Who exactly do you think you are? Are you a writing genius who has figured out what took the rest of us many months, maybe years to understand? Has one of your masterpieces gotten so many kudos that you now think you should be elevated to a place that normally takes hundreds of hours to accomplish?
This is a rant, pure and simple. You won't learn shit about screenwriting and you'll probably dislike me by the end of this article - if you even get that far. Fine. I accept your disdain.
Just don't ask me how to find an agent, manager, production company or anything else until you've written at least three scripts and those scripts (at least one) have gotten a lot of good word of mouth from someone beside your mom.
What am I on about? Simple. I had a student ask me how to market his/her script. I stopped what I was doing, blinked three times and had to ask him/her to repeat it.
I mean, huh? At the very least, finish a script first then ask me that question.
How in the world can anyone think they're ready to sell anything if they haven't been working for a certain amount of hours to hone their craft?
Picasso wasn't the Picasso we know (as the co-founder of Cubism) until he hit about age thirty. This after years of painting and working in other medium like clay - learning how to interpret space in many dimensions. Bill Gates spent years learning programming before he started Microsoft. Woz and Jobs did phone phreaking and other tech before the Apple II. All these geniuses took years just learning, training before they tried to achieve anything close to greatness.
Sure, there are savants in all fields but is that you? Are you really that great or are you like the rest of us - talented with potential?
This goes to the core of the issues I see with most students and wanna-be writers: you just don't think they need to put in the work. Oh sure, you give it lip service and nod when you're told it will take XX years. But then you don't write every day, you don't read scripts or watch movies (besides the ones you like already), you don't go to seminars to understand other processes - in short, you are just deluding yourself that you can be a great writer because if you don't put in the hours (and hours and hours) you will not succeed.
I mean, that's fair, right? Work hard, succeed bigly.
So then why are you asking me after a few weeks or months: How do I...?
Read that last statement carefully. Absorb it or try to because I already know you don't believe or accept it.
When I say that to incoming writers I hear about their cousin who sold the first thing he wrote. Or the wunderkind auteurs who filmed something in 16mm and sold it to Disney for a billion dollars.
Sure, there are those stories but trust me on this - none of those stories is the true story and upon further examination many trenchant details have been altered or omitted.
THE HIDDEN "ASK"
But there's more to this. Implicit in every question about how do I there's this unspoken (or sometimes spoken) plea that I or others will take your work to the Promised Land. There's this expectation that because I or anyone else has achieved some level of success we should then be gracious and help you. And I do - sometimes. Most of the times though, I won't.
Because honestly, I can't even do that for myself most of the time. This is a hard-ass business and it broaches no fools. All right, we all know it actually does, but you also get my meaning.
So even if you think you are that one in a billion who can do a script justice without a lot of effort, asking for the path to be eased for you requires that other people believe in you as much as you believe in yourself. Your basically asking someone who has worked for many years to achieve some success to turn that success into a leap of faith for you.
Making that "love connection" to an agent or manager or anyone who works in Hollywood is not a thing to be taken lightly. We who work in the business know people. Those people know people - yes, that's called networking. But knowing someone and asking a favor of that someone are sometimes mutually exclusive things. I only have so much "coin" to spend on those favors. If I ask a friend to ask a friend to read your work or consider you for becoming a client that pretty much shoots my favors for that someone. Unless your work is so amazing, so spectacular that it cannot be denied, I will then become persona non grata to that friend of the friend and perhaps to my friend.
It's simple. People like myself are inundated constantly with being asked to read material and/or listen to pitches. And I'm not even an A-list writer. Imagine what it's like to be an agent or manager in Hollywood? I know for a fact that execs and producers read between 10-20 scripts a week. And those are scripts that have passed through several levels of gatekeepers in the form of agents, readers and other junior execs. Now I walk in and drop something on this producer's desk, asking for them to bypass their normal process and "do me a favor." Beside Inwardly groaning, that producer is then going to read the first few pages of the script (hopefully) and if it's crap he or she is going to make a mental note to tell his secretary to reroute any call from me in the future.
Okay, you're saying, then read my script before you give it to a producer and judge for yourself. Uh, no. For a more complete understanding of that "no" read this article (link).
I once went to a meeting in Santa Monica with a production company. What made it memorable is that the company offices were in a house. In what would normally be a large living room was piled four feet high/wide by seven/eight feet long scripts that they were throwing out. There had to be thousands. And this was just a small prodco in a big city. Imagine how many scripts get read on a daily basis? It's a "shit-ton" as one friend once said to me
That's what you're asking. Hey, dude. Just add my script to that pile as long as you're reading those 10-20 others.
Uh, no - again.
So why does this type of thing irk me so much?
While I can imagine an athlete dreaming of turning pro or maybe going to the Olympics, I cannot imagine that same athlete asking his or her coach "How do I get to ..". They already know the answer - everyone knows the effing answer. You work your ass off, put in hundreds, thousands of hours and maybe, maybe you'll get a chance. Same with just about everything else out there.
It seems like only people wanting to get into Hollywood think after a few classes, a piece of writing software and a half-assed stab at writing a script that they should suddenly be given the same consideration of someone who has worked years to perfect their craft. This is because everyone thinks "I can write a better movie than that." The that being whatever movie they've just seen. Let me assure you that even the worst movie you've seen took a lot of people a lot of concentrated effort.
It's all just as hard as training for the Olympics. And have you done that yet? Probably not.
I'm a pretty good and professionally accomplished writer. I still have much to learn. And even at my level I do not take anything for granted. I don't ask for favors. I don't assume that my friends should help me accomplish anything. If someone offers, I make sure I'm grateful and PREPARED. In other words, I'm writing EVERY DAY without the expectation of selling anything. I hope to - but I don't expect to. I do know if that opportunity comes I will be ready.
PREPARATION MEETS OPPORTUNITY - A LOVE CHILD IS BORN
Which is another other thing you need to understand: luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Preparation first. Opportunity perhaps. Luck as a result. Hopefully.
Steven King, a quite accomplished and professional writer wrote for years before he sold anything. He wrote and wrote and wrote and then started to send things to publishers and agents. Then he waited. And wrote and wrote and wrote. He knew that when (if) that call came he'd be ready for it because he worked hours and hours for that moment.
Musicians have a term for it: chops. It means you've paid your dues; you've played every garage, shitty venue and backyard party in your town while you were learning to become better. The band No Doubt was seen many nights playing parties in Orange County. Why? Because they liked warm beer and crappy swimming pools? You know why. They did it to get better, to try their material, TO FIND and FIX their weaknesses. Lady Gaga wrote hundreds of songs for other people before she stepped out on stage for herself. She grew strong and ready on the basis of her preparation. I've seen videos of 5-yr-old Bruno Mars on stage working his young tail off.
Now lest you think I'm targeting a younger age group like a GenXer or Millennial who everyone thinks have this sense of entitlement I'm not. In point of fact the last person who took five, three hour classes scriptwriting classes and then asked how to get an agent was an older person. Most millennials I teach have more respect for the process, not less. You may think they feel entitled (and I really don't see this at all in my teaching experiences) but they know they are not and understand that hard work is involved. Kudos to them for that.
If you finish a few scripts and they're considered pretty good by a peer group like a contest or a writing group THEN you start looking around for someplace to sell that material. Not before. Put in the freaking hours, dude. Nothing is for free. Do the sweat equity and get the results and THEN ask about an agent, manager or production company. Show me or any other professional you respect the process and the art and craft of writing.
Until then, put your ass in chair, shut up...and just f*cking write.