My seminar video: “Staying in the Game: Surviving as a Working Screenwriter in Hollywood.”

October 12, 2018 § Leave a comment

IMG_0564Those of you who live outside of Los Angeles and were unable to attend, I recently did a live seminar in Hollywood and it’s now available for viewing on the Film Courage YouTube Channel.

The seminar will take you through my journey of graduating from UCLA Film School and how I balanced various odd jobs while screenwriting until I finally sold my first spec screenplay. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t glamorous. My story shows it’s possible to live your dreams, and in this two-hour discussion, I’ll offer up my tips, tricks, and disciplines that may help you with your own screenwriting career.

The reality is… it’s a long haul journey to reach any level of screenwriting success and to sell any project on any size screen. If you want to pursue this as your career, you have to follow disciplines and focus on the bigger picture. It’s not the romanticized image of what most people think is a screenwriter’s life in Hollywood. It can be filled with a lot of rejections, failures, and criticism. If you can’t handle these — don’t type FADE IN.

If you’re going to play in the game, you’re competing with thousands of other writers, and you must accept that sometimes you won’t find the validation you desire. It may take ten scripts before you find one that breaks you into the business. Many times you will be disappointed from your feedback and your high expectations may be squashed. Your ego’s bruised, beaten to a pulp, and you doubt your talent and chances for success. Don’t take it personally, because feedback is a rite of passage necessary for the growth of any aspiring screenwriter. You’ll need to survive over the long haul of a career and endure disappointment, criticism, and rejection to find any level of success. As you embrace this process, you’ll begin to look at constructive feedback as a positive experience that helps you make your script better and teaches you collaboration as a team player.

You’re certain to experience many disappointments as you pursue a career, but do not perceive any of them as failures or setbacks. These experiences are part of a screenwriter’s journey. You will always succeed if you keep a positive outlook, continue learning and getting better, continue networking, and never stop writing. I look forward to you seeing the full seminar online.

Keep screenwriting and keep the faith.

Scriptcat out!

Did you just finish your latest screenplay? Time for in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the icon below for the link to schedule your session at my website.

script consultation2

Master CoverR2-4-REV2Check out my new book available on Amazon. 19 FIVE STAR reviews. Click on the book cover for the link to Amazon for purchase.

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.

 

“This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”—Rod Serling

“Give me a good script, and I’ll be a hundred times better as a director.” – George Cukor

“Seeking support from friends and family is like having your people gathered around at your deathbed. It’s nice, but when the ship sails, all they can do is stand on the dock waving goodbye. Any support we get from persons of flesh and blood is like Monopoly money; it’s not legal tender in that sphere where we have to do our work. In fact, the more energy we spend stoking up on support from colleagues and loved ones, the weaker we become and the less capable of handling our business.” —Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“Deliberate practice, by its nature, must be hard. When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend. Regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.”—Florida State University’s Anders Ericsson

“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

 

 

 

 

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The on-set visit… an invaluable experience to help you become a production savvy screenwriter.

October 11, 2018 § Leave a comment

a wife betrayed 2I’ve been blessed again with my fifteenth produced film and it’s currently filming in Los Angeles. I went to the set this weekend and it was a fun experience as always.

I met the director who complimented me on the screenplay and my efficient use of story. This makes the job of directing much easier when every scene has a reason and there is no fat on the pages. The producer was there too and we chatted about my next project with him. The dream and goal is to have one film shooting as you’re hired to write another while another is distributed.

The on-set visit is always a fun experience especially if you’ve written the movie that’s being produced. The last time I was on-set was late last year when another one of my films was shooting locally. It’s a treat because many of my other films are produced out of state and travel would be out of the question. Never underestimate the invaluable visit to the set for a priceless firsthand chance to learn the craft of filmmaking. This is important for screenwriters so they can become more production savvy. You need to see first hand the realities of film production and how it relates to how you write the script.

a wife betrayed 4I also visited the “second unit” crew filming two blocks away in the same neighborhood. They were filming exteriors and scenes that did not need the lead characters or the director to supervise. The second unit director was in charge of this set. It was fun to see them piece together two houses from different parts of the neighborhood to appear as if they were across the street from each other. The magic of the movies and editing!

Another fun experience I had was meeting a group of gaffers who had worked on another one of my films last year. You quickly learn just how much of a small town Hollywood is with regards to people having worked with each other before. Separately, my good friend works as a First AC (first assistant camera) and knows our director of photography who has extensive credits. Again, a small world. You always learn something new when you visit the set and can see first hand the production realities and changes that need to be made regarding the locations.

