Please, no excuses…
March 1, 2012 § 6 Comments
If you’re lucky enough to be hired by a producer to write a screenplay, your primary goal is to complete a fantastic first draft on schedule. 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. Again, I did not reply with excuses when asked to perform a task — I had to get the job done.
I was working at a pretty good pace and was on schedule. I had reached page 75 of this magnificent assignment. I joke, but the first draft was honestly 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. That’s dialogue from another movie. 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 then ask when he expects them to arrive and he quickly replies, “tomorrow.” I try not to laugh, as he wants to show them a completed screenplay and I’m only on page 75. Seriously? Did they just call him while they were flying over the Atlantic? I was planning to wrap the script up at around page 95 or so and at my earlier pace, that would take me another four days of writing. But the producer tells me, “just finish it somehow so I can give the script to them tomorrow!” How would you like to stare down the barrel of that request? Yeah, me too.
Okay. Now, you can either panic and give excuses as to why you can’t get the job done or get to the task of writing! Producers do not like to hear excuses from writers. Do you think the investors will know how I busted my hump to get the script done in a ridiculous amount of time? Never. It’s not about getting credit for that hard work. That is what’s expected of you when you are paid to write a movie. My job is not to ask questions, it’s to get the job done. When the Captain says “take that hill!” — I take that fu*king hill. That’s why I was hired in the first place — because I can deliver and have done in the past.
I don’t blame the investors for wanting to read what they’re potentially sinking their hard-earned Euros into? My concern is the hell that is now my life, as it’s my problem to get it done by sometime Friday. What’s a writer to do? Write the fuc*ing thing, that’s what you do. I spent the rest of Thursday and pulled the old college “all nighter” and went on into mid-day Friday, but I finally typed “FADE OUT” and “THE END” and had my 101 pages. Time to collapse!
I wrote nearly 30% of the entire script in one 24 hour period. That’s 26 pages in a day and my new record. I never want to be part of that cockeyed caravan again, but it’s nice to know I can rise to a seemingly impossible writing task and still deliver the goods. Producers love it when you can deliver the goods. They may not say thank you, but your thanks comes when the investors sink their money into your project, you get paid and the movie is produced. Unfortunately, this script has not yet been produced, but it does make for a good story.
Please. Even if the dog ate your script, you have it on your computer. Procrastination comes out of fear. Just get the work done. No one wants to hear the sordid details. No excuses.
“It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old water-proof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
“I’m keenly aware of the Principle of Priority, which states (a) You must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) You must do what’s important first. What’s important is the work.”—Steven Pressfield,”The War of Art”
“The professional respects Resistance. He knows it he caves today, no matter how plausible the pretext, he’ll be twice likely to cave in tomorrow. The professional knows Resistance is like a telemarketer; if you so much as say hello, you’re finished. The pro doesn’t even pick up the phone. He stays at work.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”