Over a year ago I actually gave up trying to make a go of screenwriting. For a couple years prior, it was all I did however. That and querying the scripts I’d written. But by the end of 2013 I’d vowed to end my effort at screenwriting for Hollywood.
(Continued from part 1 of 2)
This wasn’t the same as giving up on a dream. My dream was never to be a Hollywood screenwriter. My dream – to call it that – is to make movies for a living. I’ve gone about doing that many different ways. Making short films. Making no-budget feature films. Animated films. Live action films. Films for myself. Films for other people. But making a bona fide, long lasting career of this endeavour has eluded me.
When I set my sight on Hollywood – to call it that – I believed screenwriting was my way in. Mostly for the low overhead in relation to building a portfolio and a network of contacts.
By the end of 2013 however, I simply couldn’t keep trying at it full time. So I gave it up.
Then lo and behold, few months later, a call from a Hollywood manager and we’re off to the races.
During those few months of moving on however, I’d begun a new career. Freelancing another completely different skill set while still within the domain of screen production:
From an early age I’ve honed a natural ability to sketch. I always knew that if all else failed I could fall back on this talent.
And all else had finally failed.
So I sharpened some pencils and started turning my writing contacts into illustration contacts. From storyboards to concept design, illustration is still used a lot in film – and as I soon found out – advertising.
I’m not a gambler. I live by logic and rationale. Even though I had a Hollywood manager and was developing new scripts, I quietly kept building my illustration career. I soon saw that not only was this talent my fall back plan but it was also opening a lot of doors. Door so interesting and unexpected places. Doors toward my original goal of making movies for a living. And faster than the writing ever did… Not to mention it was paying the bills.
So when Co-Manager asked when I’d have an outline ready for this massive rebirthing of Script #1 I told him: I’m not sure I want to do that.
He didn’t see any way around it. Explained (again) that this kind of thing happens all the time. Page-one rewrites. You just gotta do what they ask.
Yeah, I don’t think I’m gonna do that. And (I reminded him) please stop calling this brand new script request a rewrite.
Still a lack of comprehension on the line. A re-explaining. A re-lamenting that things could have gone better…
What happens exactly if I just walk away at this point?
There was a chortle of disbelief. Then came a near guffaw of sarcasm:
Do you even want to be a screenwriter?
I wish I could be as composed in the moment as I am in retrospect. I wish the words do you even want to continue to be my manager? could have made their way to my lips. Instead I just chuckled nervously. Reassure Co-Manager that I did in fact want to be a screenwriter.
I explained to him that the problem is this: I’ve got a really good illustration career building here. I mean really good. And though I can work on an actual rewrite between contracts, I can’t honestly promise Producer a brand new 90 pages in the alloted timeframe. It’s too much work for less than a fifth of what a writer should get paid for a commissioned script – which is what this actually is.
In other words, I can’t turn down real work at the moment for this producer’s wildly exploitative renege.
Co-Manager was not pleased.
After our meeting that snarky question kept bouncing around in my head. Not because it clearly betrayed that Co-Manager was placing his own best interest over my own. But because it was a question I’d asked myself more than once over the past year.
Do I even want to be a screenwriter? Is this the best path I could have selected to reach my goal?
And the answer – the answer I couldn’t give Co-Manager – is no. No, not if it means being treated like this… Not when – by my own efforts – I’ve worked with some of the most friendly, talented and ambitious people in the past year as an illustrator. Not when that illustration work has led to work writing and directing projects for people with just as impressive a resumé as Manager and Producer–
And where is Manager these days by the way? Even though it’s clear I’ve been punted to Co-Manager, it’s gotta say something that as his client is about to bail on the multi-million dollar project that he’s co-producing he hasn’t so much as sent me an email…
It’s also gotta say something that I don’t really care anymore that he hasn’t…
Do I even want to be a screenwriter?
I already am a screenwriter. But that’s not all I am.