A simple “thank you” card goes a long way on your screenwriting journey…

handshake cartoonAs you slog through Hollywood’s screenwriting trenches, you must remain humble and thankful for any forward progress that you create. Be grateful for your meetings, when others want to listen to your ideas, and when others give you a hand and pull you up—even if it’s a small gesture of help. It’s about the time—that precious commodity we don’t get back as it clicks by while pursuing our dreams. When professionals take time in their busy schedules to either take a meeting, give you advice, read your script, or give you a referral—make sure they know how much you appreciate their effort on your behalf. Don’t take any of it for granted.

It may be considered “old school,” but a handwritten “thank you” card always does wonders to convey just how much you appreciate when others help move your career forward. I was reminded of this recently when a producer hired me for a quick rewrite job at the end of the year before the holidays. After I completed the job, I sent him a holiday/thank you card and mentioned that I looked forward to working with him more in the new year. I received back a reply after New Year’s that thanked me for my good work and that he too was eager to work with me in the coming months. This put me back on his radar and showed him that I took the time out of my schedule to make sure he know my appreciation. It’s little gestures like this that go a long way. I’ve always done this type of communication ever since I started my career twenty years ago and it helps.

thank you cardAnd after you take a Hollywood meeting, maybe within a week, send a written “thank you” card to the person you met with to show your gratitude and to gently remind them of you. Never send a “thank you” e-mail. Many people in today’s world pay no attention to the small details of etiquette and that’s why it’s important. It will make you stand out from the crowd and display your integrity and build your professional reputation. Executive’s assistants sort the incoming mail and the hand-written notes are always stacked on the top of the pile and read first. When the producer or executive is busy with a thousand other distractions and daily commitments, your card will arrive and you’ll be a nice blip on their radar. They’ll appreciate the gesture and recall that not only are you a talented writer, but you’re respectful of their time and the opportunity they presented you.

You’re now acting as a professional, and preparing for when they allow you to play in the their big sandbox with their toys. Sure, sometimes a meeting is just a meeting, but you have to treat every experience as the important opportunity if affords you to display yourself as a professional who offers professional quality work. As you continue these methods, they will become effortless and you’ll build a reputation that will eventually get you hired or rehired. You’ll step through the door you just opened into the coveted world of a working screenwriter in Hollywood.  Welcome, it’s a nice place to get up in the morning and get paid to write a screenplay.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2017 by Mark Sanderson on blog MY BLANK PAGE.

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“The professional prepares mentally to absorb blows and to deliver them.  His aim is to take what the day gives him.  He is prepared to be prudent and prepared to be reckless, to take a beating when he has to, and to go for the throat when he can.   He understands the field alters every day.   His goal is not victory (success will come by itself when it wants to) but to handle himself, his insides, as sturdily as he can.”— Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art

“You must be confident enough to believe that you can “make it”—but humble enough to know it’s a long journey with much to learn.”—Scriptcat

“So the only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost. All the wrong environment will do is run his blood pressure up; he will spend more time being frustrated or outraged. My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey.”—William Faulkner

“So give yourself that chance to put together the 80, 90 pages of a draft and then read it very in a nice little ceremony, where you’re comfortable, and you read it and make good notes on it, what you liked, what touched you, what moved you, what’s a possible way, and then you go about on a rewrite.”—Francis Ford Coppola

“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”

Creativity is a mysterious process that must be respected and protected on the screenwriting journey.

script page and keyboard copyIf you’re new to this screenwriting adventure, you’ll soon discover that when you go back to your creative well it doesn’t always deliver as expected. It’s important to carve out a writing schedule and stick to it so you can actually finish a project, but sometimes the creative juices just don’t flow. Some call it writer’s block. I call it part of the creative process. When the writing becomes difficult, you can cut and run, or stick with the material and concentrate on visualization even if it doesn’t produce pages. In private correspondence the great mystery writer Raymond Chandler once confessed, “Even if I didn’t write anything, I made sure I sat down at my desk every single day and concentrated.” Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower. This sort of daily training was indispensable to him. It’s vital for a writer to go through the ups and downs of the creative process because it’s the basic training necessary to gain precious experience.

scripts 2The more you write, the faster you’ll be able to finish a first draft, but don’t let experience fool you. I’ve written thirty feature-length screenplays and I’m still humbled every time I sit down to start a new project. Even with experience a writer isn’t immune to the anxiety of the creative process. I was filled with anxiety during the start of a recent screenwriting assignment because I couldn’t get my creative process going every day when I had planned. I woke up early and lingered on the Internet, took a late lunch, became distracted by phone calls and suddenly it was 3:00 P.M. and I had no pages. This horror show went on for about three days until I realized that maybe on this project my writing schedule didn’t start in the morning, but later in the afternoon. I make a choice to let go of my preconceived daily structure and my creativity thrived. I started my writing day at 3 P.M. without guilt and worked until about 11 P.M. Yes, I was blessed to have the luxury of shifting my screenwriting writing schedule, but I realized as long as I sat with the material and focused, the daily creative process was moving forward.

The creative process has no secret formula for success. It’s the reality that writers must jump in and discover a method that works best for their productivity. If you spend quality time with your material, free from distractions and interruptions, you will eventually power through the walls that block your creativity and become productive. Don’t stress about today’s page count because it will always over the course of any project. Focus on sticking to your writing schedule and being “one” with the material. The consistency of a daily writing schedule will protect your creative process regardless if it works today or not. Also stick to your self-imposed deadlines because this is training for when you do score a screenwriting assignment and work for pay under a contract. Creativity is a mysterious process and writers must respect it, but also protect it during their long haul journey to finishing a new project.

You have to believe you can “make it” but also respect the fact it’s a long journey to reach any level of success. Keep the faith and keep screenwriting!

Scriptcat out!

 

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

“Yes, screenwriting is character, story and structure, but it’s also about feel… like you’re working with emotional clay.” — Scriptcat

“A writer is not a film’s maker but its originator, then a writer must, if she or he is to emerge and make a mark, create a body of work that is not just aimed at posterity but at surviving the food chain which constitutes modern film production.” — Richard Price, screenwriter of The Color of Money, Sea of Love, Mad Dog & Glory, Clockers, & Ransom.

“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”

“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

RESPECT THE CRAFT