Balls of Steel: Positive Attitude

Being Miss Positive Attitude, I often write posts trying to help people not only navigate the industry with career advice, but also with encouragement and inspiration. Last week I wrote Balls of Steel: What Makes a Writer Fail? and received one controversial, anonymous comment that sent my regular readers to my defense:

Some Guy: Sorry, folks. Unless you are from a well-connected Ivy League type background, you have basically zero chance of earning a living in Hollywood as a writer, despite whatever talents you’ve been blessed with.

The publishers of these screenwriting magazines, however good-hearted and well-meaning, are pushing a myth to make a buck. The film and TV industry could care less about what would be considered “good writing.” It’s all about perception and bright shiny objects– ‘Some of my good friends say you’re a good writer, therefore you are.’

Your query letters and scripts are being read by 23-year-old interns, who by the way, also got that job because… you guessed it… they know the right people… And everyone wants to hook up with (professionally speaking) those who are above them on the industry ladder.

And if you don’t believe me, ask yourself this. If Hollywood cares so much about good writing, why doesn’t the industry go where the writers are – writers groups, screenwriting contests, colleges (not just the ones in L.A. and NYC). You would never catch any agent, manager or producer with real credits roaming the halls of Suchandsuch Screenwriting Contest in hopes of finding great writers.

Good luck…”

At first my stomach turned, and my Sicilian anger flared. He was not only pissing on my flame, as I am one of those screenwriters knocking on the forbidden gates, but he was also dissing my peeps and their passion. No one slaps down my readers’ dreams.

A few of you even emailed me, incensed at “Some Guy”. I pondered why his comment made people react as they did… even me.

So, I clicked the link and read his words again, removing myself from any emotion, and truly listening to his point of view. I found there is some truth to which he speaks.

Let’s take his points one by one:

1. “Unless you are from a well-connected Ivy League type background, you have basically zero chance of earning a living in Hollywood as a writer, despite whatever talents you’ve been blessed with.”

Bull. Yes, I went to an Ivy-League school, but I had zero connections in the industry when I started and have never even contacted Cornell to see what graduates work in show business. My connections all happened organically, by working extremely hard on my craft, meeting people at pitchfests, creating an online presence, and writing a personal blog to get my voice out there, hoping someone would notice. And they did. Any help I’ve received is because my writing voice and ability to take feedback proved I had talent and was willing to work hard to achieve my goals. No amount of connections can help you succeed if you don’t have writing chops and a strong work ethic.

I’ll give you an example: By working hard and providing quality writing samples, I found supporters and people who wanted to help. Through the quality of my work, I got meetings, including an in-house meeting with one with the biggest TV networks. Alongside me were two insanely talented writers who I met on Twitter. The three of us pitched our hearts out and provided four creative show ideas that have kept those network doors open for us. It is our talent that prevailed, not who we knew.

2. “The publishers of these screenwriting magazines, however good-hearted and well-meaning, are pushing a myth to make a buck. The film and TV industry could care less about what would be considered ‘good writing.’ It’s all about perception and bright shiny objects– ‘Some of my good friends say you’re a good writer, therefore you are.’”

I don’t write for this website or work for this company to make a buck off of writers. I do it because I am one of you and wish when I started off, I had the resources all of you have now. I want to help writers move faster toward their goals by sharing my experiences and my lessons… both the good and the bad.

The industry does indeed want and crave “good writing.” Why else would there be a The Black List? Sure, some films get made that are embarrassing, but the truth is, they get made because there is an audience who wants to see a mindless 2-hr film. Escaping reality by being entertained is the name of the game and puts butts in the movie theater seats.

We need to stop thinking of Hollywood filmmaking as an art form. It is a business. First and foremost. A business. Studios buy scripts that will make them money. Why else would Human Centipede have been made into sequels? If you want consistent good writing, go see independent films where art lives on.

3. “Your query letters and scripts are being read by 23-year-old interns, who by the way, also got that job because…. you guessed it… they know the right people… And everyone wants to hook up with (professionally speaking) those who are above them on the industry ladder.”

