There’s a guy I played basketball with. Let’s call him Johnny Wordell. Cause that was his name. Johnny Wordell. Johnny was older – and short. Like 5’5 probably. With a Super Mario Brother’s mustache. He was nice. In good shape. Fast. But not the best player. Not bad – but not the best. If he missed a shot and you had the ball – you could guarantee that he was going to be running up behind you like a freight train and would take you out at the knees.
But here’s the thing:
Every now and then – through some bizarre chance of fate – the stars would line up and Johnny would hit a 3. Or make some amazing behind the back pass. You would think that would be great – Johnny having a good night – and if you were on his team – you’d be thankful.
Just the opposite.
Hitting the three – making the between the legs pass – these things only encouraged Johnny to be a little more reckless. Try that pass again. Take a half court shot. All night you’d be chasing bad passes and ridiculous bricked shots.
This is how the spec sale works for writers.
It’s a lottery ticket. Think of it that way.
Read this brilliant post from Carson Reeves:
The hard part of making it in this business? It takes work. Lots of it.
The hard part of not making it in this business? It takes work. Lots of it.
Nothing different in step one or two – just the stars lining up.
More often than not – breaking in is a lot like that Johnny Wordell behind the back pass that makes it to your teammate and he hits the shot. It’s a one in a million thing. Everything was perfect – and you slipped through the cracks. Having the talent to stay there is where the rubber meets the road.
I believe if you stay in this game long enough – everyone can get read. By friends, by agents, by stars. But being able to produce past that one script that get you attention – there’s the rub.
How many professional screenwriters can you name? More than you have fingers? Why do you think that is?
I wrote my script to direct it myself. It is full of a lot of the things that books tell you not to do. It might make a reader fall off his chair. I wrote it full of notes on how I was going to direct it. It wasn’t meant so much for others to read. But they did. And it got noticed. And it got stars attached. And multiple studios. And a director. And I got an agent and took lots of meetings and did takes on other projects.
Like winning the lottery.
One producer told me he thought my script was great. I said – Really? Cause I think it’s just OK. Its genre. It’s written to be what it is. I wanted something a bit splashy and attention grabbing that could be done on the cheap. He responded by saying:
I read a couple hundred scripts a year. This is better than 99% of the stuff that comes across my desk.
I said: You must get some pretty crappy scripts then.
SIDE NOTE: do not follow my path. If I’ve learned anything, telling the truth doesn’t work in Hollywood…
Things get bought and things get made – and really, there is no accounting for taste. The stars line up, you know somebody, a star is looking to play a hooker, someone somewhere thinks that there’s money to be made in a movie about turning people into human centipedes… whatever. This is life. It’s not fair. It’s not like a race where the fastest wins.
There are a million writers more talented with more scripts out there than me. Was it unfair that my script waded through the piles and got attention? YES. If it makes you feel any better – its been read and rejected by more companies than I knew existed.
What does it mean for you?
Same as it does for me. Nothing. You are your path. The way you get there is not complaining and whining. (Oh if that were true! I would be KING!) It is by writing.
Put your head down. Ass to seat. Fingers to keys. And get better. If not better, than more prolific. Sometimes volume beats talent. And the more you write, the better you get.
And when you’re not writing – make friends with rich people. And people who know people in the business. Cause sometimes, its better to be lucky than talented.
Go. Do it. And stop looking at the guy next to you. The only guy holding you back is you.