Communiqué from the front lines… always be writing, pitching, and taking meetings for any chance at success.

As I’ve mentioned before in my blog articles, even with credits or not, a screenwriter’s job never ends with regards to either creating new material or constantly meeting, pitching and building an ever-expanding network of your “fans.” It’s days, nights, and weekends, folks. Anything else is a hobby.

One of the two recent meetings I had was a pitch meeting and the other a follow-up meeting after the exec read my TV pilots. Both meetings went very well and I’m extremely happy to add two more places with open doors. The pitch meeting was with an independent producer that I pitched to before, and this time I came ready with five new pitches—all in the same basic genre for her to consider. Now, what could have happened is that I pitched all of my ideas and nothing resonated with her, but luckily for me she picked three to further develop.

We’re moving forward with the three pitches and will work to tailor them to three specific networks with regards to their tone and scope. I have produced credits in the genre I was pitching, so it helped to make her feel confident that I could write the ideas I had pitched. Once we have a more detailed story locked down and she’s confident with it, she will hopefully schedule meetings and take me into the networks to pitch with her attached as producer. I now go into the important research process and have to watch a handful of the original movies that have aired on these particular networks to enable me to capture the tone of their material. I’ll bet you never figured one day watching movies would be considered research. It’s the best part!

The other meeting was a lunch with a development executive who works for a successful, old school producer with mega Hollywood credits. She read my TV pilots as they are branching into series television and she really liked the writing, but the projects weren’t the right fit for what her boss is looking to produce. She’s now a “fan” of my writing and we discussed in length the types of films/series ideas they do have in development with other important insights. Another invaluable door opened and a flag planted on the field of battle. I of course sent a handwritten “thank you” follow-up card to both producers as part of the professional code.

These are they types of meetings you will need to take on a regular basis to continue to build your network of relationships. Eventually one of your “fans” will buy your material or hire you to write their next project on assignment.  It will happen if you stay in the game and build those necessary relationships. It’s happened for me nearly two dozen times being hired for screenplay assignment jobs. The process is ongoing and never ends as long as you’re writing. As with anything in Hollywood, you never know how events will turn out—good or bad. This is why early in my career I began to practice the art of detachment from any outcome of a meeting. This is important because it’s never going to turn out the way you envisioned. Never. Detachment helps you protect yourself from the many disappointments that meetings in Hollywood can deliver. You’ll want to wrestle control of your “highs and lows” to lessen the inevitable bumpy ride. 

Always consider these meetings in the bigger picture of your overall journey and not just focus on the success of any specific meeting. Many times, a meeting is just a meeting and will end up being nothing more. But it’s always good to get out there and put a face to a name and a script. Remember, success does not happen with one script or one meeting, as it’s a long process of many steps and many meetings and a body of work that will show professionals you have something unique to offer.

So, dig in deep and get your latest project finished. Work on your pitches, one sheets, outlines, loglines, and completed scripts. Take the meetings and build those vital relationships that will serve you over the long haul journey to success. It’s not the romanticized idea of what a screenwriter does, it’s the reality of looking for your first — or next job. It’s all part of the process of a working screenwriter. Rinse, lather, and repeat. When it does finally happen, if it hasn’t already, you’ll take the meeting that launches your career when they want to buy your script or hire you to write a project on assignment. Your screenwriting career is not a Dali-esque delusion, but the result of work, talent, focus, sacrifice, patience, timing, and luck.

Keep writing and keep the faith. —Scriptcat

Copyright © 2022 Mark Sanderson. All rights reserved. My Blank Page blog.

Did you just finish your latest screenplay? Is it time for in-depth screenplay consultation? I’ve helped hundreds of writers elevate their scripts into a release draft where they can feel confident to show it to producers. Check out my services by clicking on the icon below for the link to my website and more information.

“Loooooove your script. Simply love it. Can we change the ending?” – Anonymous producers.

“It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.”—Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary, 5th Century B.C.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”—Pablo Picasso

“When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit on the curb outside with a pencil and a ten cent notebook and start the whole thing over again.” — Preston Sturges

But the Artist cannot look to others to validate his efforts or his calling.  If you don’t believe me, ask Van Gogh, who produced masterpiece after masterpiece and never found a buyer his whole life.  In the hierarchy, the Artist faces outward. Meeting someone new he asks himself, “What can this person do for me?”  “How can this person advance my standing?”  In hierarchy, the Artist looks up and looks down.  The one place he can’t look is that place he must: within.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“Believe me that in every big thing or achievement there are obstacles — big or small — and the reaction one shows to such an obstacle is what counts not the obstacle itself.”—Bruce Lee

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Need help navigating the life of a screenwriter as you pursue a career in Hollywood? It’s never easy to slog it out in the trenches and my book can help with my tips, trick, and tactics to help you survive the long haul journey to 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.

Time is a screenwriter’s greatest asset or worst enemy. It depends on how we respect it…

Time can burn so quickly as you pursue your screenwriting career in Hollywood. After you finish a screenplay and await feedback, if you watch the clock it can leave you hanging. Your script is the most important thing in the world to you—but you quickly discover it’s not to everyone else. This is when a time warp happens and you realize you’re now on Hollywood’s schedule. It’s a strange world of fear, unknowns, half-truths, promises, good intentions, and sometimes a very long wait for any feedback.

