Two vital aspects of building a solid screenwriting career: Your talent and reputation…
March 17, 2014 § 1 Comment
It starts with your talent. You’ll have to work hard, over many years and respect your craft to become an excellent screenwriter. Your talent will grow as you learn and grow as a screenwriter and eventually secure your first paid job moving from aspirant to a “professional.” I believe talent grows as you master your craft and continue to discover your unique voice and ability. Your talent (and many other factors) will sell your script, but it’s your reputation that will give you longevity in this crazy business.
Your reputation as a professional screenwriter will always precede you. It’s something that can only be built over time as you work on various projects with producers or executives. A TV show runner is going to size you up and check out your references to see if they can work with you for six months in a room writing the series. A feature producer is going to size you up to see if you will deliver your drafts on schedule, if you can execute notes properly, and not hold up the development or production process.
Everyone’s opinion about working with you matters. If you garner a reputation as being “difficult,” they will not work with you again. A veteran director who I worked with on a movie that I wrote recently told me that he was in Canada editing and ran into another director who I’ve worked with before. They both mentioned to each other how much of a pleasure it was to work with me on the movies they directed that I wrote. My reputation was working for me on its own, but only because I have built it up to a level where it’s solid.
Never believe that you are Hollywood’s new gift to screenwriting—you aren’t and there are hundreds of other writers, equally as talented, more driven to success, who are not divas and can get the job done. This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned on my fifteen plus years as a professional screenwriter. Reputation is everything!
Here are a few positive steps that will enhance your professional reputation:
- Always deliver your best work, every time, regardless of your salary.
- Be the writer/collaborator whom they trust.
- Never be late for meetings.
- Never get testy about script notes or show your anger. A “team player” works again.
- Go the extra mile on the project and clearly show them how invaluable you are to the project.
- Show them you’re the writer they can trust to deliver the drafts on schedule.
- If you don’t already have the natural ability—pay close attention to all details.
- Become a repository of knowledge about the script for the director, producer and actors.
- Help the producers craft a script they can produce and lend any support they need to get the movie competed. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting the movie produced.
- Be fun to work with on projects. Your unique personality will go far and if you’re fun to be around, people will remember that positive characteristic.
- Your lofty ideals of “your vision” and how you’re going to fight for every word is just going to keep you working at Starbucks.
You’ll always find opportunities to build your reputation and integrity as a professional screenwriter. It will take some time to build up a solid reputation, but it’s vital if you want longevity in this business. Every new project is a chance to build new relationships and show the producers and executives they can trust you by being a person of your word. If you promise to do something—do it. It’s really that easy. Over time, these professionals will know they can count on you and that your word means something. It’s part of being a professional in all aspects of your career.
Now, back to the blank page and good luck!
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“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”—Socrates
“You don’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do” — Henry Ford
“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”—Abraham Lincoln