I can’t disagree with you on this one. I have pitched many 20-something interns in my day who are too scared to say “yes” because saying “no” keeps them employed. There’s no risk in rejecting a script. It is indeed frustrating.

But… because you knew I’d have a rebuttal… once you do build your network, you can override the 20-something assistant and get straight to the top. It takes time though to meet the right people, so be patient. At some point that 20-something you’re pitching will move up the ladder and be running the company. Not to sound like I’m self-promoting, but in my Breaking in Outside of Hollywood webinar, I lay out how I’ve navigated the industry and gotten past the gatekeepers. Put it on your Christmas list.

4. “And if you don’t believe me, ask yourself this. If Hollywood cares so much about good writing, why doesn’t the industry go where the writers are – writers groups, screenwriting contests, colleges (not just the ones in L.A. and NYC). You would never catch any agent, manager or producer with real credits roaming the halls of Suchandsuch Screenwriting Contest in hopes of finding great writers.”

True, agents and managers aren’t sitting in on writers’ groups or roaming the halls of universities across the country. But they are paying attention to contests and people who are persistent and have a grasp of their craft and a positive attitude. Last month I moderated a panel of agents and managers at Screenwriters World Conference. Every single one of them have clients all over the world, not just in NYC and L.A. In fact, several of them found clients by reading scripts for contests. They signed them long before the contest results even came in. They read contest scripts to find their needle in a haystack.

Another bit of proof that contests works can be found in previous posts on ScriptMag.com:

5. “Good luck…”

Thank you. If only luck was all it took. There is no doubt luck does play a role in some people’s success, but for most of us, hard work and tenacity is more likely what will move us forward. Also hope and faith, which I’ve written about before.

Now that I’ve addressed Some Guy’s points, I want to discuss our immediate negative reaction to his words. Why would we let one person’s view hit us on a personal level when his intent clearly wasn’t to hurt anyone, but just a tone of tough love and sharing what he believes to be the truth?

Then it hit me: Some Guy was putting our biggest fears on the page for all to see, ripping open our wounds and forcing us to face what he feels is reality. It was a bit like rubbing your dog’s nose in his poo.

Ouch.

I can’t guarantee anyone they will succeed in this industry, just like I can’t guarantee anyone they will fall in love and live happily ever after. You will get out of this life what you put into it. Period. If you sit in your home and focus on the difficult odds of success as a writer, you will talk yourself out of trying.

Everything in life is a risk. Love is a risk. Career is a risk. Parenthood is a risk. Writing is a risk.

High risk, high reward.

It’s all about having a positive attitude. You can accomplish anything in your life if you really want it. Look at those people who did make it in this industry. Are they any more special than you? Any more talented than you? Do you think they always believed in themselves? Hell no! I bet some of them still pinch themselves in disbelief that they actually made it.

For me the trick is baby steps. One little step at a time will ultimately get you where you want to be. I learned this from a ski instructor when I was in my 20s. I was trying to master moguls, and was totally overwhelmed as I stood at the top of the mountain, paralyzed by the endless series of gigantic bumps between me and the bottom.

My instructor advised, “Don’t look all the way down the run. Just focus on the 20 feet in front of you. Ski 20 feet at a time. One mogul at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be safe, at the bottom.”

He leaned in and said, “You got this… meet me at the bar.”

With that, he took off, leaving me alone to face my destiny. Sink or swim.

Sure, I fell on my ass many times down that 20-foot-at-a-time run. I even had a bruise on my hip the size of a cantaloupe. But I made it down that mountain and to that bar for a hot cocoa and Baileys.

I learned more than mastering moguls that day; I learned I didn’t want to be on the Olympic ski team. That’s part of our journey too. Lots of writers will try and fail, but in doing so, they will hopefully learn something about what they truly want to do in this world, if not write. It’s not meant for everyone. This business requires a certain kind of tenacity and yes, insanity, to pursue.

I’m cool with that.

For all of those who want to continue on this insane ride with me, either hop on the train or get run over by it… because I’m not stopping.