As a screenwriter, you spend so much time and energy finishing a script, once you finish how can you temper your excitement? This is what we live for as screenwriters—the excitement of completing a new project and moving forward with establishing your career. It’s playing the screenwriting game, living as a wide-eyed dreamer with hope for another chance up to the plate with every new screenplay. It’s empowering to work on your own schedule and steer your own ship seemingly in control of your destiny.

The journey after completing your script may become long and bumpy. Sometimes it may take years for a project to see any type of real progress. It was seven long years from the time I typed “THE END” of my fifth spec to the day the cameras rolled. You never know what adventure lies ahead for each project you complete. As a screenwriter with dreams of working in Hollywood, you must realize every aspect of your progress will take time. You have to learn the important virtue of patience, or you will live with constant anxiety and pressure for your script to move you farther down the field—or God forbid to dig you out of a financial hole. Did you ever think, “I have to sell this one!”  Either way, you are in for quite an adventure.

Even if you do land a screenplay assignment, the business side of negotiation takes time. My last contract for a script assignment went back and forth between my lawyer and the production company’s lawyer for a month. As negotiations continue on every deal point, the back and forth seemingly takes forever—and this is before you can start any work on the script. Unfortunately a holiday comes up, so it means another four or five days until a reply. It seems like torture, feeling as if you’re in the starting blocks waiting for the starter gun to go off—but it never does until you and the producer sign the contract’s final draft.  Learn patience. It’s a vital part of your survival over the long haul screenwriting journey.

You may hit a slow patch on your journey as a working screenwriter, but if you keep writing you will never lose sight of your dreams. Your writing is the only thing you can control and the more you write, the better you will become. This will prepare you for when your opportunity does come. Think of building your career over the long haul and not just looking to hook one big script sale. If you believe your first spec is going to sell and make you a million dollars, see how you feel after you write ten screenplays with no sales.

smash head in wall

Like any difficult journey, you’ll constantly be tested to see how badly you want a career in screenwriting and how much you are willing to sacrifice to keep doing what you love to do. Sure, you’ll have failures, rejection, projects that die and never get made, and maybe other scripts languishing in development, but if the road gets bumpy, always keep the faith and your focus on the end goal—a career as a working screenwriter.

Always stay hungry, never get lazy, and keep true to your self-discipline. Don’t allow any day job or any person to derail your plans. Protect your dreams from all comers. We all need to put food in the fridge and pay our bills, but be aware of the pitfalls of a 9-5 job and how you may allow it to affect your writing. If you have the drive and determination to go after your dreams, no day job or person will keep you away from your keyboard.  Only you can stop you from writing.

Writers write — right? Keep focused on the bigger picture. Time burns quickly in Hollywood and every move seems to take forever. Their schedule is not yours, so temper your excitement and don’t allow disappointments to crush you. Time is precious, and we don’t get it back so use your writing time wisely—protect it and don’t get too upset when a simple read of your screenplay can take months. If this happens,  focus on your next project—so you’ll always have fresh projects in the works. When you finish a script, work on a new pitch, or a treatment, and get to work on various TV and feature ideas. Keep as many projects juggling as you can because the reality is a screenwriting career does not happen overnight. If you respect this fact, you’ll have a better experience and keep your sanity over the long haul.

If you find yourself “written out” and needing a second opinion, consider my screenplay consultation services. I’ve helped hundreds of writers elevate their scripts into a release draft. After you send your script out you never get a second chance to make that first great impression. Make the time to get it in shape. And take $25 off feature and TV pilot packages when you mention this blog “My Blank Page.”

Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Stay humble. Keep learning and growing as a person. Keep writing!

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2022 by Mark Sanderson. All rights reserved. My Blank Page blog.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay? Congrats! Time for in-depth analysis/consultation/editing? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website. You never get a second change to make a first great impression. Make the time to get it right.

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“Writers, like most human beings, are adaptable creatures. They can learn to accept subordination without growing fond of it. No writer can forever stand in the wings and watch other people take the curtain calls while his own contributions get lost in the shuffle.”—Rod Serling

“The well is where your “juice” is. Nobody knows what it is made of, least of all yourself. What you know is if you have it, or you have to wait for it to come back.”—Ernest Hemingway

“The problem is that being creative has glamour. People in the business end of film always say, “I want to be a producer, but a creative producer.” Or a woman I went to school with who said, “Oh, yes, I married this guy. He’s a plumber but he’s very creative.”—Woody Allen

“Directors have always been accused of rewriting unnecessarily—particularly by writers. Actually, most of the time it is deletion because a scene won’t work. You loved it in the original script, okayed it during pre-production, but when you get to the top of the second page of the scene you suddenly discover there is a resolution. It wasn’t evident until you took it in front of the camera. Oops, that’s the scene! There is no point in mucking up what is already good.”—Jerry Lewis

“Every time I go to a movie, it’s magic, no matter what the movie’s about”—Steven Spielberg

If you need some help navigating your pursuit of a screenwriting career, consider my book “A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success” that can help you avoid the many pitfalls writers face when they slog it out in Hollywood’s trenches. Click on the book image for the link to Amazon.