The Key to Becoming A Successful Screenwriter – Part I of III
The only guidance I ever received over the years on how to ‘break in’ were vague cliches like, “stick with it”; true but not particularly helpful. You can stick to banging your head against a brick wall, but it doesn’t mean you’ll eventually break through to the other side; you might end up killing yourself. The past few months I’ve been undergoing a massive transformation and I now know with absolutely certainty that I will accomplish my goals. I’m still going through the process, but I think it’s important to share this with you while I’m in the middle of it, so I can explain in detail how to get what you want.
Stick With It
I’m not just being funny. It is true, you do have to stick with it. You can’t succeed if you give up. But there’s much more to it than this. Every time I reached a breaking point where I declared, “That’s it! I’m done! I’ve had enough! It’s too hard, I’m getting a day job!” I came back with purpose, drive and such determination that I always accomplished my goals and then I gave up again. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon and you need to know that from the moment you decide to pursue this as a career. Even when you’re a so-called success, you’ll still have to fight for your position in Hollywood. Right now you’re training to handle what’s to come. The more you can handle now, the better-equipped you’ll be to handle the tidal waves of success and failure that come your way in the future.
If What You’re Doing isn’t Working, Change What You’re Doing
Figure out what you’re doing wrong because you might be this close to getting everything you wanted and not know it. The fear of having someone tell us our script is no good is nothing compared to the reality of admitting you weren’t successful at achieving your dream. This is your LIFE! Put this into perspective. What’s more important to you: being told your script is awesome or getting paid to write movies? No matter who you are or how successful, in Hollywood, someone will always rewrite you, someone will cut your masterpiece to shreds, someone will make you put a giant mechanical spider in your script. The bigger picture is that you’re getting paid millions of dollars to write movies!
Take a hard look at what you’ve been doing and where the road blocks have been. If you’re sending out scripts and not hearing back, there’s either a problem with the script or it’s just not a good fit. If you never hear back from anyone, it’s probably your script so get professional feedback and fix it, but really push them to tell you what the real problem is. A lot of coverage services don’t do this because your script is being read by college interns who have no idea, they just don’t like it. Some professionals can’t even articulate it so keep trying until you find someone who is able to tell you exactly what doesn’t work and why so you understand well enough to fix it.
If your script isn’t getting read, it could be your query letters, it could be your title or logline. You’ll never know until you ask someone. If someone told you that you could have everything you ever dreamed of if you just asked someone one question, would you do it? A producer once told me that the only reason they passed on this one project was because they asked him if he’d be willing to change the title and he said no. They hadn’t read the script, but they loved the idea so much they wanted to buy it, but they knew the writer would be impossible to work with. This writer probably has no clue that’s the reason he’s getting rejected. He probably has a story about how unjust Hollywood producers are because they ask him to change the title of his masterpiece.
Whatever the issue, keep pushing to find out what it is. Figure out what isn’t working, fix it and try again. Keep adjusting your strategy until you figure out what works. Your biggest obstacle could simply be YOU.
Change Your Beliefs
Find a way to get past your own ego so you can be open to criticism and feedback. Instead of seeing it as criticism, see it as an opportunity to grow so you can get one step closer to your goal. That’s what I did and it works. Change the negative association you have with whatever holds you back into something positive and empowering. If you’re afraid to pitch, figure out why and turn it into something positive. Maybe you think you’re a terrible public speaker and no one wants to listen to you talk, tell yourself you’re a passionate speaker with a brilliant idea that’s worth hearing about. Whatever it is you need to tell yourself to change your belief that’s preventing you from succeeding, go with it.
It’s Okay to Redefine Your Dream
If you really don’t think you’re cut out for it, jump now. Maybe you’re not meant to write for Hollywood, maybe you’re better-suited to making small independent films or turning it into a hobby. Maybe you should look at writing books or poetry or e-books or a blog. Maybe teaching is your thing. There’s no shame in changing your dream to suit your life. If considering these options brings you serious pain, you know screenwriting is your thing.
Tomorrow, Part II of III – The power of purpose.