How do you stay on track and keep at the pursuit of your dreams despite the obstacles? Share your advice in the comments to help each other stay focused on the brass ring. After all, we’re a community here. There’s no right or wrong answer, especially in my columns. No one understands you more than other writers. Vent, rant, give each other virtual hugs. No matter what, we’ll all try to help you stay in the game long enough to get to the next level.

Watch ScriptMag Editor Share Her Advice on Facing Your Writing Fears

Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares her personal story of facing her fears in order to propel her writing and her career. Click on the image below to watch Jeanne’s advice. In just eight minutes, you might have a whole new perspective.

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31 thoughts on “Balls of Steel: Positive Attitude

  1. Ronald Farnham

    I believe that as creators who possess unlimited potential, we manifest what we truly believe. I have had self belief my entire life and have been able to achieve the goals to which I truly “set my mind”. I have been in Hollywood for 15 months and have one script developed and now in the funding stage. It was developed by a real Hollywood line producer that the Executive Producer of the project hired for $8K. That hiring led us to a name director who signed on to direct and gave his approval of the script. The line producer also set us up with a pitch meeting with a major distributor and we secured a letter of theatrical distribution and now we have a well qualified Entertainment Attorney on retainer and are beginning the submission process to talent and a few other directors. There are many ways to get it done in Hollywood. Sure you can write scripts and then set up pitch meetings but that is just one path. I wrote another script that I wanted to produce and direct – so I volunteered my time and acting for an indie project which led me to meet a DP with a nice Cannon 5D camera and an excellent editor. Through some non-entertainment related work connections I met a person with some money who is helping to finance the project. Plus the Executive producer of the Developed project in the funding stage [who paid me $1k to write the script and $1k to turn the script into a book which is now on Amazon] is putting in a few thousand also to get my low budget film done so that we have something under our belt regarding a feature. Anyway the point is; do not listen to people who say “no”. I learned in the Army that if you ask for something from someone and they say “no” then ask someone else and keep asking until you get a yes. There are doors to knock on, projects to work on, people to meet, scripts to write, movies to make – keep focused on your goals and believe in them and they must manifest. Cheers. Ronald

  2. Jeff Harter

    I find your November 20 post very inspiring. Many of us didn’t come from wealth, nor were we considered certified geniuses. We may have had very little, or just enough, to survive while growing up.

    So we learned to be scrappy and tenacious. We have a relentless drive. We may even still have a chip on our shoulder.

    The common denominator that many of us had was an exposure to the “magic” of story telling, whether it came from feature film, television, or comic books. We were just average people bitten by the “story” bug. So we chase our dreams of creating stories to share with the rest of the world in spite of the great odds stacked against us. We take those baby steps that you mentioned, always aiming for that goal.

    We do focus on the “Art” of story telling, along with the inspiration and drive needed to continue with this craft. But if there was one thing I would add to my own experience, it would be more exposure to the business and politics of this industry.

  3. Jeff Harter

    Were the moguls (and bruises) from Greek Peak in New York? Agree 100%. It’s not always the talent that gets you across the finish line. In most cases is tenacity, persistence, and drive.

  4. Leona Heraty

    Hi Jeanne,

    Thank you for wonderful, positive response to that negative guy. 🙂

    I’d like to share with everyone a positive quote that I keep on my refrigerator about persistence:

    “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.

    Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

    Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

    Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

    Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

    The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

    Calvin Coolidge
    30th president of US (1872 – 1933)

  5. gabriel

    Oh and another thing, ‘webinars’ could NEVER replace the simple acts of watching movies, reading scripts, and writing. Business webinars could NEVER return as much as networking. So why waste time and money? I will never attend another screenwriting class in my life unless it is super cheap or free. Such a waste.

  6. gabriel

    A poor to mediocre writer with industry connections is more likely to get work than a good to great writer with none. This kind of prooves Someguy’s point in a way.

    Crappy movies don’t get made because audiences demand ‘mindless entertainment’. For every crappy genre film distributed, a well written and paced actioner with character sits in the wings.

    Crappy films show up in theaters because a lot of crappy writers have industry connections. Saying that audiences are responsible for schlock strikes me as a ‘blame the victim’ type mentality.

