut us loose. We learned a valuable lesson the hard way.

It’s a delicate dance and you risk offending an agent or manager if you refuse to make changes in your script. Now, you must believe that the changes will make the script more marketable and easier to compete professionally, but who ever knows? I’ve been in situations where you make the changes and the agent reads the next draft and it turns him off even more. At this point you can’t tell your agent, “Yeah, but these were your notes that I executed.” It doesn’t matter because you live or die by what’s on the page regardless of who suggested the changes. It’s the writer who ultimately gets the blame for the misdirection not the person who foisted a bunch of lame ideas upon the writer.

It’s always a long haul journey to reach any level of screenwriting success. You’ll get burned, cheated, rejected, criticized, ridiculed, and a myriad other forms of disrespect, but if you have someone in your corner whose interest helps champion your script, weigh the risks and benefits.

My friend is an aspiring screenwriter with no credits and agents don’t like to break unknown writers. Agents love writers who have credits and are working, as it makes them easier to sell and send out for jobs. It’s rare that your spec is “the one” that agents have looked for all of their careers—no offense. The reality is it’s just another one in the pile and heat will garner more of their interest than if they have to work from scratch and develop a script with you that could take months. What if the writer isn’t capable of executing the agent’s notes? This could be another test for the agent to see if the writer does land a job, will he/she be able to execute the producer’s notes and stay on the job or get fired? If a writer gets fired, it doesn’t look good for the agent’s reputation either—and of course it damages the writer’s reputation too by getting canned.

If an agent wants to develop your script with you, strongly consider doing the work necessary to make the agent feel confident about sending out your spec. It’s also a test to see if you are a client who is open to changes and is a team player. You must have multiple projects in the marketplace at all times and not be a one-script wonder—and when your spec goes out and doesn’t sell—lather, rinse and repeat. That’s how it works, your spec opens doors, you pitch and plant your flag and get them to say “come back” and you write a new script and go out with another and another until something breaks— or they break you!

Keep screenwriting and filling your blank pages because if you stop—you’ll never have any chance at success.

Scriptcat out!

Time for in-depth screenwriting consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue 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. Make the time to get it right.

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… 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 bring 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”

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”—William Falukner

“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.” ― Stella Adler

“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.”— William S. Burroughs

“When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit on the curb outside with a pencil and a ten cent notebook and start the whole thing over again.” — Preston Sturges

“Work inspires inspiration. Keep working. If you succeed, keep working. If you fail, keep working. If you’re interested, keep working. If you’re bored, keep working.”—Michael Crichton

Type FADE OUT – THE END? Time for in-depth screenplay consultation?

May 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

Completing your screenplayPerhaps the four most anticipated words a screenwriter can ever type: FADE OUT – THE END. If you completed your latest screenplay or draft—a hearty congratulations! There is no better feeling when you finish months or years of hard work. You want to shout from the rooftops that you finished and hand the script out to everyone who ever said they would read it.

Okay, take a deep breath and pause a moment before you unleash it upon Hollywood. Never allow anyone to read the script before it’s ready. If you distribute a script riddled with problems, it will harm your reputation as a professional and kill the project.

You really only get one shot to make the right impression in a town where they stop reading after the first typo and where format or structure issues can reveal you as an amateur. Your talent is as important as your attitude and work ethic and it takes all three to standout in a very competitive marketplace.  When you consider that writers register approximately 30,000 – 40,000 loglines/treatments/scripts and books with the Writers Guild of America every year, you have write at a professional level to compete.

If you don’t already know, screenplays are about the execution. You may start with a fantastic premise, but if you haven’t executed a kickass screenplay that lives up to its full potential—it will fail. Never forget that even with an amazing script there are no guarantees—you may love it, but Hollywood doesn’t have to love it.

Of course you’re up against incredible odds, but the only real competition should be with yourself to become a better screenwriter. Part of this process is a rite of passage for all new screenwriters—criticism and notes. If you have any doubts about your screenplay, now is the perfect time to receive professional consultation before you unleash your magnum opus upon Hollywood.

I’m a working screenwriter and script consultant with over fifteen years of professional experience and seven produced films in television movies and independent features—my eighth film goes before the cameras at the end of June. I’ve been blessed with a spec sale, over a dozen script assignments, and getting to work and collaborate with some top professionals in Hollywood. Many have became my friends and mentors and in this spirit of giving back, I offer professional analysis and editing/proofing of your feature script or TV pilot script to help push it to the next level.

