Been an interesting week. No word from either pitch. But no one has passed yet either. Doesn’t mean they won’t, just means more patience is needed. Something all writers have to get used to.
My wife had a serious health scare this week, too. A condition she had previously that she was assured was something that didn’t reoccur did. And she ended up in the hospital for 5 days. She’s home now and doing well, but damn. She’s one tough cookie and healing and doing exactly what the doctors told her to, so that the non-reoccurring disease doesn’t reoccur again. Thank God it’s over and she’s ok.
Then... I found out that my opinions and knowledge about writing don’t count because I write “crappy TV movies”. Now, I’m going to say that the person who wrote this on a public board wasn’t commenting on my personal films (I don't think) as much as much he (yes, it was a he) was commenting on TV films as a whole, saying that anyone who scrapes the bottom of the barrel (like me) and writes for Hallmark or Pixl or ABC Family or Lifetime or any number of Cable outlets are hacks who don’t deserve the time of day. Real writers write for lofty arenas like Movie Studios and Major Production Companies. (Major production companies produce TV movies too, but why mess up this guy’s thesis with facts.) But he pointed the answer at me. I laughed.
Don’t misunderstand. At first I got a little steamed, but then I calmed. I’ve seen this before. An unproduced writer who will only let who he deems the best touch his vaunted work. I wish him success. He’s got a much tougher road because of that attitude though.
I posted my OPINION on a public board in answer to a question about the viability of Big Budget scripts. I answered that I thought Big Budget scripts can be a good sample, but if you want to sell something, the future of original scripts is in Cable, VOD, Online with Netflix types, and whatever pops up in that arena in the future. These are the only people who are buying and producing original work in any significant way. Studios are too scared to take a chance on it. For the kinds of money they risk, they need audience pre-approved goods. Marvel, DC, sequels, best selling book adaptations, remakes of old films and TV shows....etc... You know the drill. You see what’s in the theaters every week. I said, and I do believe it, that if you write an amazing script with a reasonable budget you will generate all kinds of heat. Look at the people who wrote and made SAW.
He took exception to my answer. He said, in so many words, you only make it to the top if you aim for the top. Big Budget Studio Films. You can’t listen to people like me who write cheap crap. I guess aiming for the top can only happen from the outside. I thought you could start anywhere and use that experience to aim for the top. My bad.
Not really. Not settling for anything but the top is a recipe for keeping your day job 99% of the time.
Yes, every year there are maybe a couple of writers that write some big budget epic that wins universal praise and lands them a deal to write a Marvel film. Their film doesn’t get made, but they're in the game. So yes, if you’re burning with the desire to unleash your Big Budget Epic, by all means, write it. I never said don’t write one. I think the guy who dissed me would be surprised that I have two of them ready to go and one in the middle of being written. And as I work my way up from “crappy” cable films, which by the way have actually paid all my bills and more the last two+ years, I have three theatrical films moving forward. Now, they all may end up on VOD, but hey, they’re moving toward production with a writing credit for me and actual money paid. Why limit yourself by looking down your nose at any kind of screenwriting?
Both of my pitches the last couple of weeks came DIRECTLY from my TV experience. Both production companies asked to see me because of my TV resume. One for a limited series and the other is another crappy TV movie, that’s not crappy (it’s a great idea). And out of that pitch meeting may come another unrelated write for hire job on top of it. For another TV movie. That pays. Well.
You, as a writer, need to be open to any number of avenues for experience. I started in this business writing corporate videos and radio commercials. I wrote for anyone who would pay me. Local directors who needed a polish on their tiny indy film that had no chance of going anywhere. I wrote short films for hire, rewrote short films for directors. I wrote and directed cheap cable commercials for local businesses. Anywhere to get my foot in any door, to get my work out there and seen. I’m not too proud. It’s experience. It’s education.
You owe it to yourself as a writer to explore every path you can to getting out there. Look at any writing job as an opportunity. Explore the good writing contests. The Blacklist. The Query. Networking. And look seriously at writing a great small budget film.
I wrote one called “Extracurricular Activities”. It has been responsible in some way for every door that has opened for me and every option on another script or write for hire job I've ever gotten. Every opportunity. Even got me my manager. It is way too dark and twisted to be a cable film for Hallmark, but the writing ability on a budget got me my first meeting with them. If it had been a big budget extravaganza they wouldn’t have given me the time of day, because they want people who know how to write well, small.
Everyone has to start someplace. It’s easier to start on a bottom rung of a ladder and work your way up than it is to wait and wait to be dropped at the top.