Everything you want is at your fingertips. With the internet you can order anything you can possibly want in the way of great books on writing and writing supplies through The Writers Store in Burbank, California. You can attend Seminars given by great people that are professional agents, managers, lawyers, consultants, screenwriting teachers and more, all over this country. You can scrape up some money and go to pitch festivals and film festivals. You can scrape up a little more money and hire professional script consultants who will go through you scripts with a fine tooth comb and give you copious note to fix any problems. There are people who can teach you to be great at giving a long or a short verbal pitch. More people who can teach you how to write a great short or long treatment.
Don’t complain to me about the cost of these things. These are the costs of becoming a success in a very rarefied and magical world. This is the film school that you must attend to get your work to the point that readers will jump up and exclaim: “I’ve found a great new writer!” As an agent, I actually did just that when I read the work of Larry Hertzog. He became my client and went from getting his first job of writing an episode to become a series’ Executive Producer and creator. The last deal I made for him was for $1 million. Larry was referred to me by one of my clients, who grew up with Larry in Teaneck, New Jersey.
Every single thing you need is at your fingertips. You can call or email The Writers Guild of America, East or West, and their lovely employees will kindly help you with whatever you need. You can take classes at the magnificent American Film Institute. If you are in Los Angeles, every one you sit next to in restaurants is in show business. I met a friend for coffee at a nearby Starbucks, and while waiting, I saw Chris Noth (Sex and the City, Law and Order) walk in and kibbutz with the gal behind the counter as he ordered his coffee. My husband and I were waiting in the bar of a neighborhood restaurant when Keanu Reeves came in and sat at the bar waiting for his “to-go order.” This sort of thing happens all the time in Los Angeles. The brilliant Richard Dreyfuss was at the deli when I was having breakfast one Sunday morning.
Screenwriting is a calling… it is not a job. To be a screenwriter you must be compelled to write. You might have a love/hate relationship with writing but the love is always there. You don’t choose this for your career, it chooses you. You have all of these different people in your head that are looking for a story to inhabit. You can see a film of your script in your mind’s eye. Your mind never stops working. Everything you see, hear, experience and taste somehow becomes part of your work. You love to read and you love to go to the movies. All of these things define that fact that your vocation is your “calling”.
You live with the possibility that your thoughts and words become a movie that will be seen by millions of people. Those people will laugh or cry at your discretion. The audiences will be moved or frightened because you wanted them to be. You have the power of the Wizard of Oz to create a world that did not exist before you thought it up. How great is that?!
I believe that along with those wonderful extensions of your work, you also have responsibilities. These responsibilities are to move, delight, scare, upset, entertain and teach something of the human condition to your audiences. It’s is a heavy burden but it is important that you see it and acknowledge it in your own mind. This will lead you on a continuing quest to learn more, read more, travel and interact with more people. This is all part of your writers’ education. You will have the adventure of your life. Jump in, do the work and keep writing until you are the one that makes people jump up and yell: “I’ve found a great writer!”
Yes, as hard as it is to become a successful screenwriter, you are still the luckiest people in the world.
Michele Wallerstein’s book: MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide to Your Writing Success may be purchased via The Writers Store, E-Bay, Amazon.com (in paperback and on Kindle) and local book stores.
- More Business of Screenwriting by Michele Wallerstein
- Reel Story: Why Story Structure Formulas Don’t Work
- Do-Over: Advice to My 18-Year-Old Self – Writer/Producer Erik Bork
Tools to Help: