The actual “work” part of screenwriting…
March 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
A screenwriter’s work truly never ends. It’s not the romanticized image that many have of a screenwriter’s life with fame, red carpets and huge paydays—but the real world daily job of creating material, learning, networking, and trying to forge a career in an extremely competitive business. It’s like having a homework assignment every weeknight and on weekends for the duration of your career. The work is always about your current project, your last project and generating ideas for your next project. Yes, be careful what you wish for, as it will eventually come true and then you’ll have to get to the business of the actual work of screenwriting. I love to work. I hate the times when there isn’t work. That’s why I’m constantly creating, writing new material, taking meetings, networking and promoting my screenwriting brand.
I’m crafting the final touches on a treatment for an important pitch to a network for my TV movie idea. This is collaboration with a veteran director whom I worked with in the past on a successful movie and this experience has been fantastic. He always encourages me to be a better and more effective storyteller. Screenwriters love when we’re respected as a partner and co-collaborator in creating the characters and the intimate details of the screenplay’s story. The director had me fully work out the back-stories for all the characters before we took on the major story beats.
Knowing the life story of these characters was instrumental in figuring out everyone’s motivations throughout the screenplay. In addition to the “why” and the “back stories, he also explained to me that during his forty years of directing TV (300 hrs.) and 9 feature films, he likes to give the actors a challenge on the set with the question, “What in a verb or action word, not a noun, adjective or adverb, does your character want to accomplish?” If he knows this going in from having worked closely with the screenwriter, it allows him better latitude to guide the actor into a deeper and more nuanced performance.
That’s why I enjoy working with him because I continue to learn so much on our projects from his vast experience. He really encourages screenwriters to answer the hard questions at every turn. If the director is seeking these questions, the actors will certainly look for the answers if the scene is not working for them.
The many revisions to the original treatment paid off in a tight, well thought out story that left nothing to chance. So, when we pitch it to the network honcho, we’ll have the answers to any questions that may arise. Apparently this was a tough meeting to schedule, so we are treating it as such and realize that we’ll only get one shot to put our best ideas forward.
I also traveled to location scouting in Roswell, New Mexico on another project that I co-wrote with a director and we are pushing the script closer to financing this year. It’s always a joy to be involved in a project as a multi-hypenate rather than just the screenwriter and have no more creative production decisions. My greatest collaborations have been with the directors whom I have been blessed working with in the past on screenplays that I’ve written.
The more well-written irons in the fire the better. You must constantly have four or five projects in various stages. Juggle ye writers many projects, and always have a few new pitches and a new spec that you are just finishing. Like I’ve written before, be the writer an agent or manager can see is not only hungry, but productive and that hunger pushes your passion to write even against all costs.
Sure, every project might come crashing down into a tangled mess of untruths and promises of production like it did for me late last year, but this new push is with better material and I’m also working with a level of creative artists like never before. It feels so good to be in such rarefied company on this go around, and I finally feel like I belong exactly where I have landed. I know it’s not by mistake because I have worked extremely hard and never wavered from my focus to prepare for the exact scenario of what is happening these days. Again, luck is opportunity meets preparation — and I have prepared for these days since I was an eleven-year-old kid making movies.
These are exciting times. I feel like I’m at the top of my game and producing work at a much different level than ever before with top collaborators. Out of the gate this year, I was hired to write a new script assignment for an indy feature, I’ve completed writing the first season a new webseries and we just had the first table read, I’m finishing up my new book for a summer release, and the hard work is paying off. Even as a “veteran” of the screenwriting game with over fifteen years of professional experience and credits, I’m still studying my craft, learning and never losing my focus on my goals.
If you do the work, it really does pay off. Trust me. I’m seeing the results daily and it’s like a breath of crisp morning air that puts me right in the exact moment of now.
Always keep doing the work and keep believing in yourself.
“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” ― Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”—Pablo Picasso.
“Act without expectation.” —Lao Tzu
“The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then.”—William Faulkner
“There is nothing that says more about its creator than the work itself.”—Akira Kurosawa
“The professional also “dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come.” —Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”
Did you just finish your latest magnum opus? Time for in-depth script consultation/editing? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website.
“You never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to get it right.”—Scriptcat