Sorry this took me longer than I expected to get back to you, I had a very busy week working on spec projects, which basically means I worked my ass off, but get paid nothing. Zero. Zilch. They’re all a high-risk investment projects that hopefully pay off someday. Working on setting up two films. Rewrites on a big budget comedy. Managing my manager. Shooting and editing a video and blooper reel… Well, a lot. Though don’t feel too sorry for me, for although I’m choosing to answer your questions on a Friday night, instead of rocking the town, I am doing it while nursing an amazing bottle of pricey single malt Scotch.
Okay, so, let’s see if I can help you with some of your questions. You mentioned in your email that you have found a lot of conflict in information about show business, about working as a screenwriter, or TV writer… And honestly, everything I’m about to tell you ain’t no different. That’s the way it is, there is no magic pill, unfortunately, there is no brilliant answer. It seems to be a crapshoot that is rigged for only a few connected insiders. Were your dad Tom Hanks or Dustin Hoffman you wouldn’t be asking me these questions. I don’t want to be the voice of doom or gloom, and everyone’s reality is different… Perhaps the golden ring flies to you. And if that happens I hope you remember that I took time out of my life to try to help you see clearly.
For many of us, sometimes, being underwater with weights strapped to us is the way it feels. This year I finished my first novel, it’s hard enough getting friends and family members to read it, let alone people who don’t know you. And imagine someone who gets a pile of books every day… Same goes with singing… Same goes with acting… Same goes with script writing… It’s a long tough road, a marathon where you’re running along side of a lot of other people, some dropping out, some dying, some moving on… And very little people on the sidelines cheering, and actually many of them will do their best to discourage you in the beginning.
Congratulations on getting any writing work, it’s never an easy task. I’ve done some copy writing for coins no and again, and wouldn’t turn down cash to do what I love. Writing is writing.
As far as living in different places and making a living as a screenwriter you can live anywhere in the universe. The trouble is the networking. This past week I met with two producers, next week I hope to meet with another… Wanting to get my material read, and hoping to find the team to make the words find the screen. But a script is a script, and if you can find the right eyes… The script may get made, or bought, or optioned.
Television is much different. TV writers tend to work as teams, and groups. Most of the people I know that are successful in writing for television started out as writing assistance. That means they worked for very very little money, and very very long hours, and after some time somebody gave them a shot. With a spec script for the show they happened to have been working on.
I have been writing for 20 years, I started with plays monologues and sketches, started screenwriting when I moved to Los Angeles over 15 years ago… And it was then that I was put together with two other writers, as writing partners. One of those two writing partners and I continue to work together to this day. We have written several scripts on our own, and together, and we’ve been patted hard on the back many times… A few have gotten paid options on them, but none of them have been made yet. Most of my very talented writer and actor friends for that matter have done their crafts for years without racking up too much cash in their fields. Unfortunately, that is more the way the dice tends to roll.
I have known very few people to have sold spec scripts, a few are now working nonstop, and a few haven’t sold since… As far as festivals go, most people I know feel festivals to be a waste of money and time, however, with that said, I do have a friend whose career turned around doing well at a festival he’s now doing punch ups. But, I think, for the most of us, it’s a rigged and losing crapshoot.
Getting an agent is another difficult challenge, and having an agent or a manager isn’t a guarantee by any means. Some people look out right out of the gate. They have something that attracts the agent. One of my friends had a last name that was ethnic enough, that it attracted some interest. I came out of a screenwriting program at UCLA and in the final week had two scripts optioned by a big company, out of the 10 or so agents that came to talk to us the final week of class, not one was interested in even reading a logline of any of my scripts.
As far as manager versus agent, that is a difficult question. Currently I am working with a manager for my literary projects, and a manager and an agent for my acting projects. For whatever reason my manager has not wanted to work with an agent with my scripts.
I think that your questions. It’s a long road, a marathon that most people don’t finish. Some have success along the way, some go crazy, some become addicts… The arts are an addiction for many of us. There’s nothing I would rather be doing than writing or editing or shooting or singing… Do I wish I made more money more frequently… Damn freaking skippy I do. Do I wish more people watched my videos, read my books, my blogs, my scripts… Yup. But we can’t control other people, we can barely control ourselves, and managing a freelance life of creative endeavors and too much free time can be more work than anyone can handle.
Do what you want to do… No one will cry if you don’t sing a note or write a single script, as everyone’s got their own stuff, their own dreams, their own cat videos to post. So write or act or sing because you can’t do anything else, because it feeds you like nothing else does… Cause when you’re in a shitty apartment and there’s gun fire a block away, and your fingers are freezing cause you don’t want to turn on the heat because you’d rather be sitting in cold than have a day job… Because you want to be writing with your hours, or doing whatever you’re doing that much… Then… Then… You know you’re doing what makes you happy.
Also know that what ever makes us extremely happy is also the very thing that breaks our hearts over and over and over. And that’s the way life is. Especially for the people living lives like poets.
Have an awesome weekend, and do whatever, find your voice…
You know copywriters make pretty good livings, I meet many of them on commercial shoots, and while a lot of them are frustrated novelist and screenwriters, they live pretty comfortably, drive nice cars, have pretty wives, wear trendy sneakers… 😉
I’m off, my drink is empty. Or maybe I’ll go out. Who knows. Life is unpredictable.
– Quiche Out.