    Story is king. Write a good script first. Networking and even this syrupy ‘think positive’ new age mantra can never replace good writing. You think Shakespeare kept up a happy, positive mood all or even half the time? Or did he nurse ail and furrow his brow by candlelight, tormented by inner demons and plagued by melancholic tendencies? The latter,by far more likely.

    Write a good script and Hollywood will buy it, eventually. Very few great scripts never get picked up, unless the writer gives up getting it out there and shelves it. STORY IS KING over networking and attitude.

  7. Mac

    It really saddens me that “Some Guys” positive outlook and drive seems to be gone or at least temporarily missing. Bottom line is this: If you write well, you will have your chance at one point or another. It may take a while but it will happen. That’s what I tell myself everyday and I never think it won’t happen because I simply know that it will. Everyone’s got a gift somewhere, and for some, writing is it. Keep grinding guys and the hard work will pay off. I know it will for me. Cheers.

  8. saidu.

    Well, I think “some guy” is a frustrated writer who had piled series of rejections and instead of blaming himself for not writing great,he blame….
    “Some guy” you got to run away from here before WE KILL YOU!

  9. Linda Robbins

    Thanks, Jeanne, for the great comments and continuing inspiration! You’ve helped me this year as I’ve been struggling with feelings of futility as another option expired, another international finance group changed their focus, and my producer/director team disappeared into the ether. They all loved the script but I’m putting it behind me, for now, and finishing the next one. It’s not my first or my second, I’ve been at this a while, but it is hard to keep positive sometimes and your words truly help. I love writing – isn’t it just the biggest rush when a character tells you something you didn’t plan? Or a scene falls into place in just the right way that it makes you almost giddy with anticipation to start writing the next day? Well, all that and your support gives me the impetus to keep returning to the keyboard day after day and to be even more productive in 2013 so, thanks very much and Happy Thanksgiving to all the writers out there!

  10. Mike T.

    I read hundreds of scripts by new writers and WGA writers because my boss is desperate to find materials good enough to live up to the company’s high standards. We use a well crafted, custom script rating system that essentially gets rid of the “22-year-old reader brain” and uses a lot of science instead. We would be fired if we did a “no” or a “go” read of any script. We initially rate the script on several dozen aspects then let the experts decide what’s next for the script. Nobody else does it that way because nobody has our system.

    We are all trained readers because our company takes the time to teach us on what to look for so I will share some of that with your readers, if you wish.

    First, too many WGA writers are overrated. We round file their scripts as fast as others but we always give them a harder look. WGA is not impressive to us, it just catches our attention. Of course, we never look for Ivy League credentials and you do not need to know anybody to have us read a promising script. What gets a writer read is a strong log-line and a two or three paragraph summary that demands our attention enough that we request a “look-see”. That’s all you need.

    Second, too many writers have a lot of great skills, but not all the skills needed to make a solid commercial script. Our boss drills us daily, saying “we do not do art, we do profits”. Now he’s being funny because once the project gets to production (usually at another company), the director better be doing art with everyone else but you get my point. This is a business, not a charity.

    We see some awesome stories, remarkable characters, stunning dialogue, and even exceptional structuring and more from “newbies” but nearly 99% of the time, the writer falls down in other areas that make the project lack commercial appeals.

    We also get dozens of promising scripts each year that need a lot of help to get off the ground and into a deal. In nearly all cases, the producer likes the script but will not do it unless he brings in another writer to “brace up the weak parts” that he sees with the original writer. Most new writers cannot stand the idea of sharing so the deals usually fall apart before they get started. Smart new writers should be willing to do whatever they need to do to get that first couple of deals done because once they come into a project or two, they will learn and hone their craft more and progress to the point that their later scripts can stand on their own (mostly). Nobody gets anywhere by saying no or being difficult to work with. This is a wheeler dealer industry.

    One of the things new writers overlook is targeting. We target our projects by genre, budget, etc. and this week, month, or year we may be looking for X and Y but next time, we want A and B. If you’re selling what we are not buying, move on, then come back later and see if what you’re selling is what we’re buying this time around. Keep in mind most companies do it that way so just keep submitting those queries and sooner or later lightening is going to strike.

