Embrace all opportunities that come your way on your screenwriting journey…
February 1, 2019 § Leave a comment
The longer you chase your dream of being a professional screenwriter and slug it out in Hollywood’s trenches, the more you’ll realize just how difficult it is to sell a screenplay and if you do, to sustain a career. The years pass by fast, and Hollywood definitely works on its own schedule — never the schedule of an eager writer looking to sell a big spec or start a career. I offer this reality check only to keep you humble, focused on the necessary work, and always keeping your eye on the bigger picture of where you are going with your pursuits. A screenplay written without the thought of what it can do for you with regards to your ultimate career goals can be an exercise in futility. If you want to be a horror genre screenwriter and that is your passion, don’t write a romantic comedy. Stick to what you love to write and a genre that is your passion — and write the hell out of it. You’ll be looked upon as less “scattered” when it’s time to get you on the studio rewrite lists for jobs. Agents and managers can also understand what you can do better than if you showed up with a western, romantic comedy, drama, sci-fi, and action screenplay. How can a writer be good at all genres? Most likely they are not.
Now let’s examine the role of a good opportunity that can help start your screenwriting career. First of all, I believe you create new opportunities with every new screenplay. When your script is completely ready to be sent out and compete in the marketplace, it will serve as your “calling card” to showcase the best of your abilities. Many times, the screenplay will not sell, but you will get you a meeting or open a door with a production company and land an assignment job. Today the business is all about intellectual property and developing existing books, news events, and even re-making old films. But the key is recognizing a good opportunity when it comes your way.
A few years ago, I took a rewrite job with a producer and because I did so well with the job, the producer hired me three more times, two were other rewrites and one was a script assignment of my own. You never know where one opportunity will lead and what doors it will open.
I recently had this discussion with a screenwriter who asked if he should continue to focus on writing his big-budget specs and hoping for a major sale, or should he write lower budgeted films at a company where he has a solid connection. I told him most years, around 100 or fewer screenplays sell at the studio level in Hollywood. And if you consider the 50,000 scripts registered at the Writer’s Guild every year, the odds of selling a major spec to a studio as an unknown writer… well, you’d might have a better chance at winning the lottery. You have to seriously ask yourself what is the best use of your time. Yes, some writers are willing to hold out, year after year, writing big budget specs as unknowns, hoping for a miracle sale to happen and hitting a wall every time out. As the years fly past, this pursuit can really affect one’s mental and financial health. Or, if you have an opportunity to write a movie with a company where it will get made, why not take that easier opportunity? You never know where your job will lead and you can build on the opportunity. What if you write a few successful movies for them, and then you ask to move into producing? Or maybe directing? And you’re learning production while you’re getting paid. As an unknown writer, you’d never have those opportunities at a major studio to start with your first movie.
And looking at the bigger picture, most writers end up where they never imagined. Your career will never be what you imagined when you were pounding out your specs at home. You have to seize upon a good opportunity to get past the gates, and then what you do with that opportunity is the most important thing. I told this writer to take the writing job with the company, low budget or not, because it’s real. He will be a paid and credited screenwriter, and that goes a hell of a long way to getting the next job over someone who has never been paid to write anything. It’s also building relationships as he will be working closely with producers and the directors. These relationships are vital to building the foundation of a screenwriting career.
At the start, someone has to take a chance on you. If you deliver the goods and have a productive working relationship, that’s when they offer you another job, and hopefully another — and that’s called a career. It’s being paid to do what you love for a living. Trust me, producers like working with writers whom they can trust.
Every screenwriter has their own idea of “making it” and what a dream career looks like. I say you have to continue to “make it” with every new job after the first one. There is no down time to rest. The hardest part of the journey is selling that first screenplay or being offered your first assignment job. Once you have a credited film, it’s a lot easier to find your next job because someone has already taken a chance on you. Always consider all opportunities that come your way. You probably won’t be paid a lot for your first few jobs, but you have to build the solid foundation of a career first before it can flourish.
Keep filling your blank pages on your road to success.
Copyright 2019 by Mark Sanderson on blog MY BLANK PAGE.
Also check out my YOUTUBE Channel with weekly videos offering script tips.
Did you just complete your latest screenplay and need in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information. Hit the ground running in the New Year with a solid project.
Check out my book with 20 FIVE STAR reviews on amazon.
It’s a long haul journey to reach any level of screenwriting success. If your passion drives you to embark on this crazy adventure of a screenwriting career, you’ll need to prepare for survival in Hollywood’s trenches. Talent is important, but so is your professionalism and ability to endure criticism, rejection, and failure over the long haul. The odds may be stacked against you, but the way to standout in this very competitive business is to create a solid body of work and build a reputation as a team player and collaborator. The rest is just luck — a prepared screenwriter who meets with an opportunity and delivers the goods. “A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success” will help you prepare for your own journey with the necessary, tips, tricks and tactics that I’ve developed over the past twenty years of working in the film industry. It’s time to start living your dream as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Click on the book cover above for the link to Amazon.
“It is no small feat to get a movie made, on any subject, on any screen.” — JJ Abrams
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”—William Falukner
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” —Lao Tzu
“Hollywood is Hollywood. There’s nothing you can say about it that isn’t true, good or bad. And if you get into it, you have no right to be bitter—you’re the one who sat down, and joined the game.” —Orson Welles