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Monday, May 11, 2009

Is There a Fast Track?

From the Script Department mailbag, a question that our lovely assistant Chaia answered with aplomb:

Hello,

I am just about to graduate college. I guess you could say that I am a freelance screenwriter. I will be honest and upfront, I have no money (like I said, I'm just about to graduate), and there is no way I can afford to pay for your services. I am simply asking if you have any contacts of people for me to send my work to. I have a big idea on my hands here. Any help would be forever appreciated. Thank you so much.

Fast Tracker in Tennessee


Hi, FT! This is Chaia, The Script Department's assistant. Congratulations on your impending graduation, and thank you so much for your inquiry.

The best thing that you can do for yourself as a writer looking to sell is to a) recognize that this is a persistence game of b) building relationships over time. Move to Los Angeles (if you aren't here already), read the screenwriting boards and blogs, go to the mixers, work as an intern/PA/assistant. Do the footwork, stick around, and slowly people will start to ask to read your work. Let them. Offer to read theirs (or to scratch their back in some other relevant fashion). Expect that it will take way, way longer for your career to happen than you want it to. When you get impatient, self-produce and self-promote a short so you can get that instant gratification itch scratched. Representation and buyers both want writers who can deliver great script after great script. Think marathon and longevity. Keep reading, and above all, keep writing.


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8 comments:

Neil said...

I'll second this and add to it. I'm a Brit screenwriter quite a way from London (it's impossible for me to move there just now). I got a blog, networked through that and looked up screenwriters on facebook. I joined every group going. I've been writing just under a year and have already co-written a feature film. I'm also set to co-direct next month.

This opportunity was done purely through seeing a message on a facebook group and contacting the guy. Can't pump this enough - network on facebook!

J.J. said...

Ummm...

I'm lazy. Will you give me a short cut to success? Better still, because I'm so lazy can I just send you my scripts and have YOU put them in the hands of people who'll give me money and produce them?

I'll be forever in your debt, but I still won't pay for your services...

Geez.

Alexander Allrich said...

Great answer (and great word, aplomb). I'd also throw in submitting to contests as a personal yardstick -- like the Nicholl Fellowship or your own Silver Screenwriting Competition.

Stan said...

Um, Fast Tracker...

Chaia knows what she's talking about. Think long term. Long, long term...

Watch Monty Python's 'Holy Grail' and think of the French way up there in their castle as Hollywood all up in their Chateau Marmont...

Like a girlfriend on prom night--pretty impregnable. Of course, if you can convince them to open the door for you...it helps to know someone on the inside. Or at the very least...learn French! (or, er-- 'Hollywoodspeak') They might even invite in you in to stay and eat dinner. Or at the very least, lunch.

Now that you've gone to school, buy all the screenwriting books you can, follow blogs, enter screenwriting contents, build relationships, etc, etc (see Chaia's response) -- in other words, all the elements of a full-court press*.

* See Julie's 'You're an Underdog' and don't forget to read the excellent Malcolm Gladwell New Yorker article it references.

Without proving yourself, can you really walk up to a coach and say, hey, could you let me in the NBA? But--when you show talent and skill, when your name is already abuzz in their ears, when you've whooped Michael Jordan, or at the very least, wear some Hanes under your breakaways as they're being pulled off as you go up for the slam dunk, they'll all be clamoring for you. Otherwise, they'll be like Fast...who-er?

Then again there's always the HCD. You could buy one and start querying. Work.

Emily Blake said...

Solid advice to a question that gets asked daily. I'm going to redirect everybody who asks me that question back to this post.

Chaia Milstein said...

Aww, thanks! I'll be honest, my first - jaded - response was, come ON, you want me to put TSD's reputation on the line based on what?

But then I remembered how lost and entitled I felt when I first moved here. There are a bunch of things I wish someone had told me then (not that I would have listened). And "this is a waiting game" is at the top of that list.

So hey, Fast Tracker, one other thing I should have said is that having the balls to reach out to a complete stranger - that is a rare quality, and one indicative of a confidence that will help carry you through after you've just heard your 100th consecutive no-answer-equals-no NO.

Dickie said...

I don't really know if this is a question or an answer, but since I graduated from drama school, I have been trying to crack into the writing world. I'm in Australia, and the industry is much smaller, but I'm doing my best to do as much writing as possible. I enrolled in postgraduate studies specifically in writing that I work around my full time job as an assistant stage manager at opera Australia (I work in the Sydney opera house, pretty cool!), I have written a children's story that I'm trying to get my friend to illustrate, I had a one act opera that I wrote the libretto to performed, I got a short story published through a competition, I have sent my screenplay to competitions in the states, and to the BBC in London, I have started writing film reviews for a local website, and just now I have sent off three of my poems to a competition. I have three short stories that I have done for my post-grad studies, and like everyone else, a half finished novel.

I don't make any money from writing, but I hope one day I will if I just keep writing and getting people to read it. I can't say that I'm going about it the right way, because I have had no sucess, but I feel so good about it because I have so much of a back catalogue to draw from. I keep a journal, and I try and spend time with interesting people, and that gives me stuff to write about.

I don't really know my point now, except that I think you should just write. And read. And write, and write. And get people reading your writing. Earn some money some other way so that you can afford entry fees.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

yep, sound advice for people who want to make this. Ditto on J.J's comment-- lazy people aren't welcomed in the writing/film biz.

It's also about who you know. If you ever got stuck in an elevator with Steven Speilberg for 5 hours and you two get to talking... boy, you're in good luck.