If you’ve written the movie, it’s a great learning experience to see how the director is actually bringing your screenplay to life. You’ll learn the realities of production and the compromises that are made daily to get the movie completed. It’s always a kick to see what you wrote come alive right in front of your eyes and to hear your dialogue being spoken by your characters. It’s never going to be the way you envisioned because you are not directing the movie. But it’s fun to see how it turns out.

salvador-dali-by-willy-rizzo-1If you have yet to sell a screenplay or be hired to write a movie that goes into production, find a mentor, another established writer, producer or director and pick their brain for their experience and do whatever you can to get on to a set to observe.  Utilize your important network of contacts to gain access to a film or TV series set. Visit as many sets as you can to learn the production process, but if you are the writer, stay out-of-the-way and offer no opinions unless asked. The director did ask my opinion about how the footage and scenes were looking and I said, “It all looks great.” And it did.

Writers are usually not welcomed on a set as changes are always happening to your script—from actors changing dialogue to directors cutting or reworking scenes. Production is meticulously planned, but remains fluid and if the scene is not working, things change at a moment’s notice. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but suck it up because no director or actor wants to experience an upset writer on the set when they have to make changes to the script. Put aside your ego and don’t take these changes personally.  Be a team player and keep focused on bigger picture of  getting the film made. Your on set experience is an invaluable tool, but you have to accept the fact your script is a fluid blueprint and it might be changed to accommodate the production.

Your time spent on set is better than any film school because it’s real world experience.  There are real craftspeople making a real movie, hopefully one that you wrote. You may find the crews are a bit jaded and the hardest audience to please because they’ve worked on their share of bad scripts over the years. This is why it’s refreshing to hear their honest comments because they don’t have to say anything to me.  There’s no hidden agenda behind their praise because I can’t hire them for my next film; I’m only the writer.

I’ve been extremely lucky to visit many of the sets of my produced films that I’ve written. I’m blessed to have really good relationships with the producers who hire me and in turn that good relationship extends to the directors as well. They treat me as an equal creative partner and not a pariah. I know when I step foot on the set, it’s the director’s playground and I’m not there to usurp any creative vision. My job ends when I turn in the final draft of the script. If asked, I will comment and give suggestions, but only if asked.  Otherwise, I sit back and watch because there’s always something new to learn on every project. There are literally dozens of creative artisans working on the film who are a wellspring of specialized knowledge. As a writer you should soak up as much knowledge as you can from having full access to the set. Observe, study and ask questions. Watch how the director blocks scenes and works with the actors, study how the actors shape your material and speak your dialogue, and notice how creative ideas constantly bounce around the set. The more you learn about the practical aspects of production, the more you’ll begin to make creative decisions mindful of the film.  As a bonus, you’ll become a more efficient screenwriter.

When the production machine is up to speed it’s an amazing sight to behold. But remember if you are a guest on a set, let the cast and crew eat breakfast, lunch or dinner first because they are working. Once everyone goes through the line only then should you eat your meal. The on-set visit will be one of the most satisfying experiences you will have as a screenwriter especially if you use it to your advantage to learn film production.

Keep the faith and filling your blank pages on your road to screenwriting success.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2018 by Mark Sanderson on his blog My Blank Page.

Also check out my YOUTUBE Channel with weekly videos offering script tips

Check out the video of my new screenwriting seminar “Staying in the Game: Surviving as a Working Screenwriter in Hollywood” now on FILM COURAGE .

Follow me on Twitter/Periscope: @scriptcat

Did you just complete your latest screenplay? Time for in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website.

 

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Need help navigating Hollywood’s trenches as you pursue a screenwriting career? Check out my new book that chronicles my past twenty years of working in Hollywood using my tips, tricks and tactics to help me stay in the game. Click on the book cover for the link to Amazon.