    A few years ago our company had funding lined up for major comedy project and could not find one decent script—not even from the WGA pools. If you want to see an angry boss, watch them when they have to walk away from a deal because they have no script worth putting in a can!

    Scriptwriting is tough work. I can’t do it but those who can do it well consistently will never be out of work so it is worth learning well if that is your passion.

    MY TIP OF THE YEAR: The owner of our company is leaving us to start work building the new EpiCintre mega studio and when that project is complete, they expect to hire not one but hundreds of new writers (actually thousands of people for everything). The company is going to be training promising writers how to use their unique, proprietary systems but to get a foot in the door, a smart writer should start honing their skills now. If I were a writer, I would push myself to write a script a month and by the time they start hiring, I might have six or so excellent work examples to show off or even sell. (I’ve seen some of the conceptual designs and employee perks for the place and there is nothing out there on the planet like it. Think awesome to the tenth power–everyone in the industry is going to want to work there. So writers, as my boss says, “go break a pen”!

  11. Jeanne Veillette BowermanJeanne Veillette Bowerman Post author

    I’m a bit crazed getting ready for Thanksgiving, and I’ll address everyone’s comments in the coming days, but I do want to address “Another Guy” now…

    I have no problem disclosing my upbringing. Shy, I am not.

    Yes, I went to Cornell. No, I am not rich, nor am I a genius.

    I am the youngest of four children, all born within 4 1/2 yrs. Money was always tight. My mother’s idea of a shopping spree was going to The Goodwill, where on Tuesdays you could buy as many clothes as you could jam into a paper bag for $1.00. My mother was the genius… she could milk a penny and get a dime out. I remember desperately wanting the game Operation, and she would go to all the area thrift stores, literally collecting one bone or organ at a time until she collected the entire set for the game. It took her 8 months. Then there was the time she bought an entire van full of blue jeans of assorted sizes for $100. With those jeans, we made skirts, purses, vests… anything. I was drowning in dungarees. I sewed many of my own clothes too.

    I think you get the picture. Rich, we were not.

    I also was no genius. In fact, I almost flunked out of Cornell. Why? Because I went to the Hotel School and never felt passionate about it. I spent four years floundering, misguided and totally void of any desire to study… not to mention I was surrounded by those kids who really were rich, and they intimidated the hell out of me. My intelligence was no match for my insecurity. I was more afraid of succeeding than I was of failing. I was only a “genius” in that I managed to get the minimal grades required not to get kicked out.

    So, no, Another Guy, I don’t think anyone I met at Cornell was impressed enough with either my tiny wallet or my “ambition” to help me get a leg up in any career. Because of that, I spent 15 years running a motel and restaurant and was miserable. When I decided to write, I had to totally reinvent my life. I earned every accomplishment I have now by working my fingers to the bone despite not starting a professional writing career until I was 41.

    It’s not easy to change careers in your 40s with zero training… and I mean ZERO training. I never went to film school, I didn’t have mentors, and I didn’t even know another screenwriter when I started. Not one. I just worked hard to learn as much as I possibly could about writing and the industry. Period.

    And then I found Twitter… for those who regularly read Balls of Steel, you know what that means. 🙂

    If I can go for my dreams, anyone can.

    Now back to making stuffing…

    Just a side note, I’m not at all annoyed by the debates going on in the comments. I love it! If we all felt the same way about everything, what a boring world this would be! You guys rock!

  12. Brooke Monfort

    “Some Guy” is mashing his bitter grapes publicly, but maybe we all gained something from it. I will say that, after reading hundreds of screenplays for the Austin Film Festival competition, spending over a decade editing fiction manuscripts written by aspiring authors, and judging adult fiction entries for contests, I can safely say that many writers are not as good at their craft or as original in storyline as they think they are. Yes, there are many challenges to getting your work read, and even more in getting it produced. Welcome to the arts. It’s not for the feint of heart. Lawrence Kasdan said about screenwriting (to a room crammed to capacity with hopefuls), “If there is anything else that you stand to do to make a living – do it.” Balls of steel, indeed.

