Four more of Scriptcat’s tips, tricks and tactics to help you survive in Hollywood’s trenches…
August 17, 2015 § Leave a comment
If you’re new to this blog—welcome and thank you for the follow! And if you’re been reading my articles for the past few years—a hearty thank you too! I hope that I’ve been able to offer up some useful nuggets of screenwriting wisdom to help you survive in the trenches as you forge a career. As I’m sure you already know, it’s not easy to sell a screenplay or land an assignment job—but I’ve done both, so I’m here to tell you that dreams do come true. But only with a game plan, a passion and respect for the craft, strict disciplines, and an unwavering tenacity to weather the storms of rejection, criticism and failure on your road to success.
Soon 2015 will be over. I hope you’ve created new opportunities with new screenplays and have pushed your projects closer to success. Trust me, I know if can feel like you’re banging your head against a wall hoping for a breakthrough, but only finding the same results of rejection and criticism. You must realize that the screenwriter’s journey is a long haul to reach any level of success. I’ve written professionally for nearly twenty years and earlier this year completed my 28th feature-length screenplay that just wrapped production two weeks ago as my 8th produced film. I’m now working on my fourteenth paid assignment and getting the job done.
In addition to my tips on Twitter (@scriptcat), my Youtube Channel I’ll be posting new tips here every month in addition to new articles. Dig in as I’ve written over 180 articles on this blog. I’m also broadcasting live during the week on the new app PERISCOPE. Check it out. Thanks for reading and as always: Carry on, keep the faith and keep screenwriting because if you stop, you’re guaranteed never to have any chance at success! Okay, let’s get right to the action—here are four more useful survival tips for your journey…
Protect your precious screenwriting schedule.
You need to protect your precious writing time and treat it like a job because it will be exactly the same when you finally do get paid—but you’ll have the added pressure of being under contract, being paid and having the producer expecting “great things!” Carve out a writing schedule and stick to it. Hemingway said, “Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.” Working every day, even if it’s for a short period, creates discipline. The longer you write the more you’ll get to know yourself better as a writer. You’ll discover your strengths and weaknesses, if you write fast or slow, and if you’re easily distracted or if you can work in a crowded coffee shop. When the writing gets difficult, time becomes your enemy as you never know each day if your creative juices will flow or dry up. Do yourself a favor and always protect your precious writing time from the forces of interruption and distraction. You’ll keep on schedule, writing will become a habit, and you will be acting like the professional you’ve become. Hemingway said it best, “You can write any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or rather you can if you will be ruthless enough about it. But the best writing is certainly when you are in love. If it is all the same to you I would rather not expound on that.”
Keep the intimate details of your screenwriting journey to yourself.
As you would when playing poker, keep your cards (specific information about your progress) close to your vest. Put on your best poker face and get the work done. Do not continually talk or boast about the status of your projects or the page count.This expends precious energy and writers find themselves talking more about their craft and the process than actually writing. Hollywood has a bizarre time warp that works on its own schedule. Every project will take longer to move forward than you will ever expect and you don’t need others believing that you’re blowing smoke when you continually talk about the status of your material or career. The reality is it takes an incredible amount of time for any script to find a home (if ever) and to get produced. Sometimes the less you say about your progress the better. We all have our inner demons of self-doubt, but why give fodder for your critics and skeptics who will use it to diminish your dreams? They will taint any good news you share and use it to belittle your progress because they didn’t have the courage to risk everything and pursue their own dreams. They enjoy raining on your parade instead. Protect your dreams and cut out the naysayers from your life. Keep your work close and protected until it’s absolutely ready and you’re confident to unleash it upon the world and presented as a viable professional work. William Faulkner said it best, “I never feel the need to discuss my work with anyone. No, I am too busy writing it. It has got to please me and if it does I don’t need to talk about it. If it doesn’t please me, talking about it won’t improve it, since the only thing to improve it is to work on it some more. I am not a literary man but only a writer. I don’t get any pleasure from talking shop.”
Learn how to execute screenplay notes or you’ll be fired from the job.
If your goal is becoming a working screenwriter in Hollywood, you must learn the craft of executing notes quickly and effectively. You’ll usually get one crack at your second draft and if you haven’t mastered the art of rewriting, they will fire you. It’s business, not personal. Producers do not have time to deal with a writer who is unable to effectively make the necessary changes needed. Don’t fight your producers, executives or director about script notes or changes. Become the writer who understands and is willing to do anything to make the scene or script better. Also understand a director’s issues when shooting the film and write your screenplay with that in mind to help push it through the development process. A team player considered a creative collaborator stays on a project longer than a temperamental diva who grimaces at every dialogue change. That’s why producers and directors generally don’t allow the writer on the set. There are just too many tiny changes to a script during production. If you aren’t a team player and feel that script changes are death by a thousand cuts, you will not last a day on a movie set. The minute your frustration shows, they will not invite you back. Part of being a screenwriting professional is acting like one.
Take all criticism and rejection lightly.
That doesn’t mean you totally ignore notes that you don’t agree with, but find a good constructive balance where you are open to other ideas and you don’t allow the criticism to destroy you. We all suffer disappointment, but when you can accept criticism and rejection as part of the process, you can better adjust your temperament and not take the criticism personally. There’s a myriad of reasons why a producer might reject your project but they could still like your writing. You’ll deal with notes your entire screenwriting career so get used to them now. Selling a project is great, but if it doesn’t sell, your writing ability and your solid screenplay can also land you a job. Think positively and train yourself to avoid negative, self-worth thoughts. The more you think negatively, the more it becomes an emotion and then it’s hard to separate the two. You can actually start to believe a reality that isn’t true and will end up destroying your confidence.
Remember if you stop writing you’re guaranteed never to have any shot at success.
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“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”—Ray Bradbury
“One of the things that young writers falsely hope exists is inspiration. A lot of young writers fail because they aren’t putting in the hours. Whether you can write all day every day, or whether you can write four hours on Sundays, whatever it is, you have to protect that time.”—William Goldman
“It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.”—Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary, 5th Century B.C.
“Believe me that in every big thing or achievement there are obstacles — big or small — and the reaction one shows to such an obstacle is what counts not the obstacle itself.”—Bruce Lee
“Having spent too many years in show business, the one thing I see that succeeds is persistence. It’s the person who just ain’t gonna go home. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to go home. This is what I’ll be doing until they put me in jail or in a coffin.” —David Mamet
“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure. But the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. [F]ailure means a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself to be anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believe I truly belonged. [R]ock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life.” ~ J.K. Rowling
“Everyone holds his fortune in his own hands, like a sculptor the raw material he will fashion into a figure. But it’s the same with that type of artistic activity as with all others: We are merely born with the capacity to do it. The skill to mold the material into what we want must be learned and attentively cultivated.”—Johann Wolfgang Von Goeth