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“Being an artist means not having to avert one’s eyes.”—Akira Kurosawa

“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

“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

“The main thing for a writer is to find out who you are. Now, that’s not going to please everybody. You have to discover what your real talent is—what really interests you as a writer. That’s really the thing. Not how popular you can be. But what really is your metier.”—Horton Foote

Scriptcat’s fall screenwriting tips for your journey…

September 22, 2018 § Leave a comment

fullsizeoutput_302Ah, it’s finally the first day of autumn… the time when we move into another season and the leaves begin to fall. Summer went by in a blink, and I hope you were busy filling your blank pages on new projects.  I’ve been blessed with new script assignments and have a new film going into production at the end of next week in Los Angeles. I also have a new movie coming out over the next few months, and I’m also teaching a new seminar next week in North Hollywood and looking forward to meeting new screenwriters and talking about breaking in and staying in the game.

I hope you’ve created new opportunities that have pushed your screenplays closer to success so far this year. Trust me, I know if can feel like you’re banging your head against a wall hoping for a breakthrough, but finding the same results of rejection and criticism. I truly hope you’re busy creating a solid body of work and forging ahead on your screenwriting journey. I hope that I’ve been able to offer a few nuggets of advice that you’ve found helpful. In addition to my tips on Twitter (@scriptcat), and my Youtube Channel.

I’ll be posting new tips here as much as my schedule permits in addition to new articles as the topics arise in my daily life. Dig in, as I’ve written over 200 articles on this blog and my new book “A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success” is available on Amazon. I’m also broadcasting live on  PERISCOPE. Check it out. I’ve also jumped onto Instagram—find me at: marksanderson_scriptcat and visit my website FIVE O’CLOCK BLUE ENTERTAINMENT for everything else.  Thanks for reading and as always: Carry on, keep the faith and keep screenwriting. Okay, let’s cut to the chase and get right to the action—here are a few more useful survival tips for your journey…

TIP #1

DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY, “NO.

no kiddin largeNo. It’s a powerful word if used properly on your screenwriting journey. Or better yet, “No, thank you.” If any deal does not feel right or isn’t right for you, don’t be afraid to graciously say, “No, thank you.” Yes, even if you haven’t sold a screenplay before. Your time is more important than being locked into a crappy deal and something that could set you back. You come from a place of power when you feel that something is wrong and you don’t cave to your fears out of desperation. You will thank yourself when a better opportunity comes your way and you’re free to take it.  Trust me, producers can smell desperation in the room if a writer needs to pay the rent or needs some validation about the work. This is when you unknowingly might allow them to take advantage of you, and then you accept a crappy deal that benefits them and not you. Sure, you might need to get your foot in the door, but it doesn’t mean they have to crush your toes in the process. Any opportunity to work is a chance for you to shine, but your time is important and if you are writing at a professional level to compete, you should come into any situation with a humble confidence. So, what if you find yourself on the side of the cliff dangling by a mere finger hold and running out of time? Hang on. Climb back up and work on another script, and another, and get better and build your network of contacts. When you’re at the lowest point is when it really matters how you stay in the game because it’s much easier for you to leave the business when all hope is lost. And time keeps ticking away. It can be your greatest asset or worst enemy especially if you put an expiration date on your screenwriting dreams—“I have to make it by 30!” When you’re struggling on the side of that cliff, fight for your long term survival. Never allow them to stomp on your fingers so you fall into the void and never to live out your splendid screenwriting dreams.

TIP #2

CONSIDER YOUR SPECS AS YOUR CALLING CARDS — NOT A MILLION DOLLAR SALE.

bag of money

I know it’s hard to accept the spec you are writing now probably will not sell and may end up being only a writing sample, but you need to put your specs into perspective. If you don’t put in the necessary work with solid rewrites from constructive feedback and create professionally competitive material—your specs could end up in a drawer collecting dust or worse a dumpster and have a negative effect on your career aspirations. Specs are a necessary part of every screenwriter’s journey because they are the scripts you “cut your teeth on” to prepare you for when you do get hired for assignment jobs. My fifth spec is the one that opened the door to a career and landed me fifteen assignment jobs that followed. Be smart about your career. Don’t waste time making the same mistakes over and over again. Before you start your next spec and burn precious time, consider how it figures into your overall screenwriting goals—not just the mantra that I hear from so many aspirants, “I have a good idea for a script and I’m sure it will sell.” Many times it’s not a good idea and if your goal is to be a horror genre screenwriter, why are you writing a romantic comedy especially when Hollywood isn’t producing that genre now? Think, plan, create a checklist, hit your goals, create a solid story treatment before you start pages, and then put your ass in a seat and fill those blank pages.