  13. ShirleyN

    Yeah, I got that from the very first screenwriting class I took. By the second class, I had serious doubts and was really upset. I had no idea what I stepped into. No one tells you then that you’ve got talent. Then one person stepped in (he taught a film making class) and told me to stop listening to my doubts and just do it – give it a chance and just do it. So here I am. The doubts are still there but at least now I know I can write as well as anyone else. As for the rest…guess that’s up to me.

  14. Canada Writer

    Thank you for the insightful article. Our vocation is hard enough without allowing depressing thoughts to sneak in and try to derail our efforts. And most of those thoughts are self-generated – they blossom out of a nugget of criticism or industry indifference and suddenly all of one’s work sucks, etc, etc.

    Food for thought: there are NO overnight successes. Everyone who has appeared to have been pulled out of obscurity have a lot of work behind their moment(s) in the sun. That hard work is the iceberg beneath the waves.

    That’s enough metaphors. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never quit”.

  15. Craig

    Jeanne,

    To avoid discouragement and not become overwhelmed by the intimidating odds stacked against us, I do my best to just stay focused on what I’m doing and forget everyone else.

    When I was a competitive athlete, instead of sitting at home thinking about the competition and psyching my self out by how unlikely an ordinary guy like me could possibly be the best in the nation, I simply went out and trained. And I won national championships, because (it turns out) I was training hard than my competitors.

    In other words, I did what I could do, and I did the best I could do with the talent I had.

    That’s all any of us can do. With that approach, our work speaks for itself, and we save yourself a world of anxiety.

    We would all do well to live by one of the greatest slogans ever coined: “Just Do It.”

  16. Scott Wallace

    Why do people say “could care less” when they mean “couldn’t care less”? And it’s not just Some Guy. As Denzel Washington playing “Malcolm X” screamed, “IT’S NOT… INTELLIGENT!!”

  17. Another Guy

    Jeanne,

    I think your response was smart, level-headed and logically sound in most places. However, if you were willing to disclose more details of your personal life (though of course you’re under no obligation to do so), I think your argument would be stronger if you elaborated a little more on your first point.

    So, you say going to an Ivy League school had no *direct* benefit on your success, but you did still go to an Ivy League school. Ivy League schools are expensive. So to have attended, you either have money, or are a genius, or both. Either of those things would be a pretty tremendous benefit to any aspiring writer. The benefit of genius should be pretty obvious even to non-geniuses, so let’s talk about the benefit of money (which, I think, is probably more what Some Guy was talking about anyway).

    I don’t know anything about your background, so I don’t want to make any assumptions, but if we can speak of some hypothetically rich aspiring writer, I think that coming from a wealthy family might even be more useful for them than coming from a brilliant one. Why? Because writing is a skill even more than it is a talent. Skills take practice. Practice takes time. Money saves you time (it saves you a lot if you have enough that you don’t need to work). Then you can spend that time writing, improving, networking, submitting, taking unpaid internships, pursuing representation… You see where I’m going with this.

    I don’t want to suggest that the wealthy writer’s success or abilities are unearned (my favourite writer is Michael Chabon, and you could hardly name someone more blue-blooded), simply that dismissing Some Guy’s claim with a glib “bull” might be somewhat reductive. Again, I’m much happier to believe Shakespeare’s father was a glove maker than I am to believe he was a nobleman (it’s certainly the more charming narrative), but I also think it’s important to be realistic.

    Some people are born with advantages. That isn’t a reason to give up if you weren’t, and it’s certainly not a reason to hold their success against them. However, it is a reason why some people succeed where others fail.

    AG

  18. Trevor M

    In my opinion, there’s a flaw in the reasoning presented in the rebuttal. It’s that new screenwriters need to think beyond Corporate Hollywood and find success elsewhere so that they can get produced. Putting all your energy into the Corporate Hollywood black hole can only result ultimately in negativity.

    Think about it. Corporate Hollywood pretty much only deals in remakes, sequels, “re-imaginings”, comic book adaptations, and hit youth novel series. The days of breaking in with your own original spec or original voice as a screenwriter are a decade past or more.

    So if you want to be positive, then forget about them. The low budget original feature film is far from dead. It’s just not alive in Corporate Hollywood.