Why not make the time to get it right? Maybe it’s time for in-depth screenwriting consultation? Take a moment to check out my services. Please browse my website for more information about how I might be able to help you push your script to a higher level that is ready to compete.

Click on the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information.

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Scriptcat’s 3 masterful May screenwriting tips for your journey…

May 1, 2015 § 1 Comment

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Scriptcat’s amazing April screenwriting tips for your journey…

April 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

BoulderFlatIf 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. 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 my free mobile app SCREENWRITING GURU and 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! Okay, here are three more survival tips that will help you on your screenwriting adventure…

TIP #1 Find filmmaking mentors and apprentice with them.

lucas & coppola on setAnother good way to do your homework with regards to learning is to find a filmmaking mentors and apprentice under them or at least have access to them as they are working. Many busy screenwriters need an assistant and they’re willing to pay an hourly wage for the job. It’s a great way for aspiring screenwriters to learn while getting paid. If you can’t find a paid position, offer your time to a working screenwriter in exchange for access to their knowledge and the whole process they go through daily. A true professional is always willing to give back and share knowledge. When you’re able to observe working professionals, be like a sponge and soak up everything you can and ask questions. I’ve been blessed over the years to work with many top professionals and veterans of the film business and a few have become my mentors. This includes directors and a few have become my mentors and friends. I’m currently working with two directors on various projects that we are developing together and will take out into the marketplace as partners. As I worked with them and collaborated on the films that I wrote, I was able to have inside and unlimited access to help build my screenwriter’s toolkit. Seeking knowledge is an ongoing discipline for every artist. Keep filling your blank pages. If you stop you’ll never have any chance at success.

TIP #2 Work your way to becoming a multi-hyphenate screenwriter.

multi-hyphenateEventually to gain more creative control over your projects, you’ll need to become a multi-hyphenate filmmaker and not just a screenwriter who is a “hired gun.” This means along with your talent for creating the script you will move into producing and or directing as a way to keep your total creative vision on the project. This won’t likely happen on your first few screenplays, but eventually you can negotiate your way into being one of the key decision makers or ultimately the director whose vision takes the script to the screen. Your goal is working your way into being a double threat: A writer/producer or writer/director—or a triple threat: a writer/producer/director.

TIP #3:    When you just finish your first draft—do not immediately give it to someone for a read. Let the creative dust settle and go over it by yourself. karloff script

Avoid the temptation to give anyone your screenplay moments after you finish it. Put it away and let it settle for a few days or even a week before giving it your first read.  You’ll be coming down from your natural creative high and you don’t want anyone to harsh your buzz. It’s the necessary time a screenwriter needs to spend alone with his/her script. You’re also in a raw and vulnerable place after giving birth to new material, so you don’t want feedback now to taint your clear vision or perspective. This will only lead to chasing notes because everyone will have an opinion about your work. Keep your script close. Don’t boast or talk about it. You did the work now do something to celebrate. You need to enjoy the little and big successes on your long journey as a screenwriter.

Keep the faith and keep filling your blank pages. Nothing is guaranteed, but if you quit you’re guaranteed never have any chance at success.

Scriptcat out!

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Did you just finish you latest screenplay? Congrats! Do you need in-depth analysis, editing, proofing? Check out my consultation services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website.  You’ll never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to get it right.

Screenplay consultation services

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

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

“All you need to do is write truly and not care about what the fate of it is.”—Ernest Hemingway

“No person who is enthusiastic about his work has anything to fear from life.”—Samuel Goldwyn

I don’t think of it as an art. When it works it’s skill & craft and some unconscious ability”—Ernest Lehman

“When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit on the curb outside with a pencil and a ten cent notebook and start the whole thing over again.” — Preston Sturges

Work inspires inspiration. Keep working. If you succeed, keep working. If you fail, keep working. If you’re interested, keep working. If you’re bored, keep working.”—Michael Crichton

You’ll need multiple projects in the marketplace at all times for any chance at success…

March 12, 2015 § 1 Comment

a projects journeyIt’s a numbers game at best. Consider the odds of selling a spec screenplay the same as winning the lottery if you believe the numbers—nearly 40,000 projects bounce around Hollywood each year with just over 100 specs selling at the studio level most years. Hollywood released 692 movies in theaters domestically in 2014. Don’t forget about the thousands of films without distribution that end up competing at film festivals every year with only a handful landing deals. Sundance had 4,057 films entered in 2014 and only 119 got in and about 27 got distribution deals. Ah, don’t forget about the hundreds of pitches that don’t sell. They’re worse because they struggle out there in the ether with the producer or executive debating if the writer can deliver the goods as pitched.