TIP #3

TALK IS FREE AND CHEAP IN HOLLYWOOD!

quote of the dayYou’ll learn the longer you pursue a screenwriting career that talk is cheap in Hollywood and people want credit for their good intentions. Too many times the words are empty promises that end up wasting an eager and hungry writer’s time. Money makes it real. Take everything as face value for talk is the cheapest commodity in Hollywood. 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. 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? 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. Now get back to your blank pages. If you stop writing you’re guaranteed never to have any chance at success.

Keep writing and filling your pages because if you stop—you’re guaranteed to never have any shot at success. This is a business with no guarantees — even when you do sell a screenplay.

@Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2018 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE.

If you’re in Los Angeles, don’t miss my new seminar on this upcoming Tuesday night, September 25 from 7-9 pm in North Hollywood. Click on the icon below for the link to buy tickets. Only available online and seating is limited. Hope to see you there!

seminar

Click on the photo for the link to purchase tickets (online only).

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.

“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.”—William Faulkner

“This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”—Rod Serling

“Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.”– Kurt Vonnegut

 

Be prepared for opportunities

 

 

 

 

Screenwriters need down time to recharge their creative batteries…

August 25, 2018 § 1 Comment

recharge your batteriesSound advice we should follow as writers. Our constant use of brain energy and visualization can burn us out quickly. Not to mention the meeting of deadlines and the sacrifices it takes to achieve those goals. One week was especially busy for me finishing a new assignment screenplay, working on a screenplay consulting job, preparing for an important upcoming meeting, and working an outline for a new movie I’m writing with a director. It’s been mentally exhausting and my noisy mind is getting too loud and the gears are grinding to a halt. I’m lucky to be aware of my situation and my need for a slight break after I complete my work.

After I completed my work, I took much-needed breaks and read, watched movies, and went for a good run. The run still represents the journey and the ability to keep a commitment with myself with regards to exercise. Writers need a sound body to have a sound mind.  It also helped in a physical way, but I also needed just to vegetate and not think about anything — especially my current projects.  I knew exactly what to do, I popped some corn and went on a Bogart tear watching The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not, and The Treasure of Sierra Madre.  All were great films that inspired me to do better work.

In addition to relaxing, it’s also homework to further expose yourself to the great filmmakers of cinema. You can study where they succeeded and failed in various projects. The key to a stable and healthy creative mind is being aware of the creative lows and doing your best to recharge your creative batteries as you slip into this dangerous place. If you get stuck in the creative lows, they can make you procrastinate and avoid getting to work on your next project because you’re fresh out of ideas. You never want to go back to the well and find it dry. Avoid this soul-sucking place by immersing yourself in other artist’s works for inspiration.

When you recharge your creative batteries you’ll fill your well and will be ready to start your next magnum opus. Catch up on movies or TV shows that you’ve always wanted to see and study. I’ve recently been on a western movie tear and have watched nearly a dozen classics of the genre. I watched a masterpiece that was brought to my attention and its story structure was an inspiration. The film energized me to work on my old action spec that I’ve been tinkering with over the years. Recharge your batteries by listening to music or attending a concert, poetry reading, art exhibit or museum, sketch or paint, seek out local architecture, do something creative to breathe fresh life into your own work and feed your creative soul.

When you take your much needed break from writing, it’s okay to do something completely different to stimulate your mind and recharge your creative batteries. It’s also important to get away and take a vacation for a few days or longer. Your new experiences will add to the authenticity of your writing, so you can consider living actual research for your writing. Imagine the great ideas you’ll get from your adventures in a foreign country where new experiences can be found around every corner.

Who knows, maybe you’ll be like me and inspired or influenced by something and it will energize your creativity when you get back to your work. You’ll thank yourself the following week as you find yourself deep into meetings and deadlines, but now with a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of purpose.

Keep writing and keep the faith because if you stop writing, you’re guaranteed never to have any shot at success.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2108 by Mark Sanderson on his blog MY BLANK PAGE.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay? Is it time for in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the icon below for link to my website.

script consultation2

Master CoverR2-4-REV2

My new book now available on AMAZON.

