You’ve probably written a few spec screenplays and enjoyed the process of having everything on the page be your vision, words and creative ideas. Once your script receives coverage or makes it past a producer’s readers, prepare yourself because it’s open season for notes and changes. But when they option or buy your screenplay, this is when the real work begins. Your experience and attitude can determine you staying on the project or being fired. Have you learned how to take constructive criticism and mastered the ability to execute producer’s notes—and not gripe and grimace during the experience? Do you turn in your work on schedule or early? This is the delicate art of being a team player. It’s a necessary discipline for any real chance to play in the big sandbox with the big toys in Hollywood.
You’ll stay on your projects as the screenwriter if you’re a team player and not a temperamental diva. The constant barrage of notes and changes can make screenwriters frustrated and angry. They can feel totally out of control and like they’re just around to do the “grunt” work of writing. Avoid the temptation to go down a destructive pathway with these valid emotions. Don’t become “difficult” or branded a pain in the ass to work around. Producers will hire a talented team player over a pain in the ass that has no regard for professionalism. Hollywood is a business of relationships and networking. People in Hollywood generally like to work with those people they’ve had a positive experience with in the past. So, always deliver your best work, every time, regardless of your salary and don’t ever gripe about the changes. Unfortunately, most producers have their radar up to detect if a screenwriter will be easy or difficult when it comes time for the rewrites. The minute you’re viewed as problem, you’ll be branded as “difficult” and it’s a hard to shake that reputation.
Hollywood is a small town when it comes to people knowing each other and if word gets out that a producer or director had a difficult working relationship with you it can mean the death of your next job. Help dispel that old stereotype that “writers are difficult and precious” and prove them all wrong. You’re the writer who wants to work and make it all happen. Make a point to clearly show the producers how invaluable you are to the project and why they need to keep you around. As you’re the screenwriter, be the repository of knowledge about the script for the director, producer and actors. Do everything you can to help the producers craft the script they need and lend all of your support to get the movie competed. That’s the end game—getting your movie produced and receiving your credit.
I heard the greatest comment any writer could receive recently when two directors whom I’ve worked with separately on films that I’ve written, ran into each other at a post production facility working on their latest projects. Both mentioned my name and what a pleasure it was to work with me on their separate films that I had written. That made me happy knowing that my reputation as a collaborator and team player was out there representing me.
Initially, you may not receive the praise you feel that you deserve for all of your hard work. If this happens, practice patience, as it will eventually pay off for you over the long haul. Your praise will come in the form of a payment for your writing, a produced film, and a vital part of your screenwriting career—a credit. Produced film credits will determine your payment quote for your next project and secure you as a working professional.
You’ll always find opportunities to display that you’re a team player and you will build your integrity as a professional screenwriter. 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. This is the mantra of a team player. It’s that easy. Over time, these professionals will know they can count on you, that your word means something and you are a team player. Also go above and beyond the call every time out regardless of your pay. The producers, executives and directors will remember and it’s practically the least you can do these days to stay on a project.Your talent is as important as your professional work ethic and your attitude. These are the characteristics of a professional screenwriter and your reputation of being a team player will help you work again.
Keep filling your blank pages because if you stop writing, you’ll never have a shot at any success.
Copyright 2017 by Mark Sanderson on his blog MY BLANK PAGE.
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“When forced to work within a strict framework the imagination is taxed to its utmost—and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom the work is likely to sprawl.”— T.S. Eliot
“The professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it. He recognizes the contributions of those who have gone before him. He apprentices himself to them.” —Steven Pressfield
“Collaborative effort requires sharing that tiny little space which we reserve for ourselves. We’ve got to bring it out and share it for a while, even if we put it back afterward.”—Stanley Kramer