Yes, I also hate learning about the odds, but it’s a reality that must be considered so you know the mountain that you must climb with every new screenplay. This is an example of why you must have multiple projects, pitches and treatments in the marketplace at any given time for chance that one might—and I stress might—find interest and move farther down the playing field.

And talk is cheap in Hollywood, so add that to the journey of your projects when producers or executives head their praise on your talents and your screenplay, but string you along with offers of free work as they dangle the carrot of production.

Interest, even when you receive a payday, doesn’t always guarantee your film goes on to being a produced film. Sure, money makes their interest real, but your project still must jump over hurdles that are out of your control.

  • An option for little money doesn’t end up with the purchase of the script.
  • A script is purchased, the writer is fired, and it’s rewritten so many times it languishes in development hell and never gets produced.
  • A script is close to being financed when suddenly the investors pullout, the producer loses the money and the star as a result.
  • A project is put on hold because of scheduling conflicts.
  • A project isn’t produced due to changing global marketplace factors. It’s cheaper NOT to make the film than take a risk.

Each project you create will have a shelf life and travel on its own unique journey to either failure or success. Sometimes a spec that that didn’t sell two years ago can find a new home, but it’s a long haul journey for any project to find a producer or executive who likes it enough to move forward in some way. The project must also survive the dicey minefield of the development process and with luck, move into production.

Even when a film is produced, there still is no guarantee of success either. How many films considered a “guaranteed hit” end up a bomb at the box office? It happens every weekend. As you see there are many hurdles that are out of a screenwriter’s control, but the one thing in your control is creating a solid body of work and putting it in the pipeline with the goal of having one move forward down the field to production. This is why you can’t be a “one script wonder” and burn out after a few drafts of your first screenplay. I just completed my 28th overall screenplay that is my 13th paid assignment and it’s still hard work and humbling.

first scriptOne of the hardest lessons that I had to learn when I finally started being paid to write screenplays was that not every project that I wrote was going to be produced. Many projects that I was hired to write ended up in development hell, not from anything I did, but because of a variety of circumstances out of my control. These projects remain viable with production ready drafts, but might never get off the shelf and into production.

That’s okay. Take your lumps and move onto generating your next logline, pitch or treatment and hopefully another job. Never forget that Hollywood is a business and screenwriting is a profession with the same dilemmas of other jobs. Your goal is staying in the game and being hired again and again to write screenplays to establish a career. It may take writing a half-dozen projects for one to finally sell or get you assignment work, but every new script is a new opportunity or a missed opportunity–it depends on how you play it.

The other harsh reality is that you will need plenty of time to master your craft and be writing at a professional level with at least four or five solid projects that can be out in the marketplace competing with the thousands of others. This is why I stress the practice of patience during this period of your journey. I find many beginning screenwriters are too eager to sell their first script for a million dollars—like it’s just that easy. It’s not just that easy. And you need to respect your craft and practice it every day. You’ll need the time to fail and write badly before you can become an excellent screenwriter, execute notes and work on a schedule under pressure. You don’t want a yellow belt in screenwriting—you want to achieve a Grand Master 4th degree Black Belt—and to do this you’ll need to train by writing every day.

boxerThe only way you’ll be able to do this is to keep to a tight writing schedule. You’ll need to protect your precious writing time. Stephen King calls it “closing your door.” When your door is closed, it means that you are writing. You have to take your career seriously and become a master at scheduling your time. If you dabble at your career, time becomes your enemy, it passes quickly while projects burn out and life gets in the way of your most splendid screenwriting dreams. If you keep the pipeline always filled with your best work you will create opportunities and have a shot at success.

If your body of work includes feature-length original screenplays and if they don’t sell, the scripts can become solid writing samples that can get you assignment work.  If you want to work in television, your body of work should include your original TV pilots to show an agent, manager, producer or executive your unique voice. It used to be that you needed to write a spec episode of an existing series, but now agents and managers look for original material to get a handle on the writer’s talent and unique voice. And for both feature films and TV continue to craft your pitches for ideas that you want to write.

If you have a solid body of work and you’re always creating new projects, you will be more attractive to an agent or manager as they can see you are not a “one script wonder” but a workhorse. They don’t like divas and love writers who write and create the product. As you build up your projects, you’ll be working on your craft and becoming a better screenwriter in the process. And as it’s extremely difficult to sell a project, you’ll want to increase your odds by unleashing solid projects into the pipeline so you can attack a career on different fronts. Eventually one script will slip through and stick and it will jump-start your screenwriting career.