18 FIVE STAR REVIEWS!

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 FOR THE LINK TO AMAZON.

mug-real-photo

Need screenwriting inspiration with your morning or afternoon coffee? Check out my COFFEE RING CARTOONS MERCHANDISE for screenwriters. Over a dozen different designs. Click on the photos for the link to my online store and the products offered

 

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” — John Lubbock

“Fame and money are gifts given to us only after we have gifted the world with our best, our lonely, our individual truths.”—Ray Bradbury

“Just do the best you can every time.  And if you’re going to stay in the movies, and you like movies—and I love them—you’d better love them a lot, because it’s going to take all of your time.  If you want to be in the movies, it’s going to break your heart.”—director Richard Brooks

“You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.” – Billy Wilder

Always remain humble on your screenwriting journey…

July 26, 2018 § 1 Comment

PILE OF SCRIPTSHumility? It’s respecting the reality of your journey and the mountain we all climb daily to reach any level of success as screenwriters. It’s knowing you’ll never be bigger than your craft, as screenwriting is a lifelong learning process. It’s accepting there will be massive sacrifices to get even one movie produced and distributed. It’s accepting the journey is not a sprint with shortcuts but a long haul marathon with no guarantees of success. It takes three or four scripts just to learn the format and find your voice, and it may take ten scripts to sell your first one. Do yourself a huge favor early in your journey and respect these facts. The great Rod Serling said, “This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”

script oddsAlso don’t be lulled into the belief that somehow it’s going to be different for you because you’re “special” or more “talented” than the next screenwriter. Approximately 50,000 precious screenplays bounce around Hollywood every year and nobody really cares. Most of the scripts are poorly written by aspirants looking for their easy “big break” or a huge sale bringing them fame and fortune. This is why Hollywood continues to build the walls higher and higher to filter out those who are not serious about the craft. Hollywood doesn’t owe you a read, a sale, or even a career. Just because you’ve put words to paper doesn’t mean anything to the bigger Hollywood community because it’s inundated with screenplays. In fact less than 100 specs sell in any given year. In recent years, it’s been more like 70 or less. Those figures are not to scare you away from your pursuit, but a reminder to humble about the journey and what you are up against. This way, you will treat your screenwriting career pursuit with the seriousness and dedication it needs.

If you did finish your screenplay, congratulations because you’ve accomplished more than most. Usually aspirants talk about their writing process more than actually writing.  Humility also comes from knowing that you’ll have to create a solid body of work to standout. One script isn’t going to do it and ten poorly written scripts will definitely not do it. I finally made some noise with my fifth spec screenplay—it sold and was eventually made into a film and distributed. That opened the door to assignment work, and I’ve rarely written another spec since as I’ve been too busy getting paid to write.

What about competition? There is always someone who wants a career in screenwriting more than you and is willing to work harder and sacrifice more than you’ll ever be willing to do. That’s okay. Don’t worry about the outside competition, the only real competition is with yourself to become a better screenwriter with every successive script you write.

We’re all special and unique, but we all still have to learn and write our way to any type of success by doing the necessary work, to follow disciplines, drive, sacrifice, and passion. We all have to fill those blank pages to get any shot at success. Even with talent and a fantastic screenplay, there are still no guarantees of success. Screenplays that sell can get lost in development hell and never produced. Some projects even get lost in the mire of financing or losing the lead actor and they fall apart.

poor screenwriterIf you are not humble and thankful for the little successes along the way, the film business will quickly humble you. Be humble, as it will serve you well on your long journey to reach any level of success. Know the monumental journey ahead of you, respect it, and get on with the hard work of creating fresh, authentic, and unique stories that showcase your talents. The rest of it is a roll of the dice, but you have to keep rolling to stay in the game.

Keep writing and keep the faith because if you stop—you’re guaranteed never to have any shot at success!

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2018 by Mark Sanderson on his blog MY BLANK PAGE.

Did you just finish your latest screenplay or draft? Is it time for in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the icon below. You never get a second chance to make a first great impression so take the time to get your script right.

script consultation2

Master CoverR2-4-REV2My new book now abailable on AMAZON.

18 FIVE STAR REVIEWS!

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 FOR THE LINK TO AMAZON.

NOW AVAILABLE!

Need screenwriting inspiration with your morning or afternoon coffee? Check out my COFFEE RING CARTOONS MERCHANDISE for screenwriters. Over a dozen different designs. Click on the photos for the link to my online store and the products offered.

