Yes, aspirants… you will need to spend money on your career…

May 11, 2014 § 3 Comments

fade inAs you pursue a career as a professional screenwriter in Hollywood you will discover the harsh reality that many aspects of a career are out of your control. You can’t control if an agent or manager likes your material enough to sign you as a client. You can’t control if your screenplay will sell and even if they buy it, there is no guarantee of production as it might die in development hell or never get financed. Even if you have a film produced, you can’t control if it will be a success or failure. Instead of worrying what you can’t control, a better use of your energy is focusing on what is what you can do like writing every day and becoming a master screenwriter.

One important decision within your control is being willing to spend money on building your career. I find too many aspirants reluctant to pay for software, books, workshops, webinars, seminars, script consultants or anything else that costs money to learn their craft. How important is your career to you? If it’s not important enough to spend money on learning your craft you shouldn’t waste your time pursing a screenwriting career. You’ll end up failing and blame everyone else but yourself. Any career pursuit will cost money and time and you need to spend both for a shot at any chance of success. Yes there are positive steps you can take that do not cost money, but will cost you something else that is even more precious—your time.  You can find a professional screenwriter or filmmaker and mentor under them to learn.

Of course you should spend your money wisely.  I’ve never been a fan either of “paying to pitch.” It reminds me of the “pay to play” clubs on Sunset Strip in Hollywood where anyone’s band can play for a price.  That’s okay, but in Hollywood, you want producers or executives to listen to you BECAUSE they are interested in your idea—not solely because you are paying them to listen and paying for a meeting.  And professional agents and managers will never ask you to pay them to send out your script. They only collect their commission when they help push a deal through and then—and only then will collect their fee.  Walk away from any producer, agent, manager or executive who asks you for money to help move your script along.  They are bottom feeders—avoid them at every turn.  Think about it, you’ve paid already with your most precious commodity when writing your script on spec—your time.

sullivans-travels-052If you think you can “go it alone” and have your friends and family give you notes on your screenplays—or you can save money by using “free software” and never have to buy a book, a script, take a workshop or attend a class—good luck. One of my biggest expenditures in the pursuit of a filmmaking career was paying for college and attending film school. And over the years money has been spent on computers, software upgrades, books, movies, more books, workshops, DVD’s etc. and it tapers off when you land work as a screenwriter and you’re too busy as you have moved to professional status. BUT—spending the money doesn’t end once you become a professional either. You’re always doing something to learn and further your knowledge and experience.

I’m not saying that it’s a necessity to attend film school, but I’m trying to point out that you will need to spend money to have access and further your career as you study and become a better screenwriter. It’s more of an attitude than anything else. Yes, professionals who teach workshops want and need to be paid for their time like anyone else. Everyone’s time is precious. So, those who complain about why professionals charge money for consultation/reading scripts or offering workshops—it’s because they’re sharing valuable experience and their time is valuable as well.

no free script optionAnother pet peeve of mine is dealing with aspirants who don’t want to invest the money in professional screenwriting software recognized by the film industry. This is a blatant disrespect of the craft and immediately shows me they’re not serious about their career. Buy the proper screenwriting software and never use something that you formatted yourself. I recently turned down a script consultation job from a screenwriter who told me that she formatted her script in Microsoft Word and I told her use the money she would have paid me to buy the proper screenwriting software. After graduating from film school my first and only screenwriting software purchase was Final Draft and I’ve used it and loved it ever since. There are other good screenwriting software programs on the market of course, but do your research to see what best suits you before you spend the money. Also remember that screenwriting software is a business expense that you can write off on your yearly taxes.

BoulderFlatSpend the money! Don’t be cheap when it comes to your career and your process of learning. Do some websites, script competitions, pitch fests and “consultants” exist for the sole reason of looking to make money off from the huge volume of aspirants trying to get a break in Hollywood?  Sure.  Do some organizations, competitions and consultants who really care about giving back and helping the aspirant exist?  Of course they do. As with anything, you must do your research, check out those who have been vetted and seek their knowledge and help to become a better and more experienced screenwriter.  No, you can’t go it alone.  Your journey will involve many people who you will meet and will share their invaluable knowledge with you—both paid and free. But don’t try to go it alone just to save money.

Now get back to screenwriting and fill your blank pages!

@Scriptcat out!

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“It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.”—Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary, 5th Century B.C.

“Deliberate practice, by its nature, must be hard. When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend. Regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.”—Florida State University’s Anders Ericsson

“… That’s why an artist must be a warrior and, like all warriors, artists over time acquire modesty and humility.  They may, some of them, conduct themselves flamboyantly in public.  But alone with the work they are chase and humble.  They know they are not the source of the creations they bring into being.  They only facilitate.  They carry.  They are the willing and skilled instruments of the gods and goddesses they serve.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“We all have the tendency to want to take the quickest, easiest path to our goals, but we generally manage to control our impatience; we understand the superior value of getting what we want through hard work. For some people, however, this inveterate lazy streak is far too powerful.”—Robert Greene, “Mastery”

Did you just complete your first or third draft? Is it time for in-depth screenplay consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information. You never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to get it right.

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§ 3 Responses to Yes, aspirants… you will need to spend money on your career…

  • Agree that we should be prepared to invest in our career. Hard to think of a career that doesn’t involve investment. But given the flak Final Draft is under and the cheap/free solid screenwriting alternatives (Highland, Celtx, Scrivener), I would not be demanding that emerging writers sign up to a $250 app. And you can only write it off as an expense once you start earning as a screenwriter (at least, that’s the case in Australia).

  • scriptcat says:

    The point I was trying to make with the software was the attitude that “I’ll do everything I can to NOT spend any money on my career.” I find some aspirants who believe they can go it alone and they don’t need workshops, seminars etc. and it filters down into their disrespect of the craft and many times it does show in their amateur screenplays.

    No, a writer shouldn’t have to buy expensive software, but they also shouldn’t format a Word document themselves to “save money.” As I mentioned in the article, there are many good screenwriting software programs out there on the market, I just happen to have enjoyed Final Draft the most. Thanks for the read and comment.

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