When I first read Wesley Rowe’s column “Hitting the Boards” in the July/August edition of Script magazine, it pissed me off. I was thinking, do burgeoning screenwriters really need advice on how to “up their quota” and figure out the best way to produce unoriginal work by having their own “twist on a classic” in their back pocket? Just last month, the subject of my column was on the common concern voiced in Script about the lack of support for the unique voice in Hollywood. Shouldn’t we be encouraging screenwriters that if you’re focused on the money, you’re probably not going to make it in the first place?
Then I remembered, I’m fucking broke! My screenwriting partner and I have two projects in development that haven’t been set up yet and thus we haven’t been paid yet. We just finished a spec our manger and agent plan on packaging with actors, and we’re writing another spec for a very reputable company who has a good track record for getting movies made. Three of the projects are original, and one is a loose adaptation of a very unique book, which ultimately places it in the mini-studio market. We’re very close, but we’ve been “very close” for years now. And very broke for years now. You don’t get all this writing done by having full time jobs, right?
This brings me back to Wesley Rowe. What if he’s right? What if one of our “original” projects goes through, but the other three don’t happen? If we follow Wesley’s advice, perhaps we get really lucky, and we secure a financial future that allows more creative freedom to pursue our original work for as long as we want. Let the cynics say what they will, but I know for my writing partner and I, we’re not in it for the money, and a big paycheck will go a long way for us. Give me good food, daycare for my kid, good beer, and … HD? Not necessarily in that order.
And then there’s the re-writing gigs Wesley suggests. My partner and I had the chance to pitch for two re-write gigs thus far, neither of which we got, neither of which we were right for really. Both scripts were, shall I say politely, in really bad shape. Christopher McQuarrie of Usual Suspects fame once called re-writing a “soulless act” but also noted one can make up to a hundred G’s for a week’s worth of work. I thought to myself, I could live off that an entire year and write original work for 51 weeks — or 40 and vacation 11. Anyway, I re-read Wesley’s column a few times, and it reminded me I’m constantly torn between remaining true to why I started writing screenplays in the first place and facing the reality that original work may not financially support an entire career. What do you think? Is Wesley’s advice right on or not?