“It is no small feat to get a movie made, on any subject, on any screen.” — JJ Abrams

“Just do the best you can every time.  And if you’re going to stay in the movies, and you like movies—and I love them—you’d better love them a lot, because it’s going to take all of your time.  If you want to be in the movies, it’s going to break your heart.”—Richard Brooks

When you start a movie script, it’s like entering a dark room: You may find your way around all right, but you also may fall over a piece of furniture and break your neck. Some of us can see a little better than others in the dark, but there is no guaranteeing the audience’s reaction.”—Billy Wilder

 

Screenwriting tips for your journey in Hollywood’s trenches…

June 28, 2018 § Leave a comment

FADE INIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, first of all—THANK YOU!  I truly hope you’re busy creating and forging ahead on your screenwriting journey and you’ve been able to take away a few nuggets of advice that helped. As you may know, I’ve been adding short posts (nothing is EVER short on this blog!) and sharing various survival tips. I do speak about these in the various articles on this blog, but this feature will be a quick reference to glance over and consider as you navigate your screenwriting journey. So, in addition to my tips on Twitter (@scriptcat), I’ll be posting new ones here from time to time.  Thanks for reading and as always: Carry on, keep the faith and keep screenwriting!

TIP #1        ONE SCREENPLAY WON’T DO IT…

PILE OF SCRIPTSYou may write a half-dozen specs that don’t sell before one of them secures you an assignment job from a producer or studio. Keep writing and finding your unique voice, keep mastering your craft, and really think about why you are writing your spec. What you write about is as important as how you write it.   You never know the perils that await you on your pathway to success, but the road is definitely paved with your spec screenplays—it just might take a half-dozen or more.

TIP #2         YOUR TIME IS PRECIOUS!

hang onAnd what about time? You don’t get it back on your deathbed. It’s your greatest asset or your worst enemy. It depends on how you use your precious time to create a solid body of work and continue to become a better screenwriter. That’s why I ask if you have an artist’s mentality — or the insanity to believe that even as you stare into the dark void of the unknown, your burning passion will guide you across yet another hurdle. You’ll need to withstand continued rejection, criticism, failure, and even sometimes ridicule — and if you can remain strong and shout with confidence, “I am a screenwriter” and truly believe it, because you are doing the work. You are sacrificing the time to create a solid body of work and not just talking about what you’d like to be doing. Write more, talk less.

TIP #3       DEADLINES, DEADLINES, DEADLINES… 

praise or blameIf you want to eventually work professionally, as I’m sure is your goal, you will need to work efficiently under a deadline, and at the best of your ability. It’s basically working quickly at the best of your creativity on a schedule and under a deadline. The only way to train for this is to always set your own deadlines and meet them every time with your spec screenplays. If you’re not practicing working under a strict writing schedule now, I’d suggest starting it on your next project. Write the same time every day, make your page count and get the job done. Meeting deadlines is what separates the professionals from the aspirants. When you do land a screenwriting job, you don’t want to be without this vital ability and experience and then struggle to finish your new paid job under a deadline.

Keep writing and keep the faith.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2018 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE.

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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 for the link to Amazon.

Having a hard time reaching your screenwriting goals? Maybe my on-demand webinar can help. Check out “A Screenwriter’s Checklist: 10 Questions Every Screenwriter Must Answer to Stay in the Game” now available in two parts, each $5.99. Click on the photo below for the link to the website.

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Click the photo for the link to the webinar.

“We all have the tendency to want to take the quickest, easiest path to our goals, but we generally manage to control our impatience; we understand the superior value of getting what we want through hard work. For some people, however, this inveterate lazy streak is far too powerful.”—Robert Greene, “Mastery”

“If a writer stops observing, he is finished.”—Ernest Hemingway

“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

This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”—Rod Serling

“Most writers can’t tell at the premise stage whether they’ve got a good story because they don’t have the training to see the deep structural problems in the idea before writing it as a script.”—John Truby

 

 

 

Considering a screenwriting partner? It’s not all fun and games, so choose wisely…

June 1, 2018 § Leave a comment

IMG_1059Writing is usually a solitary endeavor as we primarily sit alone at our keyboards, sometimes late at night, and peck away at our screenplays.  It can get lonely because a writer must get away from the constant distractions of the day and escape alone into the world of characters on the page.  If you’re thinking about working on a project with a writing partner and never had one before, you have to ask yourself if you both share the same work ethic and seriousness about the craft.  Is this partnership for one project or are you becoming a writing team? What happens if your project sells? Is your partner easy to work with in regards to changes and notes from producers? Do you argue about the creative direction of your screenplay? Do you both have the same creative sensibilities? What happens if you don’t sell anything for years—is your partner still going to go after the dream and how long will you both give the partnership? All good questions to consider before you both sit down and type “FADE IN.”

