The German investors are coming!
October 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
I was thinking back to a script assignment of mine from several years ago. I can laugh about it now, but then it was a true test of producing pages under a seemingly impossible deadline. I was working at a pretty good pace and had reached page 75 of this magnificent work of art. I joke, but honestly it was turning out pretty well. I recall it was a Thursday morning… I remember waving and dancing on a table… Lindbergh had just landed in Paris, but I digress. The producer calls and gives me it to me straight with no chaser — “the German investors are coming into town and I need something to show them.”
I ask when he expects them to arrive and he quickly replies, “tomorrow.” I try not to laugh, as he wants to show them the completed screenplay and I’m only on page 75. Seriously? Did they just call him as they were flying over the Atlantic? I’m was looking to wrap the script up around page 100 or so and at my earlier pace, that would take another four days. He tells me to somehow finish it so he can give it to them to read — tomorrow. Sure, probably at some nice dinner of steaks and bottles of wine. Do you think they’ll know just how I busted my hump to get it done? Never. My job is not to ask questions, it’s to get the job done. When the Captain says “take that hill!” — I take that freaking hill.
How can I blame them for wanting to read what they’re potentially investing their hard-earned Euros into? My concern is the hell that is now my life, as it’s my problem to get the script done by sometime Friday. What’s a writer to do? Write the fuc*ing thing, that’s what you do.
I worked the rest of Thursday and pulled the old college “all nighter” and worked straight into mid-day Friday when I finally typed “FADE OUT” and “THE END” and had 101 pages. I wrote nearly 25% of the entire script in one 24 hour period. That’s writing 26 pages in a day and a record for me. I never want to experience that cockeyed caravan again, but it’s nice to know I can rise to any writing occasion and deliver the goods on time. Producers love it when you can deliver the goods. They may not say thank you, but your thanks comes when the German investors sink their Euros into your project and you get paid.
You’ll stay on your projects as the screenwriter if you’re a team player and not a temperamental diva. Don’t become “difficult” or branded a pain in the ass to work around. Producers will hire a talented team player over a pain in the ass that has no regard for professionalism. Hollywood is a business of relationships and networking. People in Hollywood generally like to work with those people they’ve had a positive experience with in the past. So, always deliver your best work, every time, regardless of your salary and don’t ever gripe about the changes. Even if you’re put into a difficult situation like I was—find a way out and deliver the goods. No excuses. I could have cried and griped, “But you didn’t give me enough time! I can’t finish it, I’m sorry.” I could have been put in a situation where I kooked the entire deal with the investors and did not know it. It all goes on behind the scenes anyway, so the investors had no idea the script was not ready. Unfortunately, I was put in a situation where I had to deliver under extreme pressure and I had a two choices—refuse and say it wasn’t possible—or suck it up and get the job done. I decided to “rise to the occasion” and be the hero to save the day. No, I wasn’t happy about being put in this situation, but it really allowed me to test my skills of working under extreme pressure under a seemingly impossible deadline—and I nailed it! So, in that respect it was a good experience that I may have never encountered in my screenwriting journey. Now that’s I’ve been to hell and back—I have the experience navigating the dangerous road and know how to emerge at the end alive and well.
Most producers have their radar up to detect if a screenwriter is going to be easy or difficult when it comes time for the rewrites or collaboration. The minute you’re viewed as being a problem, you’ll be branded as “difficult” and it’s a hard to dispel that reputation.
Unfortunately, this script remains “in development” but as recent as last year it went through three rounds of financiers but has yet to be funded. You never know, but you keep creating and working.
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“We keep you alive to serve this ship. So row well….and live.” – Quintis Arrius in “Ben Hur.”