Monthly Archives: December 2014

Yes, it was an interesting year. Filled with lots of work, a long stretch without work and that awful writer’s fear that they found you out and you’ll never work again. (Every writer knows this fear, get used to it.)

But overall it was a great year for rewrite assignments. Between January and July I had non-stop work. Assignments and Rewriting other people’s work is the bread and butter of most screenwriter’s lives. It pays the bills. Do I feel guilty sometimes taking another writer’s hard work and removing and replacing most of it? Yeah. I do sometimes. I know how it feels. It’s been done to me. But it’s also an everyday practice in this industry and as a screenwriter you need to understand it and live with it. Sad, but true.

Between July and December was the LONG Fall and Winter. Nothing. Nada. No paid work at all. My yard looked great though. My original feature was to have gone during this time, but circumstance and fate and… etc…etc…etc… stepped in. And voila, it was postponed. Another lesson for the anxious screenwriter out there. Nothing happens fast or on schedule, and steps backward are the norm. And... it often happens suddenly and without warning. I'm still hopeful about it though.

Lots of close calls for paid jobs this year, but I either lost them to other writers or the project stalled or dropped off the face of the earth. This is also normal. As a working writer you will read a LOT of scripts your manager sends you and you’ll take your notes on how to fix them and sometimes you’ll actually get to pitch your notes, sometimes not.  Sometimes you get hired.  OR they’ll ask your manager if you’d mind rewriting them on spec (FOR FREE) with money on the backside. (haha) And I will tell you, with total commitment, that writing for free is your choice of course, but something I do not recommend (or ever do) as it sets your price and worth to whoever is asking you. And it doesn’t pay bills. I’d rather write an original spec that I have an emotional connection with, than write for someone for free because 99% of the time it’s a colossal waste of time.

Ok. Enough of that.

2014 also brought the filming of Jeff Willis’ and my script, The Right Girl. An original non-romantic comedy we wrote that the production company turned into a romantic comedy after having us do 6 (six) paid rewrites.

I had some other films premiere on cable this year with my name on them as a writer, most that actually had words I wrote in them, one not so much. Screenwriters! Attention!! When you watch a film you worked your ass off on and NOTHING you wrote is in it at all but your name is still on it, just take the money, put it on your resume, and don’t tell anyone when it plays.

This year, I also sold a pitch ten months after I pitched it, forgetting completely what I said in the meeting and scrambling to figure out what I had specifically said, learning the BIG lesson that as a writer you need to take notes about anything you say in one of those meetings. Learn this, too. Don’t get that feeling in the pit of your stomach like I did when they were offering to BUY a script from an idea I couldn’t remember. It's turned out ok, because the script I ended up writing for them  has been completely thrown out and they’re paying me to write a new one because I have a new development exec.

On a personal note, I lost my writing partner Bonnie the dog, a Golden who spent the better part of her 13 years on earth in my office with me while I wrote. There for love when I needed it and a dog smile whenever I looked. She was as close to the perfect dog as there ever was. I will miss her forever. This month also saw the arrival, six months after losing Bonnie, of Enzo the wonder dog. He’s small, fast, funny, and a bundle of love who, happily enough, lays at my feet while I write, just like the amazing Bonnie. He knows. Been here a week and he knows. He’s there now. You have no idea how comforting it is.

This year also saw my friends Gary Graham, Mike Maples, Eliza Lee, and Mike Le move forward on their passion projects. I couldn’t be happier for them. Getting a film made is as an impossible thing as there is, especially an original spec, but you see, some people are doing it giving all writers hope. Teaches you not to give up. It can happen.

And this year has given me so many new friends in the business I can’t count them all. Friends who I’ve had the pleasure to drink and eat with and get to know. Writers and actors who share the same goals and dreams. People who I wish nothing but success for. You know who you are.

Now on to 2015. Wow... 15 years since Y2K. So much has happened and not happened. Only God knows what’s in store in 2015. My feature, long delayed, is maybe going to go. I have at least two cable films scheduled to go, including the pitch I forgot. I’m up for at least a half a dozen paid jobs I haven’t heard from yet. I’ve been offered the opportunity to write the pilot of a limited cable series based on a film with development starting in January.  And I still have a couple of optioned scripts out there that might become something, but maybe not. It's the film business. Many more die than live.

And I’ll continue to blog as long as I keep getting the great feedback and the great numbers of readers. Many thanks to everyone for the blog support. I’ve already got a topic for the first one of 2015 about one of my pet peeves (one of many) I see in spec scripts. May not be a rant, but it will be close.

So I bid adieu to 2014 with my best wishes to all. Keep writing. Don’t despair. If you write a great script, it will find a way. And I wish everyone a happy, healthy, lovely 2015 filled with all you hope for.

