Avoid looking or acting like a desperate screenwriter (even though you might be).
June 18, 2019 § Leave a comment
If you’re new to the screenwriting game, the longer it takes to sell a screenplay, the more desperate you might get after you face your first series of rejections and setbacks. Precious time passes quickly while you write new projects, send them out, and receive feedback—good or bad. It’s a long haul process to get any interest in your screenwriting, and you’ll soon learn that success doesn’t happen overnight.
As time passes, you have to accept the hard reality that it might take ten scripts to sell your first one. Are you working at a job that you hate and look for a script sale to save you? Do you have rent or a house payment due and look for your new script to sell so you can pay the bills next month? Have you written five scripts that you thought were your best work, only to receive less than stellar reviews and no real forward progress? Have you entered contests only to place in the quarter finals year after year or receive rejection letters? Have you written another script only to learn nobody else loves it as much as you do? All of these scenarios can breed desperation. Avoid it at all costs.
The key is not to hang on to your screenwriting dreams with a white knuckle grip. This will cause you to become desperate when things don’t go your way. You have to realize that it’s going to take years of perfecting your craft to reach any level of success—and it doesn’t come easy. There are approximately 50,000 projects bouncing around Hollywood every year. Here is the spec market sales report for 2018. Here are the figures by genres…
Science Fiction — 10
Comedy — 9
Drama — 9
Horror — 4
Thriller — 4
Action — 3
Family — 1
This is not to scare you but to humble you about the mountain that you climb every time you offer a script to the Hollywood machine. It goes without saying, but you need to be doing the work necessary to compete in a very crowded marketplace. One script is not going to do it, but two or three might. In fact, the script you’re working on now might not be “the one” but one of many that you’ll have to write. It’s a numbers game at best and you have to find the right project for the right producer at the right time. It never happens overnight.
What can get you through the entire process is enjoying the little successes along the way. A career is mostly never made up of one big success, but a series of small successes that lead to establishing a career. Beware—producers can also smell a screenwriter’s desperation. Don’t act desperate. What are some telltale signs?
1. You push your script on them too hard, especially if they don’t show much interest.
2. You call their office or send e-mails too soon asking if they’ve read your script yet.
3. You don’t negotiate, but you take the first crappy deal they offer.
4. You’re willing to make changes and do free work as they string you along with promises of an option or purchase.
Desperation could put you in a situation where you allow someone to take advantage of you with a bad deal. You might accept it because you believe that you’ll never find another producer who wants to buy your screenplay. Muster the courage to move on if a deal isn’t right for you. You will live to write another day. All good things happen at the right time if you allow it.
Do your best to avoid becoming a desperate screenwriter. You’ll need a proper job to take care of yourself as you pursue your screenwriting career. It’s vital that you take care of yourself first and not look at the script you’re writing to sell and save you from some crappy job that you hate. Focus on creating new material and sending it out into the marketplace only when it’s ready. Don’t look for your screenplay to change your life. It could be a long, long wait. Hollywood works on its own time table and you can’t be anxious about establishing a career. Accept that criticism, rejection and failure are part of the screenwriting process and be open to changes on your screenplay. Strive to write screenplays that can compete in a crowded marketplace. Become a team player and collaborator and producers will value your input to the project and keep you around.
Keep the faith and keep working on new projects. Be prolific! A solid body of work is necessary to sell even one screenplay or land a coveted assignment.
Copyright 2019 by Mark Sanderson written on blog MY BLANK PAGE.
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“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
“The film (The Power and the Glory) made a lot of enemies. Writers at that time worked in teams, like piano movers. And my first solo script was considered a distinct menace to the profession.”—Preston Sturges
“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”—Stephen King
“Not only do you attack each scene as late as is possible, you attack the entire story the same way.”—William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade.
“There are no minor decisions in movie making. Each decision will either contribute to a good piece of work or bring the whole movie crashing down around my head many months later.”—Sidney Lumet