    I notice you mention The Human Centipede. You do know that it’s from a Danish filmmaker in Denmark? Sure, one and two are apparently made in the USA, but who’s the production company? Only the same guy. No Corporate Hollywood. Speaking of horror films, much better and more enjoyable recent ones, look at ones that actually did have sequels from Corporate Hollywood: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, SAW, et al. Corporate Hollywood had nothing to do with their production — only their sequels. A massive list could be drawn of earlier examples in the genre, from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on… It’s not just true of one genre, but the same is true of most all of the first feature films of Corporate Hollywood’s current top directors. From Raimi, Jackson, Nolan, et al. Their first features that made them had nothing to do with Corporate Hollywood.

    Look at them and get positive about getting your work produced somewhere else, by somebody else. Preferably with yourself involved in the producing or even directing — so that it’s something close to what you intended. Directing is not for everybody, but anybody can be a producer as long as they put in some hard work. And if you really are any good as a writer you can shine because no “Ivy League buddy of somebody else” is rewriting you. And if it is really good, or commercial, or both — Corporate Hollywood may come knocking. Or they’ll open the door when you knock. And you’ll already be a producer and/or director and have leverage.

  19. Angela Falkowska

    Good ski analogy, Jeanne! 🙂
    All you can do is keep going forward and around the obstacles.

    The odds are huge, that’s true. But we’re supposed to look at life as a journey.

    We’re lucky enough to have a dream that drives us on. Where would we be without that dream? What’s life worth without the dream and going all out to achieve it?

    Many won’t make it, but they’ll still have the satisfaction of knowing they tried and didn’t give up. Giving up is only an option, if we’re ready to give up on our dream. I don’t even want to go there…

  20. Clive Davies-Frayne

    I can understand “Some Guy’s” frustrations. If I was trying to break into $25M+ Hollywood Studio movie sector, by hoping to get noticed in writing competitions, I’d have thrown myself down the stairs with frustration years ago.
    The thing is, the film industry is like an iceberg, in that, if you only pay attention to the 10% that is immediately visible above the water, it will more than probably sink your ship.
    Writers who focus solely on breaking into the top ten percent (studio/Hollywood/$25+ budgets) are going to struggle and chances are, they are going to fail. Their chances of failure are going to increase exponentially if they what they really want to do, is the kind of writing that isn’t part of that 10%… and anyone who thinks that nepotism is the reason they’re not seeing the kind of films they want to write Studio connected cinemas, is automatically saying they don’t understand the industry.
    For every producer working within the studio system, there are several thousand who aren’t… and, whatever the kind of movie you are interested in making, there is a producer out there, working in that sector and looking for projects.
    Half of the trick of getting doors open, is putting the right project in front of the right producer (on the right day).
    It’s not enough to be a good writer.
    A writer with any kind of ambition has to also make the effort to understand the business and the opportunities open to them, instead of wondering why the most visible sector (top ten percent) doesn’t want to make the movies they are writing. When the reality isn’t that those films aren’t being made, it’s just they are looking at the wrong part of the industry.
    I also think it’s a mistake for someone to think that this online magazine exists only to peddle dreams of making it big in Hollywood. That’s not what it’s about at all.
    Anyone who reads my column, will soon realise that all I talk about is independent cinema.
    In fact, ironically, my latest column talks about exactly this issue. The importance of understanding what the industry is, and what doors are open to people with a degree of talent and the ability to play nicely with others.
    http://www.scriptmag.com/features/alt-script-what-the-heck-does-independent-filmmaking-mean
    Like I said at the start, I understand Some Guy’s frustrations, but fundamentally they are wrong headed, because the industry isn’t Hollywood, or even Los Angeles… there’s a whole world out there, which personally I think is more interesting and more suited to many writers.

  21. Will Chandler

    Hi Jeanne – Bottom line: You won’t get it unless you Want it. Really Want it. I mean, seriously. Want. It.