It is. And film and TV is a business. It’s not some fantasy world. It’s not streets lined with gold. It’s all about doing the work and working well with other people. The key word being WORK. And Research is part of that work. And just like good writers research their topics before writing something, a good writer who is on the outside looking in should also research what it takes to try and get into this incredibly competitive business.

I’ve talked about the business of the actual screenwriting before. About marketing yourself. And how any screenwriter needs to understand it. But would be screenwriters also need to understand what they need to do before jumping head first into the very deep LA screenwriting pool. They need to do as much research about the hardship of screenwriting in LA as they do their screenplay subjects.

Now... a commercial break:

This blog is brought to you by a young man who I think jumped in head first with cement attached to his feet.

He’s stuck in LA with no money, no prospects, nowhere to live soon, and no completed screenplays to his name. To his credit he's sold some short screenplays in the past. Now I cannot say to whom, but as someone who’s sold short screenplays, my educated guess is they sold for very little money to unknown local directors looking to show themselves off. That’s what short films are ALL about. Directing. No one ever really notices the writing in short films because there isn’t enough of it to make an impression. Again, short films are all about the director. You want notice as a writer you write full length scripts. Film or TV.

But our young man who traveled from some distant place to Los Angeles for fame and fortune with his short film sales, went there with just an outline for a feature and his what I think are unrealistic dreams.

He’s been in LA a whole month now and is disheartened that it isn’t working out and that he’s already out of money. He still has yet to start writing his full length script and was wondering how to get a writing assistants job maybe. He should have researched how writing assistant jobs happen before he thought about leaving home. They’re as hard to get as any job in LA. But... not impossible if you do your homework, WRITE A FEW GOOD SCRIPTS, and methodically work toward it. Even if you live in the middle of Kansas someplace.

As for money,  he’s discovered LA is the Dyson Vacuum of money sucking places and probably could have planned for it better. LA makes money disappear from your pocket with each step you take. Yes, you can live in LA on the cheap IF YOU DO YOUR RESEARCH and work a couple of jobs.

I feel for him. I do. I understand where he is and why he's there. I was there once. I sold the first script I ever wrote to a studio. I was sure riches, fame, awards, and red carpets were my certain future. Surprise. The film didn’t get made. And right after that no one in the industry knew who I was and didn’t much care.

I regrouped and learned from it. Deep and hard lessons. I also worked other jobs.  Jobs that paid. And I put my nose down and worked on my writing and my marketing and didn’t give up. Had some options that went nowhere and a few small writing jobs in the years after and a mere TWENTY YEARS later I had my first produced film. Now I have seven and it's my only job. There are a lot of reasons for this. One... this time I was prepared for it and I saved money. I also never stopped writing and learning and improving. Listening to any expert or near expert and took what I heard to heart. Then I wrote more.

Moving to LA is huge step for any writer who doesn’t live there already. It shouldn’t be done without a realistic view of what’s in store. You’ll need plenty of money and the understanding that you’ll need to find gainful employment to support yourself as you try and make it. And as for success, well... it’s obviously not guaranteed, but please also understand that one or two options are not a career worth quitting a job or moving to LA for. 99% of options never get made. And of the ones that do, more than not, the films aren’t successful. Either not finding a legitimate distributor or an audience.

Set yourself a goal of money made on a consistent level before you decide to do this full time. And have some money saved. Because the time between jobs can be staggeringly long sometimes. And writing on spec doesn’t cut it.

Most film writers making a living in LA make that living with writing assignments, not their specs. But you knew that, right? And the competition for those writing jobs is staggering. Seasoned experienced writers are out there pitching themselves for those precious jobs every day. It is a LONG HAUL business. All (as in ALL) of the writers I know who are successful took YEARS to get there. YEARS. Not days or months. YEARS. Sorry if I’m overdoing it, but some people just don’t want to or can’t hear and understand this. You cannot count on being an exception either. So don’t.

You want to come to LA? I’m all for it. LA can be a pretty heady cool place. I’ve met some amazing people that will be lifelong friends. I’ve gotten to do what I dreamed for years of doing. Write films that people see. Does that overcome the years of setbacks and rejection? Hell yes.

But be smart about it. Be realistic about it. Do the research about what it takes to move to LA. Monetarily. And what you need in your portfolio. Finished, polished scripts that will make people notice you. Query from where you are first. Gauge the worth of your scripts. Get a manager from where you are if you can. That’s also not easy, but I know people out of state who have done it successfully. And when you move to LA have a plan. You can’t wing it. You do the work and research and you’re ahead of the thousands who try this without preparation and go home defeated when if they’d just done the work it takes, they might not have had to.