If you decide to become a writing team, it’s a creative partnership first, but you both must share a bigger vision about where you both see yourselves as business partners. It’s a business relationship too and you both must agree on every decision because it now affects both of your careers and potentially your finances. You’ll both either swim or sink together and during the rough times, you’ll need a partner who will do everything he or she can to save you both if you’re sinking.

My overall experience with having a writing partner was very positive, but I’ve heard stories where friendships have ended because egos and the business got in the way. I’ve had a handful of writing partners over the years and together we worked on spec TV pilots and features, but my last and longest writing partner worked with me for nearly eight years. We met working together as waiters in a restaurant — he was an actor with credits, and I was a writer who had film school and a few feature specs under my belt.  We shared the same comedic sensibilities, work ethic, and were both extremely serious about pursuing a career as screenwriters. We were blessed to have crossed paths when we did and working for many years together.

When he asked me to join a brand new sketch comedy troupe, I jumped at the opportunity and it gave me the chance to also become a live performer. It was our invaluable experiences together writing, performing and producing the live show and subsequent pilot that helped to solidify our screenwriting partnership. We also became closer friends as a result of slogging through Hollywood’s trenches together.

After our live show ran for many years, we co-wrote and co-produced an independently financed film and that experience brought our working relationship to an entirely new level. After that successful experience, we both decided that we wanted to focus on writing feature screenplays. We secured a literary manager who then found us an agent at a mid-level agency and we were off to the races.  During this period, I also sold a spec script of my own that went into production the following year. But now they sold us to Hollywood as a “writing team” and our handlers constantly sent out our specs and set up dozens of pitch meetings.

As a writing team, we laid the foundation for producers to get to know our work and consider us for writing assignments or rewrites. Our scripts were always high concept comedies that were heartfelt and uplifting. This was perfect as the producers we were meeting made those types of movies and wanted to read our scripts. Many times, these producers brought our scripts to the studio level for consideration and we always felt with every positive step forward we moved closer to our big shot. It always seemed like just one script away from that big success that begins a career.

We knew each other so well that it was like having my other half with me in the pitch meetings. And trust me, I’ve pitched alone and when it goes badly, it’s nice to have your writing partner there to back you up and vice versa. We were mature enough to know our weaknesses and both allowed each other to use our creative strengths to help the overall project. We took all ego out of the creative relationship.

As a team, it felt like family and we were like brothers looking out for each other as family. We always seemed on the same page with regards to the bigger picture.  He always had some vivid wild dream and would come to me and pitch it, we’d work it out, and it would become our next project. I’d instantly see it in my mind and we’d structure the story, pitch it to our manager, and then write it.  We’d usually complete a spec in a month and take notes from our handlers and quickly execute those notes.  They liked that we worked fast and were so productive.

After our live sketch show ended, as a writing team we co-wrote and co-produced a feature film, completed seven feature scripts, took dozens of pitch meetings, and co-wrote and did voices for a Showtime pilot. We had a good run. He eventually decided to leave the business and open three very successful restaurants.  I soldiered on alone.

For me personally, I’m so thankful to have had a writing partner during those creative years and I know we had more output together than if I had worked alone. Remember that when managers and agents send you out, you will be a writing team and from then on it will be difficult for you to work on your own as well. If you become successful and hook a writing job together, they will want the writing team and no just you alone. At the time, I recall my manager not really wanting to push my solo projects, as I was part of a writing team now and that was her focus.

chaplinBefore you decide to write a project with a partner, you have to ask yourself if you both share the same work ethic and bigger vision about where you both see yourselves as a creative team. It’s a business relationship first and together you will make important decisions that will affect both of your careers. If your writing partner is a friend and your business relationship goes sour, you could lose your friend and the project in the process. What if your partner decides to go another direction and quit the writing team because you aren’t selling anything? What if your partner hates to execute notes and doesn’t get along with producers? Be sure about the person you decide to include in your own career path. Also remember that any money you make will be split between you as well. That big $100,000 script sale really means $50,000 each minus agent, manager, lawyer, and of course taxes. It’s half the work, but also half the money.

A writing partner needs to be the right fit for the long haul because the team’s every success and failure will affect both of your careers. Like any relationship, it’s a give and take, so you have to seriously weigh the pros and cons of having a writing partner or choosing to go it alone. Choose wisely my friends.

