Many, many years ago, while attending the Screenwriting Expo in the City of Angels, one of the seminars I went to featured an “industry professional” as a speaker. I put that term in quotes because I couldn’t tell you who it was or what they did. Maybe a writer-producer or something like that. It was good enough for the folks running the Expo.
There were probably 20 or 25 of us in the audience. This guy walked to the front of the room, and the first thing he said was, if you’ll pardon my paraphrasing:
“I don’t know who any of you are, how experienced you are, or how may scripts you’ve written, but I can guarantee that just about all of you will fail at this.”
Well, ain’t that an encouraging lead-in. Everything he said after that is pretty much a blur, because I found it to be…
Shocking? Most definitely.
Disheartening? Pretty much.
Accurate? Maybe. But he was speaking from his experience. No doubt he’d seen an endless stream of writers come through, give it their all, and despite their efforts, subsequently crash and burn.
It’s easy to overlook the fact that this was well before you could make a movie with your phone and a laptop. Resources and DIY filmmaking opportunities were much more limited than they are now.
His comments really struck a nerve. Is this what I, along with everybody else in the room, should think? Were we just wasting our time? Were our chances THAT small? Should we just give up and go home?
I couldn’t speak for anybody else, but I had a little more faith in myself than he did.
Like I said, I forgot everything after his opening – the sooner I got him out of my head the better – and gradually replaced it with a few thoughts of my own:
-Yes, this is a HUGE mountain to climb, let alone get to the top. Is that intimidating? Hell yes. Is it going to stop me from trying? Hell no. Much as it sucks, it’s better to try and fail than to give up entirely, so I’ll keep trying. As long as it takes.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to do so: I really like doing this, and even though I’ve endured my fair share of disappointments, I keep going – because I like the process of writing.
It’s taken me a long time to develop my skills just to get to this level, and I know there’s room to keep improving. The challenge to myself and my writing abilities is one most welcome.
-Do I have a chance of eventually being able to call myself a professional writer? Hard to say. Some might say I already am, but that might be an individual matter of perspective. For me, until I see my name onscreen accompanied by “Story By…” or “Screenplay By…”, it doesn’t apply. my efforts will continue undaunted, unabated and undeterred.
Count me among the writers who are content to just be working. Sure, a huge paycheck would be great, but I’m also cool with writing a low-budget horror, or taking on an assignment, or doing an uncredited rewrite. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE WORK. The more I get to do it, the more I’ll enjoy it.
-For a long time, it was always “I need to find that somebody who says ‘yes’; somebody to open that door for me”, and to a certain extent, that still rings true. Getting representation, meeting with REAL industry people, and so forth.
But in the meantime, there’s absolutely nothing stopping me from making my own stuff. For the past few months, I’ve been dabbling with writing short scripts. Five to 10 pages, a handful of characters, one to two locations. Something that presents not only my writing skills, but also that I know how to tell a story in the most visual way possible.
Added bonus – a ridiculously short production time. It could be made over a few days (or a long weekend) with a minimal crew.
Feedback and notes from writing colleagues who’ve also made their own short films have been helpful and encouraging.
All of this, of course, will be a little more feasible once society slowly returns to “normal”. Until then, I’ve got plenty of time to prepare. Why not start creating our own opportunities?
-As much as I dream about all of these great things happening, I’m also a realist. I know that the journey to achieve this kind of success is a very, very long and tortuous one. Disappointment abounds.
I’ve no intention of giving up, no matter how frustrating things get. And there will be A LOT of frustration.
This is what I want to do, and despite all the negatives, I still enjoy doing it.
Thus the soldiering forward continues. Shoulder to the grindstone and all that…