Friday, January 9, 2015

"Writers" - Part 2

*Continued from "Writers" - Part 1

Three Moments in a (Screen) Writer's Career

There are several moments in an aspiring actor, writer, or filmmaker's career that one holds as significant.  As with pretty much everything, everyone's path to success in Hollywood is different.  Most are similar, to be sure, but some are downright unusual, unique, and/or uncanny.  There are always exceptions to whatever semblance of rules there might be out here, but for the most part, it's a struggle, struggle, struggle to succeed.

For the sake of this rant, I'll be completely ignoring those exceptions.  Just an FYI.

So, where was I?  Oh, yes... several moments... significant... yada yada.  Everyone's different.  That stated, there are three moments that are pretty much shared by every writer.

Moment One is the first time something a writer has written gets filmed.  No, not just filmed... but edited and shown.  Be it a short film, feature film (for those lucky ones), or web pilot, Moment One occurs the first time a writer watches something based on something he (or she) has written.  It's a great moment, this Moment One, but probably doesn't involve being able to pay the rent or even buy groceries.  It is purely a sensational moment, watching something that came from an imagination.  Bragging rights might be involved, but probably only among friends and family.

Yes, Moment One is a great moment.  Because it's probably the first time a writer says or thinks, "I'm on my way," and actually means it.

Moment Two is the first time a writer gets to play in the studio system.  Yes... Hollywood.  That so-called creative desert that every creative in the film industry wants to live in.  Now, playing in the studio system doesn't mean that writer is getting paid, but it does mean that someone has noticed.  Either noticed a screenplay that writer has written or noticed a short or indie feature made from that writer's script.  Someone noticed and brought that writer in.  Maybe for a coffee.  Maybe for a chat.  Maybe for...whatever.

Yes, Moment Two is a great moment.  Because it's probably the first time a writer says or thinks, "I'm going to make it," and actually believes it in an objective manner.

And then there's Moment Three.  The first time a writer gets paid.  And I don't mean, "Oh, here's $500 for your indie feature script" paid.  I mean, "Go pay your rent for a while" paid.  Paid.  Not only has the writer been noticed, but the writer has been commissioned.  Oddly enough, this doesn't necessarily even mean they're going to make the movie.  This doesn't even mean that - if they do make the movie - the writer gets any credit.  What it does mean is that the writer has, officially and finally, moved from being an amateur to being a professional.

Personally, I can't imagine there being a much better moment than Moment Three.  But I'm subjective that way.

I need to back up.  What do these steps to becoming a professional entail?  That's easy: acting like a professional.  I wrote in Part 1 that the jump from the indie world to Hollywood results in the most casualties.  And why, pray tell, is that?

That's easy: because a lot of motherfuckers can't act like professional.  As soon as there's a system to work in, they can't hack it.  Someone's telling a writer what to do?  What the fuck?  THAT'S NOT HOW WRITERS OPERATE!'

Wrong, dipshit.  That's exactly how writers operate.  What that's not is how "writers" operate.

"Writers" vs. Writers

There is, admittedly, quite a bit of freedom at the amateur level.  You can do things at your own pace, at your own intensity, by your own design, and without having to consult anybody else.  This freedom can be as creatively inspiring as it can leave an aspiring writer "spoiled for choice."  To be quite blunt, how one deals with this freedom is definitely the first sign - and probably the largest sign - of whether or not one will be a writer... or a "writer."

The writer will be disciplined and - holy shit - write stuff.  They will start earning their carpal tunnels while the "writer" will start talking about writing stuff.  These "writers" are everywhere in the film industry.  EVERYWHERE.

But, quite a few make it to that Moment One.  A short gets made.  Sometimes, a feature gets made.  Whichever, it's typically pretty bad, but at least it's on-screen.  Above, I might have downplayed Moment One a little bit, but I assure you... the first time, it's pretty fucking awesome.  And everything that happens after this point leads directly to a Moment Two.

Which is when a lot of the people you thought were writers actually reveal themselves to be "writers."  In my experience, this batch of "writers" are the hardest to spot.  They'll seem busy, that's for sure.  There will be meetings after meetings.  But you'll start to notice that they're not actually writing anything anymore.

Let me pause there for a moment.  Some of the "writers" at this level simply realize (or should realize) that they shouldn't be writing.  These are people who wrote a script in order to have something to direct, have something to act in, or have something to produce.  Whatever the reason, this particular subset of "writers" are otherwise competent filmmakers (or actors) who should be pursuing their respective competency.  Yes, they'll be hurt and upset when it's pointed out to them that they're horrible writers, but the best ones will ultimately get over it and become professionals at their preferred craft.  The rest... they get the quotations around whatever they claim they actually want to do.

As for the rest of the "writers" at this level... they're very hard to spot.  In fact, they're pretty much only spotted when it comes to approaching Moment Three.

*Continued in "Writers" - Part 3

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