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Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Sound of Silence

What fresh hell is this? You sent the script out to competitions, you queried agents and managers cleverly and…..nuttin’. Only a resounding….silence. Now what? All your hopes and dreams are dashed. Anger sets in. Then fear. Then heartbreak. All that work, all that time – and your script has made absolutely no head-way. Didn’t place in a single competition, didn’t get a single phone call or meeting. That was your big chance!

Rouge Wavers, I have been there. The simplest explanation is that the script just didn’t grab anybody. Maybe it totally sucked, maybe it was okay but the premise wasn’t that fresh or maybe it just didn’t stand out from the crowd. Any number of things could be true. And here’s another one: It isn’t personal. Oh and here’s another one: It’s not fair.

Screenwriters sometimes get an overblown sense of their competitiveness on the market because they hear stories of how BAD most scripts are. It’s true, most scripts submitted are really bad. But say through time, experience and education you happen to know your script is no longer in the amateur category. Now you have a new hurdle: originality. Everybody thinks their script is original. Of course we do – or we wouldn’t write it. But the cold, hard truth is, it may not be. Every single day of every single week every single year, hundreds of scripts pile in to Hollywood. To script services, to consultants, to agents, managers and competitions. Scripts are ubiquitous and they just keep on coming. It’s one thing to not suck but it’s quite another to have written a script so fresh, so original, so compelling that out of say fifty other scripts floating around on a given day – yours finds the top of the pile. The odds are long.

There are instances where writers have got just that – an original, compelling totally terrific script and they are hidden in the piles waiting for luck, timing and an exec in a good mood. It’s tough to know whether you script is simply needing to get into the right hands or whether your script just isn’t competitive compared to others.

The knee-jerk reaction to the Sound of Silence is to assume that your brilliant masterpiece has simply not been seen by the right people. Could be true. Or it could be it’s not as brilliant as you think. For every fifty horrible scripts there are 4 or 5 really great ones, too. As writers, we agonize and speculate. Then we begin to recriminate. Our desperate minds rifle through articles we’ve read about this or that writer whose script shot to the top of the pile because of X weird lucky circumstance. We think of scripts that circulated for ten years before being made.

But the difficult truth is, Rouge Wavers – you just can’t know. You can expend a whole lot of energy wondering and vacillating between self-loathing and self-pity or you can shrug your shoulders and keep working on new projects. The truth is, good material really does out – it will find it’s way to the top of piles. And the truth is – some good material just doesn’t find a home. It doesn’t stick. For now.

Maintaining hope when you are essentially playing the lottery is not easy. That’s why writers tend to smoke and drink too much, whine, are neurotic and are otherwise difficult to live with.

Set yourself apart from other writers; endeavor to persevere. Look in the mirror and know this: No, your entire life, career and reputation do not ride on this one script. Yes, there are better writers than you. But damn it, you are tough. And you won’t give up. When you finally get there – when you finally get a rep or better, a sale, you will be a little worn around the edges, but you will have earned that sale with the pound of flesh that it takes. You have it to give and so much more – never surrender – never give up!

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Christian M. Howell said...

Great sentiment, Jules. I know I am about to hit that waiting period. I actually am now for at least one contest.

I'm confident that I at least understand the basics of grabbing the reader.

Of course, sometimes scripts don't work on the fabulous, but the sublime.

I have what I think is a great drama shaping up. It's been a hard write as it is the story of something that shouldn't happen to the protag.

I know I will never stop as I spent my first months on this path coming up with story ideas.

I'm at around 40 now with titles like 72 Virgins, Hitters, Up for Grabs, Egocentric, Free Money, After School, EarthBound, Future Perfect, Sorority Rules, Conflicted, Neighborhood Watch, etc.

Of course a title does not a movie make but I read all over about the lack of creativity in titles, so at least I have that going for me.

Now if I could just find someone willing to listen, I think I'll come out of this year at least signed somewhere.

I just wish I had gotten inspired years ago. But I guess things have a way of working out when you really want them to.

To all:

Keep writing as writing is the revealing of the soul.

Laura Reyna said...

"But say through time, experience and education you happen to know your script is no longer in the amateur category. Now you have a new hurdle: originality. Everybody thinks their script is original. Of course we do – or we wouldn’t write it. But the cold, hard truth is, it may not be."


Yeah, once you get to a certain competency level, the bar is raised again.

And as outsiders, our stuff is judged more harshly. I think HW expects more originality from newcomers than from the pros... just look at what comes out of the studios & big prod cos. I don't see all that much "originality" there.

We just have to keep plugging away until we come up with that one "diamond" that will stand out from the crowd.