Always remember, it’s YOUR career…

February 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

hollywoodlandYes, and never forget it.  You know the  hours and sacrifices you have endured to continue on this journey as a writer.  In the past, I’ve had good representation and bad.  I only realized the bad was actually bad after the fact when they were not performing as promised.  I grimace at the years spent with the wrong people under the guise they were actually helping further my career.  You must always take the reins of your career and protect it as you would protect yourself.  Always weigh the options and never travel down a path that doesn’t serve your best interests.  After all, being represented is all about you furthering and not hindering your career as a working writer.  You can’t leave everything up to your representation, you must be intimately involved every step of the way.  In addition, you must also continually work to give your representation material so they can get out there on the front lines, it’s the ammunition to fight the battle of landing you a job.

Be the writer who constantly creates and always has new pitch ideas and is always working on your next script.  Reps love writers who produce and can deliver.  It makes it easier when you do land a job, you’ll deliver your assignment on time and make everyone look good.  More importantly, after having a fantastic working experience with you, that producer just might hire you again.  Producers like to have good working relationships with their writers.  If a producer can trust you to property execute their notes on deadline and you prove your work ethic, your reputation of being easy to work with is gold in the currency of writing assignments.  Strive to build up your reputation.

danger development hellI once found a manager on the internet.  Yes, any story that starts out like this probably ends in tragedy.  Well, it ended in an important life lesson — always trust your instincts.  This manager and I played E-mail tag and I sent over a few scripts and he wanted to meet.  We had breakfast and he laid out a game plan to get me working.  I liked that he was thinking of the bigger picture and wanted to hit the ground running.  I was already working, but as always, needed to meet a larger circle of producers who might offer more writing assignments.  Our working relationship seemed to be going well until the communication began to slow on his end.  Never a good sign.  I was living up to the bargain on my end, working on pitches, executing his notes on my existing scripts, but I could sense that something wasn’t quite right.  He had one lead that never ended up with a meeting, and that was pretty much it for him.  It was foreshadowing where our working relationship was going — nowhere. It fizzled out and then I learned that was actually my neighbor who lives not more than one-hundred yards from me.   He was done, baby done.

Time passed and I was at a local coffee-house, enjoying a coffee and reading the newspaper when I recognize this very same manager.  No surprise, because I would see him around the neighborhood every once in a while.  He didn’t recognize me, as if I wasn’t even worthy or remembering, and I listened to him tell his very same spiel to two young and eager looking writers.  I just listened, feeling very much undercover, as he didn’t know who I was, and I felt like leaning over and warning these guys of my experience with this bottom feeder.  Who knows, would they suffer the same fate?  Or maybe these were the guys who he would catapult into super stardom.  Bottom line, like any relationship, if it’s not working after many attempts, get out.  Your time is precious too and better to spend it working and not spinning your wheels with a rep who promises the world and delivers nothing.

My former writing partner and I once snagged an agent at a mid level agency with the help of our then manager.  This agent was young and a real firecracker.  He was the guy who could get our career jump started in a big way.  He loved our new comedy spec and went out wide on a Wednesday — forty companies, do or die.  Friday came, end of business day and no bidding war.  Not a good sign.  That was a horrible weekend to slog through.  Monday came along with the responses, overall good feedback, but no sale.  A few of the producers even sent it to the studio level for consideration, but no takers.  We did get a handful of meetings and everyone told us they “wanted to keep us on their radar.”  A catch phrase in Hollywood for “my development exec will keep in touch if he keeps his job.”

We were thankful for the experience and spent the next few months writing another spec and ready to do the same song and dance routine again.  Okay, that first script with him didn’t sell and was now burned out.  It had been around town and was now a writing sample or a door stop.  Now granted, this agent only sold spec scripts, and he told us when we first met him that he would not send us out for writing assignments.  He only sold specs for “big money.”  We loved it because we only wrote specs, so this what the perfect agent, right?  Looking back, a spec sale is like winning the Super Lotto and we were gambling with our scripts every time we went out.

The agent then asked if we had anything else and we delivered up another comedy spec.  He went out to 10 companies, not forty, and it was a half-assed send out to companies that didn’t really make this type of movie.  Again, no sale but a few meetings.  He just burned up two of our specs that didn’t sell and now we had no more specs in our arsenal.  Sending out a spec is always like rolling the dice, you’re taking a huge gamble that it will not sell.  Specs take time and effort and sacrifice while you work your crappy job to pay the bills as you write your precious spec.

Our then manger called another summit meeting with the agent who asked us “what else do you have?”  My writing partner at the time pulled an old pitch out of his ass, much to my surprise, dusted it off at the meeting and pitched it like we were in the process of writing it.  The agent’s eyes popped open, he responded to the material and told us to write that movie!  We spent the next few months writing THAT movie—and when we finished, our manager sent the agent the script.  It took him three weeks to read it and he get back to our manager with this response: “it’s not for me.”

thDid you just hear the dial tone?  He’s done.  Three strikes and we’re out.  “Not for him?”  This was an idea that he championed… loved… told us to write and now it’s not for him?  Easy to say “go write it.”   Harder to like it and send it out.  Welcome to the world of representation.

You quickly learn  — no one cares.  They read five pages and if it doesn’t happen, they’re done.  If you write something that someone believes they can sell, they will become interested.  I was courting a manager once and every time I would send over something, he never “loved it.”   He would never tell me to go away, because of the outside chance I just might come up with something one day that he liked.  So, I helped a friend with a sitcom idea and he got a known actress/singer interested, suddenly this manager took us out to dinner and “loved it.”  Very interested.   He actually gave us notes and told us he would go into meetings with us and shepherd the project — only because there WAS interest.  He now loved it because it seemed there was genuine interest.

My point is that someone’s  “I don’t LOVE it” will quickly change if someone else LOVES it.  Interest begets interest.

Always be involved in chartering the course of your career.  Trust others, but keep tight reins and do your best to not waste precious time with those who promise the world and deliver nothing.  You know the sacrifices and time it takes to craft your projects.  Surround yourself with like-minded people who truly champion your overall career as a writer, not just one project.  You’re the writer and it’s your career.

Keep writing and fill your blank pages. Scriptcat out!

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Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.” – Billy Wilder

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

“Luck is a prepared screenwriter who meets an opportunity and delivers the goods.”—Scriptcat

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

“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”

You get one chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to get it right.

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