I can’t believe it’s December again and my nine-year anniversary for my blog. Time sure flies as we’re busy filling our blank pages, right? Yes, it’s my 9th ANNIVERSARY here and it’s been another solid year of readership of the blog. I want to thank you all my loyal readers for a fantastic eight years on the net. I hope my over 250 articles helped with your survival in the trenches of Hollywood as a working screenwriter. As you know, screenwriting is a long haul journey to reach any level of success, but when you know other writers are out here slugging away, fighting the good fight, and being successful, it can give you hope and strength to fill yet another blank page as you follow your dreams.
As a bonus extra, I’m going to give you my list of TOP 10 DISCIPLINES TO BUILD A PROFESSIONAL REPUTATION.
It’s a given that you must have talent as a screenwriter, but if you also have a bad reputation it will harm your ability to land a job. Your reputation as a professional screenwriter will always precede you and can only be built over time as you work on various projects with producers or executives.
You must understand that everyone’s opinion about working with you matters. If you garner a reputation as being “difficult,” producers and others will choose not work with you again. Hollywood is all about working relationships and time is too precious and a lot of money is at stake on a project to deal with hassles. There are just too many other capable writers out there who are not divas and can get the job done. This is one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned on my nearly twenty year professional journey as a screenwriter—a solid reputation is vital to establishing a professional career.
Hollywood is a business of relationships and networking. People generally like to work with those people they’ve had a positive experience with in the past and who they can trust to deliver the work. So, how do you build a solid reputation as a screenwriter?
My TOP 10 Disciplines to Build a Professional Reputation:
- Always deliver your best work, every time, regardless of your salary.
- Do you best not to be late for meetings.
- Always meet your contracted screenplay deadlines.
- Never get testy or upset about script notes or show anger about the changes.
- Be the ultimate team player and collaborator.
- Go the extra mile on every screenplay and clearly show the producers how invaluable you are to the project.
- If you don’t already have the natural ability—pay close attention to all details. Nobody will know the screenplay better than you will as the writer.
- Help the producers craft a script they can actually produce and do everything in your power to help push it through the development process.
- Don’t be a pain in the ass or a precious screenwriter.
- Be generous with your collaborators and make working with you a positive and fun experience.
Initially, you may not receive the praise you feel that you deserve for all of your hard work. If this happens, practice patience, as it will eventually pay off for you over the long haul. Your praise will come in the form of a payment for your writing, a produced film, and a vital part of your screenwriting career—a credit. This will lead to more jobs as you now have experience and someone who took a chance on hiring you.
You’ll always find opportunities to build your integrity as a professional screenwriter. Every new project is a chance to build new relationships and show the producers and executives they can trust you by being a person of your word. If you promise to do something—do it. It’s that easy. Over time, these professionals will know they can count on you and that your word means something. It’s part of being a professional in all aspects of your career.
During pre-production of one of my films, I remember the director was on the location scouting and we’d keep in touch every day. When he needed changes to the script, he’d call or E-mail me, and I would have the revisions back to him the next morning. He knew he could trust me to deliver the changes that he needed to produce the film. Directors and producers remember these positive working relationships and it’s all part of the process to build your professional reputation. It was very gratifying for me recently hearing this director say that he ran into another director whom I worked with and they both told each other what a pleasure it was to work with me. I’ve worked hard to build my reputation over the years and it continually pays off.
A bad first impression is hard to erase, so never turn in your script late and never be late for a meeting, especially if it’s your first meeting. Make sure you are always ten to fifteen minutes early and ready to go. Somehow it’s become industry standard protocol that producers or executives will always make you wait. It’s like the doctor’s office, where your appointment is for 11:00 and you’re called into the office at 11:30. As frustrating as it is, it’s their prerogative and not yours. Be known as the writer who shows up early and is always ready to go. If you’re habitually late, you’ll lose their trust and they will think, “if this writer can’t even show up on time, why would he turn in his script on schedule?” It’s a reasonable assumption.
I was recently at a very important pitch meeting at a very high-profile Hollywood production company where the executives ran thirty minutes late. The assistant came down twice from upstairs to apologize—and I was very understanding of course. There was nothing I could do but tough it out. This meeting took a month to schedule and I wasn’t about to re-schedule, as I was ready to pitch today. When they finally called me into the meeting, the executives were so apologetic and went the extra mile to accommodate me. It adds a different dynamic to the meeting when they feel badly about making you wait. It’s their prerogative being late, not yours.
What you can control is your own conduct as you follow the code of a professional screenwriter. Your integrity is like a muscle and you need to work on it daily. Eventually your professionalism will come naturally (if it doesn’t already) and building your reputation with integrity will become effortless. Always remember, your reputation is as important as your talent and work ethic. It’s a vital ingredient for any level of success in your overall screenwriting career, so build a reputation that will make producers want to work with you again and again.
As the year ends, take some time to reflect on your experiences — celebrate your successes, analyze your mistakes and failures, and adapt to find new strategies that can move you and your projects forward down the paying field. Always set realistic goals and do whatever you need to go after them with passion. Remember, it’s later than you think, and life passes quickly while you attempt great things with your screenwriting career.
My sincere thanks for your support of this blog. Remember to always respect the craft, keep the faith, work from a solid outline with a passion for the work and not seeking fame and fortune, and remember—if you stop writing, you’re guaranteed to never have a shot at any success.
See you on Twitter/Periscope and the big and small screen.
All my best screenwriting wishes for the new decade and 2020!
Copyright 2019 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE blog.
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“… a basic “must” for every writer: A simple solitude—physical & mental.”—Rod Serling
“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
Stephen King with advice from his old newspaper editor John Gould: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”
“Don’t think of it as art, think of it as work.”—Paddy Chayefsky
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.“
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”—Pablo Picasso
“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