The time warp of business in Hollywood…
February 26, 2012 § 3 Comments
Time can burn so quickly as you pursue your screenwriting career in Hollywood. It’s like the army, always hurry up and wait—for feedback or your new orders. Will you take that hill and gain new ground or retreat to fight another day? You spend so much time and energy finishing your script, once you finish how can you temper your excitement? This is what we live for as screenwriters—the excitement of completing a new project. It’s playing the game, living as a wide-eyed dreamer with hope for another chance up to the plate. It’s empowering to work on your own schedule and steer your own ship seemingly in control of your destiny. Now your script is the most important thing in the world to you—but you quickly discover it’s not to everyone else. This is when a time warp happens and your reality quickly shows down to Hollywood’s schedule. It’s a strange world of fear, unknowns, half-truths, promises, good intentions and a very long slog.
The journey after completing your script may become long and bumpy. Sometimes it can take years for a project to see any type of progress. It was seven long years from the time I typed “THE END” of my fifth spec to the day the cameras rolled. You never know what adventure lies ahead for each project you complete. As a screenwriter with dreams of working in Hollywood, you must realize every aspect of your progress will take time. You have to learn the important virtue of patience or you will live with constant anxiety and pressure for your script to move you farther down the field—or God forbid to dig you out of a financial hole. Did you ever think, “I have to sell this one!” Either way, you are in for a bumpy ride.
Even if you do land a screenplay assignment, the business side of negotiation takes time. My last contract for a script assignment went back and forth between my lawyer and the production company’s lawyer for three months! As negotiations continue on every deal point, the back and forth seemingly takes forever—and this is before you can start any work on the script. Unfortunately a holiday comes up, so it means another four or five days until a reply. It seems like torture, feeling as if you’re in the starting blocks waiting for the starter gun to go off—but it never does until you and the producer sign the contract’s final draft. Patience my fellow screenwriter—learn patience. It’s a big part of the life of a screenwriter.
You may hit a slow patch on your journey as a working screenwriter, but if you keep writing you will never lose sight of your dreams. Your writing is the only thing you can control and the more you write, the better you will become. This will prepare you for when your opportunity does come. Think of building your career over the long haul and not just hoping to hook one big script sale. If you believe your first spec is going to sell and make you a million dollars, see how you feel after you write ten screenplays and no sale.
Like any difficult journey, you’ll constantly be tested to see how badly you want a career in screenwriting and how much you are willing to sacrifice to keep doing what you love to do. Sure, you’ll have failures, rejection, projects that die and never get made, and maybe other scripts languishing in development, but if the road gets bumpy, always keep the faith and your focus on the end goal—a career as a working screenwriter.
Always stay hungry, never get lazy and keep true to your self-discipline. Don’t allow any day job or any person to derail your plans. Protect your dreams from all comers. We all need to put food in the fridge and pay our rent, but be aware of the pitfalls of a 9-5 job and how you may allow it to affect your writing. If you have the drive and determination to go after your dreams, no day job or person will keep you away from your keyboard. Only you can stop you from writing.
Writers write. Keep focused on the bigger picture. Time burns quickly in Hollywood and every move seems to take forever. Their schedule is not yours, so temper your excitement and don’t allow disappointments to crush you. Time is precious, and we don’t get it back so use your writing time wisely—protect it and don’t get too upset when a simple read of your screenplay can take months. You should focus on your next project—so always have fresh projects in the works. When you finish a script, work on a new pitch, or a treatment and get to work on various TV and feature ideas. Keep as many balls juggling in the air as you can because the reality is a screenwriting career does not happen overnight. If you respect this fact, you’ll have a better experience and keep your sanity over the long haul.
Did you just complete your latest screenplay? Congrats! Time for in-depth analysis/consultation/editing? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website. You never get a second change to make a first great impression. Make the time to get it right.
“Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends.”— William Shakespeare
“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”― Lao Tzu
“Your time is limited, so don’t wast it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” —Steve Jobs