Keep on writing and keep the faith!

Scriptcat out!

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 never get a second chance to make a first great impression.

Make the time to get it right.

Screenplay consultation services

Download my free mobile app SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp for my bi-weekly screenwriting tips, videos and links to help you survive in the trenches.

Subscribe to my new YOUTUBE CHANNEL for weekly screenwriting videos.

“In an unmoored life like mine, sleep and hunger and work arrange themselves to suit themselves, without consulting me.”—Kurt Vonnegut

“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. But the best writing is certainly when you are in love. If it is all the same to you I would rather not expound on that.”—Ernest Hemingway

“Most directors do not want to rewrite the script. They have more pressing commitments on the sound stage. The writer’s best insurance against a rewrite is to have an understanding of the directorial problems. Write a scene that can’t be played, no matter how beautiful the words or thoughts, is begging for a revamp.”—Jerry Lewis

“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

“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

Scriptcat’s 3 tasty screenwriting tips for your journey…

February 13, 2015 § 1 Comment

sullivans-travels-052As you may know, I’ve been adding short posts and sharing various survival tips on the blog in addition to the full articles. This feature offers 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 tips here as part of an ongoing series.  Thanks for reading and as always: Carry on, keep the faith and keep screenwriting!

When I consult on screenplays for screenwriters, I can’t tell you how many issues I repeatedly find that harm the overall screenplay. It will live or die by 1,000 tiny details.  I know with a little knowledge and insight on the part of the screenwriter, these issues could be easily cleaned up and push the script to a professional level. It only takes one or two issues that repeatedly appear to make your project go from a “RECOMMEND” to a “PASS.” And you get one shot to make a first great impression. Take the time to get it right.

Okay, three more survival tips that may help you on the long marathon on your journey as a screenwriter…

#1 )   As you navigate on this slow climb to success, do not judge yourself as a writer only by an agent or manager’s opinion of your work. 

feedback equals disappointmentI once received feedback back in the day on my script from an agent who held court at a powerful and mighty agency. He actually hated my screenplay—this was a script that placed in the top 1% of the Academy’s prestigious Nicholl Fellowship at the Motion Picture Academy. It was a top 20 script that year in competition and it eventually went on to being produced and distributed worldwide. Who knows the reasoning behind any given feedback? Bad day, fight with wife or girlfriend/boyfriend, bias against the genre or storyline, not interested in the genre, similar film bombed at the box office, who knows? I think we as writers know in our hearts if something we’ve written is good, clear and is authentic writing. Get in touch with writing the truth and scripts that represent your unique voice.

#2 )  As you’re screenwriting, keep the intimate details of your work to yourself.

never believe them untl the check clearsDo not continually talk about the status of your projects, your “writing process,” or how each project is moving forward.  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. The truth is that it takes an incredible amount of time for any script to find a home and eventually get produced—if ever. Sometimes the less you say about your progress the better. We all have our own inner voice of self-doubt, 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. They enjoy raining on your parade instead. Protect your dreams and cut the naysayers out of your life. Keep your work close to the vest until it’s finished.

#3 )   Don’t be a “one-script wonder” and believe that one script will make your career.

spec scriptsBecome a writing workhorse who constantly writes new material because it’s a numbers game at best and you are up against tremendous odds of selling anything. Always have ready a new pitch, synopsis, treatment and script to offer.  Hollywood is a business, and agents and managers size you up to see your career potential. They want you to work and need the material to send into the pipeline. That means you may write five or six scripts before ANYTHING happens that moves you forward in a real and positive way. It wasn’t until my fourth spec screenplay out of college that made some noise for me and it was my fifth spec that received an option and went on to be produced into a film. You also need to be good in a room while pitching your ideas — and you’ll need to execute the notes well and write under the pressure of deadlines. Be a team player and don’t bristle at criticism. This is all part of being a professional screenwriter.  Potential reps will look for these traits because your potential employers will as well. Hollywood is such a fickle business where years can pass between jobs, writers are “hot” and then not, and life can get in the way and derail even the best attempts at a career. Respect the craft and the journey or it will humble you.

Keep on writing and keep the faith— @Scriptcat out!

Download my new free mobile app SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp. It features my bi-weekly script tips, videos and links to my website and other screenwriting advice.

