Beware… talk and “interest” are free and cheap in Hollywood…
August 9, 2016 § Leave a comment
You’ll learn this hard reality the longer you pursue a screenwriting career — talk is cheap in Hollywood and people want credit for their good intentions. Too many times the words are empty promises and “interest” in a screenplay becomes a tool for producers to string along hungry and desperate writers.
BUT — money makes it real. Seriously. Producers need to put some skin in the game otherwise you are walking a narrow plank and it’s easy for them to change their minds because there is no risk.You’ve taken all of the risk by spending time writing your screenplay and allowing it to be with only the producer exclusively without an option or money. And then the charade continues when they ask for changes without paying anything for your effort and time.
How many times has a producer, agent or manager asked to read your screenplay and you never hear from them again. Three months later you feel bad contacting them only to find out they have “been swamped with work.” The sad truth is… you’ll quickly learn that somehow they will never have the free time to read your precious magnum opus. BUT – they want credit for their good intentions of asking you to read your script. It’s the actual follow through that’s impossible.
So you may ask, “What is the key to survive over the long haul?” Well, a positive outlook, tenacity, faith, respect for the craft and your journey, and a solid body of work. Also you must take all news about your projects as face value. As I always say, “Don’t believe them until the check clears.” Even then, many projects don’t make it to production so you will never receive the coveted production bonus.
Also many times interest in you or your script and the endless talk is just that—interest and talk. Many times meetings are just meetings. Many times a producer’s upbeat attitude about your project can become infectious. You want to believe that others see your dream and can realize it. Why not? It’s what keeps us going as screenwriters—belief in our projects and the faith that success is just around the corner. I’m sure when producers and executives tell you that your project is going into production, they just might believe it themselves, but sometimes they tell a writer this to buy more free time.I’ve had the head of a production company tell me to my face that my film was going into production in six weeks. Uh, right… but during the next six months something happened and it wasn’t the production.
Many producers want to keep a writer’s interest in hanging on until they “work out the pesky financing details” and it becomes the bait for more free work. If they can’t raise the money for the budget or they have no money in their development budget, there really is no money to pay the writer. Be understanding to a certain point and look at every situation through a risk/benefit filter. Are you willing to risk your free time with free rewrites on the possible chance a project “might” get produced? You only get taken advantage of if you allow it and many times it comes from the writer’s fear and desperation. Once they smell desperation and blood is in the water… it never turns out well for the screenwriter.
Another good discipline for survival over the long haul journey is to keep the intimate details of your project’s movement or lack of movement to yourself. I’ve been guilty of announcing to the world when the first stages of movement happen only to see the project collapse and then having to explain the sordid details. I see too many screenwriters doing this and expending precious energy and opening themselves up to early criticism. Do not continually talk about the status of your projects, your “writing process,” or how each project is moving forward or is not. Hollywood has a bizarre time warp that works on its own schedule. Every project will take longer than you ever expected and you don’t need people thinking that you’re blowing smoke when you talk about the status of your material. The truth is that it takes an incredible amount of time for any script to find a home and eventually get produced—if ever. Sometimes the less you say about your progress the better. We all have our own inner voice of self-doubt, but why give fodder to your critics and skeptics who will use it to squash your dreams? They’ll even taint any good news you share and use it to belittle your success because they didn’t have the guts to risk everything to pursue their own dreams. They enjoy raining on your parade instead. Protect your dreams and cut the naysayers out of your life. Keep your work close to the vest until it’s finished.
Get excited when a producer gives you a contract, you both sign it and you get paid. That’s the professional way—otherwise, you can’t live on the currency of good intentions and phony interest. Now get back to your blank pages and proceed with optimistic caution. If you stop writing you’re guaranteed never to have any chance at success.
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“… a basic “must” for every writer: A simple solitude—physical & mental.”—Rod Serling
“Don’t think of it as art, think of it as work.”—Paddy Chayefsky
Hemingway said it best, “I still believe, though, that it is very bad for a writer to talk about how he writes. He writes to be read by the eye and no explanations or dissertations should be necessary. You can be sure that there is much more there than will be read at any first reading and having made this it is not the writer’s province to explain it or to run guided tours through the more difficult country of his work.“
“Most directors do not want to rewrite the script. They have more pressing commitments on the sound stage. The writer’s best insurance against a rewrite is to have an understanding of the directorial problems. Write a scene that can’t be played, no matter how beautiful the words or thoughts, is begging for a revamp.”—Jerry Lewis
“Yes, screenwriting is character, story and structure, but it’s also about feel… like you’re working with emotional clay.” — Scriptcat
“It is no small feat to get a movie made, on any subject, on any screen.” — JJ Abrams