    In a class I recently taught, I told the entire room of aspiring writers that they’d never make a dime off their writing, no one would ever see it, it would be stuck in a drawer and forgotten – the odds of making it are pretty much impossible – especially since none of them had family or friends in the business. They would have better luck with a lotto ticket. …Then I paused …and said “And some of you right now are saying “Oh yeah? Scr*w you, I’m doing it. Watch me.”

    For writers to succeed, the word “no” must be nothing more than a minor form of resistance.

  22. Jeanne Veillette BowermanJeanne Veillette Bowerman Post author

    Guy, everyone is no one when they start. An artists job is to carve a new path. Look at Steve Jobs. What if he had listened to naysayers? A great reminder, thanks!

    Deb, Some Guy the nemesis. So true. But I also want to thank him for sharing his viewpoints. It’s so important for all of us to be reminded of the obstacles we face, if only for us to do a mental check to be sure we’re really willing to keep at it.

    Brad, thanks for putting a fire hose on the pisser of flames. Your students are great, and you do a wonderful job of bringing the realities of the business to them. I can’t wait to come to Chicago to meet the new batch!

    Jenna, oh writer coach extraordinaire, how wise of you to address the negatives with your writers.

    Unk, the amount I have learned from you this past year has been astronomical. Imagine if Twitter never existed… we wouldn’t have met. Yes, people, you CAN make true connections with industry pros via the little blue bird, even without going to film school. You inspire me every day, Unk, whether you want to or not. 🙂

    Jamie, great example. Thanks!

  23. Unknown ScreenwriterUnk

    It CAN feel as if you’re playing the lottery at times but if it is indeed your passion then you’ve got to keep going. The SYSTEM, for lack of a better term is designed to MAKE US QUIT.

    Trust me… I AIN’T no Ivy League grad and even though it can indeed suck from time to time especially during this economy, I’m in the business.

    And all it took was writing a spec that caught someone’s attention. Everything happened from THERE.

    And it still does.

    Unk

  24. Jenna Avery

    I love your assessment of our collective reaction to what Some Guy said, and how you addressed each and every point. I encourage writers to do exactly that with the negative stuff we tell ourselves. Whether it comes from the inside or the outside, it’s worth looking closely at the negative stories we tell ourselves about our writing.

  25. Brad Riddell

    Inside and outside of the industry walls sit jaded, burnt-out, frustrated individuals. It’s easy to understand why, once you’ve worked in this business for a while. I can see his points, but refuse to buy them and neither should your readers. I’ve had too many students break into the business in too many different ways from too many different places to believe for one second that it’s as impossible as he claims. I, for one, went to the University of Kentucky. Didn’t stop me. And now that I’m out of LA, I’m busier than I’ve ever been on important projects that I really care about. Ballsy of you to take this on, Jeanne, and smart, too. Get fan away the stench of piss then poke the coals to raise the flames! That’s why we read you!

  26. Deborah Goodwin

    It seems “some guy” became the perfect nemesis
    in a sense. The very dark thoughts that are
    back ( and not so far back!) in every Writer’s mind.
    So, how perfect a real life example of that doubting
    Creature that lives in us all! Great rebuttal to it!

  27. Guy Guido

    Well said Jeanne! I’d also like to add that every area of te entertainment BUSINESS is hard… If everyone thought te way this person did, he would have no music in his iPod, no Favorite TV show, movies or actors to watch and no great published books to read either!
    Anyone in everyone of these creative industries started out in the same place… Nowhere. It was through their hard work and determination that the public finally got to see, hear or read what they were capable of!
    Without those people who had dreams and goals and were willing to work hard at them (despite the odds) there would be no majorly distributed entertainment.
    The person who wrote that is trying to justify his own complacency in a business that doesn’t accept it. No you won’t “make it” Just because you think you wrote a good script. You will make it if you go to war at the elements in your way… Those elements might be anything from poor understanding of structure to not networking enough (online or in person), procrastination, etc etc… WORK at it from every angle… That might even mean sacraficing ur savings to produce your own film! Im not advising that to everyone, there are many other sacrafices …ur time amd energy as well… The point being, How important is it to you? No area of the arts is easy to succeed in (as a business) no one said it was… But placing the blame on the external “gatekeepers” is the one sure way of staying where you are in the industry…Nowhere

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