Subscribe to my new YOUTUBE CHANNEL for weekly screenwriting video tips.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay and need in-depth consultation before you unleash it upon Hollywood? Check out my services by clicking the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information. You get one shot to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to get it right.

Screenplay consultation services

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

“Reading, in the showbiz game, is work. Drudgery even—antithetical, I might argue, to why most writers toil. We write to be read. Hopefully enjoyed. Even to later be complimented. But most importantly, we’d like to know that we entertained. That the reader either laughed or was moved to tears or struck by some worthy emotion summoned by the strings of words we’ve chosen.”—screenwriter Doug Richardson.

It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.”—Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary, 5th Century B.C.

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

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

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

Scriptcat’s Top 10 Disciplines to Being a Professional Once You Sell the Script……

February 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

handshake cartoonOkay, you finally have some interest in your screenplay, perhaps an option or maybe a sale. Congrats! Now the real work begins. It’s one thing to write your spec in a protected bubble, where every idea is yours and you never have to change a word—now you’re thrust into the professional world of screenwriting. This is not the amateur hour and not the time to act like an aspirant. You’ve been granted entrance behind the gates and  just graduated into the big leagues, so your attitude and actions must follow. Even if  you’ve never sold anything yet, you should always act like a professional.

Okay, you sell a project and there is interest in your talents, that is an amazing start, but never believe you are Hollywood’s new gift to screenwriting—you aren’t and there are thousands, possibly ten of thousands of other writers, equally as talented, more driven to success, who are not divas and can get the job done. It is a fickle business where years can pass between jobs, writers are “hot” and then not, and life can get in the way and derail even the best attempts at a career. Hollywood owes you nothing, so respect the journey or the business will humble you.

the key to being a professional screenwriterThis is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned on my fifteen plus years as a professional screenwriter. It’s such a competitive business with the odds stacked against you even before you start your next script, but if you always act as a professional, your reputation will definitely help you before and finally when you do land an opportunity. I’ve experienced it over a dozen times with jobs, and I’m sure it is what has helped me secure my assignment jobs over other writers.

Yes, talent is very important, that is a given, but the ability to craft a really good first draft, execute notes, being a team player and collaborator, all of these professional actions can mean the difference between securing a job or not. I’ve been on the short list many times for projects, and I’ve secured the jobs because I can show the producers that I care and they can trust me. This is how you get hired again and again—that’s called a career.

Remember, luck is a prepared screenwriter who meets with an opportunity and knocks it out of the park.

Here is my TOP 10 list to help you stay in the game as a professional after you have sold a script:

1. Always deliver your best work, every time, regardless of your salary. You’ll probably make very little money at the start, but always look at the bigger picture—a long and successful career.

2. Be the writer/collaborator whom they trust to execute the notes and get the job done on schedule.

3. Never be late for meetings. Ever. They are late and make you wait, don’t you do the same.

4. Don’t be precious with your screenplay. Never get testy about script notes or show your anger. A “team player” works again. Remember, no scene or dialogue is wroth losing a job over. Trust me.

5. Go the extra mile on the project and clearly show them how invaluable you are to the producers.

6.  If you haven’t trained enough or built up the ability—pay close attention to all details. So many things slip through the cracks, it’s your job to make sure to point every one out for the sake of the film. They will appreciate you for it.

7. Become a repository of knowledge about the script for the director, producer and actors. Help them make the film and offer any support you can to make their job easier. You have lived and breathed it more than they will ever do and it came out of your head so you’re the expert.

9. Be fun to work with on projects. Your unique personality will go far and if you’re fun to be around, people will remember your positive characteristic. Nobody likes to work with a diva or A-hole.

10. Be humble and know that we all are just traveling from job to job. The work you do now is going to pay off over the long haul for your career, so always keep the bigger picture in mind and do everything you can now to build a solid foundation for success.

Being a professional doesn’t only mean that you’re getting paid to do your craft, it means you always follow the code of a professional in a business where time is money and they don’t put up with divas. You’ll always find opportunities to build your reputation and integrity as a professional screenwriter.  It will take some time to build up a solid reputation, but it’s vital if you want longevity in this business.

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.  It’s really that easy.  Over time, these professionals will know they can count on you and that your word means something.  It’s part of being a professional in all aspects of your career and you will attract those by the way you act.

Keep filling your blank pages because if you stop… you’ll never have a shot at any level of success.

@Scriptcat out!

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

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

“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

“People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand. They are afraid to find out how tough they are. Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich.”—William Faulkner

“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

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




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