Tag Archives: career

Do You Even Want To Be a Screenwriter? (part 2/2)

141008_mM
y professional life has gotten a bit complex over the past year.

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:

Illustration.

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under The Journey

The Young Writer

140404_jJ
ust a polite nod. That was the extent of our meeting. So it’s not like I know the guy.

I was in the lobby of a ridiculously lavish hotel. It was packed with industry people, in town for the festival. The young writer and a couple friends stopped to say hi to Manager with whom I was chatting. They exchanged pleasantries. I smiled accommodatingly.

But my smile was nothing next to the grin on the young writer’s face. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word beaming in my own writing, but this kid was beaming.

Twenties, bearded, round, wearing brand new jeans and a clever t-shirt. The typical writer aesthetic. Except for that smile.

Like I said, it was a lavish lobby, but this guy was looking around like he’d just awakened in El Dorado.

They departed. Manager informed me that the young writer’s movie had just sold in a bidding war the night before. Millions more than it cost to make.

I envied that smile. That uncontrollable beaming.

I envied it for a while. Knew that soon it’d be me waking up in El Dorado.

Regrettably, I didn’t see the young writer’s movie while I was in town for the festival. I have seen it since however. It’s given me time to reflect.

The film will live on much longer than the smile.

I think about my own future. Where this is all headed.

I’m going to sound like an ungrateful prick right now, or someone who’s bitten off more than they can chew but I’m not sure I want anything more than that smile.

I’ve taught myself how to write screenplays. Knocked on doors for years. Finally landed incredible representation. An option on my script. With luck, it will become a film and play at a festival. And… I’m not sure I need the rest of it.

The film release six months later? The career? The politics that I’m already starting to see? The lack of creative control? The who-knows-what-else?

It’s something I’ve thought about recently. Maybe even shared here. I’ve begun to wonder whether or not “breaking in” was all this was ever about. The self satisfaction of knowing that I could do it and then on to other summits. Because I don’t hear a lot of stories about what a pleasant industry this is to work in. So is that something I even want?

Maybe the big beaming smile is the better note to go out on.

I often get ahead of myself.

Because that big smile is still a while off yet. I’ve got some time to decide. Decide whether or not to check this whole thing off my life’s to-do list and just retreat into my forest, where I’m always happy… Or to see if there’s more to El Dorado than just the lobby.

2 Comments

Filed under Misadventures

Getting Noticed

140221_aA
utomatic doors don’t open for me.

Seriously. I’m always pushing these things open. Or shoving the sliding ones aside like I’m breaking in to a derelict spaceship. Maybe it’s the way I move. Something about my gait. The optic-sensor-absorbing quality of clothes? Maybe it’s my years of stealth training– Whatever it is, if you’re an automatic door, I am incredibly difficult for you to detect.

A friend of my wife like creature is updating her resumé. I didn’t know that people still had resumés. It’s not something I’ve encountered much in the film industry. Though I have encountered it. Which is hilarious for a screenwriter– It’s usually just a list of titles you’ve written that haven’t gone anywhere. But I digress.

Wife’s buddy is updating her resumé. These days this also means updating your profile on any number of career websites such as LinkedIn. So Wife’s friend has been bouncing her profile off Wife for her opinion. Wife’s been bouncing it off me for mine.

Now, Wife’s friend is a writer. That puts a certain amount of pressure on your autobiographical profile. Or should. Because not only do you have to impress with your work history but it has to be really, really well written. First impressions times two.

And you can’t really go third person on it can you? Because then you’re just farming the job out to another (presumably better) writer. That or you’re writing about yourself in the third person. And that’s not only kind of pitiful* but it still doesn’t negate the impression that you’re too lazy to write it yourself.

*Been there. Done it. No judgements.

This subject always reminds me of a bit of early internet lore. A viral email that went around years ago. It was reported to be a college admission essay that got the author into NYU. Though that rumor was not entirely accurate, the piece known as 3A Essay, apparently did win Hugh Gallagher a highschool writing contest and was included in his college application. And he did eventually attend NYU. Whatever the details, it’s no doubt helped the author with his career. Written as a short autobiography it begins I am a dynamic figure (read it here).

My point being, if you’re a writer and you want to get noticed, there’s one very important and fairly obvious way to do that. And it’s not by listing accomplishments or previous work experience. No one knows the exact details of Hugh Gallagher’s biography. And no one cares. Because his talent is undeniable.

So that’s what I told Wife. And what she told her friend. Her friend decided however she’d rather play it safe. List a bunch of her very valuable and unique skills like her attention to detail and how she’s very hard worker who loves a challenge. Memorable stuff.

If I were looking to hire a writer, I’d personally be looking for a more dynamic figure.

Because it’s a tough industry. Doors don’t just open for you automatically. At least they don’t for me…

Seriously, I can just stand there waving my arms and I get nothing. I have to draft in behind people. I don’t get it. Am I really that two dimensional? Maybe I need more iron in my diet. I hope I’m not a ghost. Maybe I need more sun. Looser fitting clothes? Would stomping help? What about a big hat?

2 Comments

Filed under Misadventures