Desperate Screenwriters

Here’s my conundrum. Do I be blunt about how bad it is to be a desperate screenwriter or do I softpedal it, so I don’t get anyone mad?

Why, you ask, would I be concerned about getting anyone mad? Well, my last blog about the lack of a conspiracy to keep new writers away from Hollywood did, amazingly enough, make some people mad. Some really mad. And I heard from them. In fact, I was accused by more than one of being a shill for the conspirators.

Yep, a shill for the mean, nasty, uncaring managers, agents, agencies, producers, directors, and studios that spend their days not working on films and TV, no, but gleefully spending their days together laughing like hyenas at all the screenwriters whose scripts they have refused to read for NO GOOD REASON.

Yeah, you found me out. A shill. A shill for the same directors and producers and studios who I struggle with everyday to get my own work read. That makes sense.

Actually, when you think about it in terms of this Blog’s topic, it does make sense. Desperate people do, say, and think stupid things. And accuse people of things that if they were thinking straight, they would never dream of doing. But for a certain percentage of writers, logic and thought go right out the door when it comes to their scripts.

I do understand how much work it takes to write and finish a script. Most scripts. I read one a while back that the writer bragged he’d written in two days. 144 pages. It just came as a “stream of thought and is destined to be a hit”. All you can do with writers like this is smile, point and say “Look a Producer”, and run away when they look.

Most of the time it does take a ton of work to finish a script. And when you’re done, it’s your new baby. You love it and will do anything to protect it and get it seen, even if you can’t realize it may be ugly.

One my dearest friends is an Exec at a prominent production company. To say he’s bombarded daily with read requests is a gross understatement. Most of the time he rightly says No. That can be based on many things. His time (he works damn hard) and his interest in the logline (and it better be a damn good logline). Sometimes he reads things as a favor to someone.

When he does consent to read a script he’s very clear that it’s not in any way shape or form an acceptance to buy that script by his company. Yet, when he tells the writers no, and 99.99999% of the time he tells them no, some act like he’s gone back on his word to them. He’s likely to hear back from them either anger that he doesn’t know a good script when he reads it, how wrong he is, sob stories, begging, rage, insults, threats, and other acts of desperation that insures these writers that my friend (and his company) will be ignoring them for now and evermore.

I understand desperation. I understand waiting for an email or waiting by the phone for a call. I started off as an actor. I’d audition for some film or commercial or TV show, desperate for the job, then go home and worry and fret in desperation to hear if I got it. I didn’t get them and I finally figured out why. Desperation shows on camera and casting people and producers and directors HATE IT. It was only when I decided “Hey, I’m probably not going to get the part anyway, so why not have some fun with it” that I started getting some parts. BIG wake up call. I still didn’t get the majority of them because nobody does, but I got my share.

The same goes for writers. Desperation shows. It shows in your attitude. It shows in your query letters if you’re not careful and smart. It shows when you try to network. Bugging people and refusing to take no for an answer is the ultimate act of desperation and makes you look crazy and no one wants to work with crazy.

NO. NO. NO. Get used to this word. It’s what writers hear 99% of the time. It’s what actors hear 99% of the time. Believe it or not, it’s what Producers and Directors hear most all of the time. NO.

It’s not personal either. Unless you’re desperate, then it’s a little personal because no one wants to be around it. No mostly has to do with the quality of your work or where that work fits into need or timing… a million things have to go right to get a yes. But you have more of a chance if your script is truly great and you’re NOT desperate.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard not to be desperate in certain situations. I get that. But you just can’t act like it or show it. It will affect outcomes and relationships. It can kill some relationships before they have a chance to start.

Nothing get accomplished or changed when you beg or argue with someone who has said No. In this business they’ve already moved on the moment they decided No. Whether it’s deciding not to read it at all or during reading the first ten pages or seriously contemplating it after finishing a read, then saying No, you need to lick your wounds and move on like the pros do.

There’s no conspiracy. It’s just plain hard to option or sell a movie script or TV show. It’s really really hard. It gets harder if you’re desperate.


(follow me on Twitter @bobsnz)


4 thoughts on “Desperate Screenwriters

  1. Barbara

    A couple of years ago, I got my first option. It was incredibly excited of course. After the producer and I started working together on the rewrite, though, it became clear that we did not see the story in the same way and his enthusiasm for the script waned. Desperate to save the deal, I turned in draft after draft; “How about this?” “What if we tried this?” (And each draft was of course, progressively worse). Finally, I came to my senses and realized what he had clearly realized months earlier – it just wasn’t going to work out.

    The option expired and fortunately, we parted on good terms but yeah – desperation is not a good thing.

  2. Rod Thompson

    I too have suffered from the desperation big and it sucks! I’m actually writing this on my phone from the green room of an industrial shoot – so I can totally relate to the desperation of wanting an acting gig. I learned that quickly enough but when I begs. When I put myself out there as a writer, I backslid into those bad, nervous habits. I NEVER replied to a “No” with anything more than a “Thank you anyway for your time,” but every query came with expectation of a read request. Every contest left me dying for months to see how my script performed.

    Drove me bonkers.

    Now I’m over it.

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