Here’s a classic example of writing partners not working out from ‘Billy Wilder: The Art of Screenwriting No. 1’. Interviewed by James Linville in The Paris Review, 1996.

INTERVIEWER
I understand your collaboration with Raymond Chandler was more difficult?

BILLY WILDER
Yes. Chandler had never been inside a studio. He was writing for one of the hard-boiled serial magazines, The Black Mask—the original pulp fiction—and he’d been stringing tennis rackets to make ends meet. Just before then, James M. Cain had written The Postman Always Rings Twice, and then a similar story, Double Indemnity, which was serialized in three or four installments in the late Liberty magazine.

Paramount bought Double Indemnity, and I was eager to work with Cain, but he was tied up working on a picture at Fox called Western Union. A producer-friend brought me some Chandler stories from The Black Mask. You could see the man had a wonderful eye. I remember two lines from those stories especially: ‘Nothing is emptier than an empty swimming pool.’ The other is when Marlowe goes to Pasadena in the middle of the summer and drops in on a very old man who is sitting in a greenhouse covered in three blankets. He says, ‘Out of his ears grew hair long enough to catch a moth.’ A great eye . . . but then you don’t know if that will work in pictures because the details in writing have to be photographable.

I said to Joe Sistrom, Let’s give him a try. Chandler came into the studio, and we gave him the Cain story Double Indemnity to read. He came back the next day: I read that story. It’s absolute shit! He hated Cain because of Cain’s big success with The Postman Always Rings Twice.

He said, Well, I’ll do it anyway. Give me a screenplay so I can familiarize myself with the format. This is Friday. Do you want it a week from Monday?

Holy shit, we said. We usually took five to six months on a script.

Don’t worry, he said. He had no idea that I was not only the director but was supposed to write it with him.

      Double Indemnity (Directed by Billy Wilder)

He came back in ten days with eighty pages of absolute bullshit. He had some good phrases of dialogue, but they must have given him a script written by someone who wanted to be a director. He’d put in directions for fade-ins, dissolves, all kinds of camera moves to show he’d grasped the technique.

I sat him down and explained we’d have to work together. We always met at nine o’clock, and would quit at about four-thirty. I had to explain a lot to him as we went along, but he was very helpful to me. What we were doing together had real electricity. He was a very, very good writer—but not of scripts.

One morning, I’m sitting there in the office, ten o’clock and no Chandler. Eleven o’clock. At eleven-thirty, I called Joe Sistrom, the producer of Double Indemnity, and asked, What happened to Chandler?

I was going to call you. I just got a letter from him in which he resigns.

Apparently he had resigned because, while we were sitting in the office with the sun shining through, I had asked him to close the curtains and I had not said please. He accused me of having as many as three martinis at lunch. Furthermore, he wrote that he found it very disconcerting that Mr. Wilder gets two, three, sometimes even four calls from obviously young girls.

Naturally. I would take a phone call, three or four minutes, to say, “Let’s meet at that restaurant there, or, Let’s go for a drink here.” He was about twenty years older than I was, and his wife was older than him, elderly. And I was on the phone with girls! Sex was rampant then, but I was just looking out for myself. Later, in a biography he said all sorts of nasty things about me—that I was a Nazi, that I was uncooperative and rude, and God knows what. Maybe the antagonism even helped. He was a peculiar guy, but I was very glad to have worked with him.

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Copyright 2018 by Mark Sanderson on his blog MY BLANK PAGE.

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.  You never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to get it right.

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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. My new book, “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. Available now on Amazon. Click on the book cover for the link to purchase.

 

“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.” —Leigh Brackett

“Starting tonight, every night in your life before you go to sleep, read at least one poem by anyone you choose. Poetry and motion pictures are twins. You’ll get more out of reading poetry than you will get out of any other kind of reading. You are people with eyes. You must find ways of extending this vision and putting it on film. As an experiment all of you could get out of here and shoot a cinematic haiku. Just go through a book of Japanese haiku and shoot a thirty-second film. They’re purely cinematic, very visual. You must read poems every night of your life in order to enable yourself to refresh your images. In forty years you’ll thank me for telling you this.”—Ray Bradbury, Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.” – Alfred Hitchcock

“If a writer stops observing, he is finished.”—Ernest Hemingway

“This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”—Rod Serling

“Give me a good script, and I’ll be a hundred times better as a director.” – George Cukor

 

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