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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

I've written so many screenplays and get so down because nothing has happened.  This is so frustrating!

Margaret from many cities 

This week's Answer: 

There's No Business Like Screenwriting Business  

Margaret, I sympathize.  It can be very unsettling when nothing is happening.  Especially when you want something happening.  Or anything happening.  That's a good one, too.  Anything but nothing.  "Nothing" is so... so... not happening.  And not happening is definitely not... a happening kind of happening.  So, basically, you're telling me that you want "happening."  Good.  Now that that's clear, let's see what's happening...  
When you mention "not happening," I'm going to presume you mean that there has been little to no activity regarding your success selling a screenplay.  Assuming that my presuming is correct, let's look into this, shall we?  We'll reason together.  (Trust me:  it'll be happening, man.  Or "woman.")  
One way of looking at this situation is that you could be happy that something that you don't want to happen is happening or happened.  Something such as being happy that you didn't get a call from a producer who says that you plagiarized every word in your script because he received one exactly like it from an Aborigine (whom the agent immediately signed), who was cast away on a deserted island and had nothing to do but write (because all he had with him was a laptop -- which, thankfully -- or not in your case -- came with Aborigine / English translator software), and the Aborigine found out that you stole his material and he has vowed to find you and hunt you down with only a spear, the dirty screenplay-stealing hyena that you are.  (Apparently, the Aborigines have an age-old custom that has something to do with them getting very riled when someone outside their village steals verbatim someone in the village's screenplay.  Something about cooking in oil, roasting over a fire pit, red ants, things like that.  I'm not clear on the details.  But I think they are.)  Now, that, I presume, would be a happening that you wouldn't necessarily want to happen and would rather have nothing happen at all than have that happen.  (I know:  this is so deep that it appears overly simplistic and sophomoric.  A-hah!  That's why it's so deep!  See?!  Now, where was I?  Oh, yes.  Deep.)  
Okay, let's assume that the script is really yours and you didn't steal the Aborigine's screenplay and you didn't get that call from the producer.  (There.  Don't you feel better already?)  But you still want something to happen with your screenplays.  Could it be, Margaret (and other screenwriters who relate to this) that you've gotten caught up in the "waiting game"?  It's easy to do.  You've written, you've contacted, and now... you wait.  Seems simple.  Seems like the right thing to do.  It's not.  The right thing to do is the "write" thing to do.  Which is to write.  Write your congressman; write notes to your landlord or your milkman (do they still exist?).  Whatever you do, just write!  Not really.  Actually, yes, do write.  But write what you LOVE.  And if it's screenplays, write those.  Or "them" (depending on how physically close-- not emotionally -- you are to the actual scripts when you're reading this.  Or "that.")  
And, even if you are writing, there's the second, sometimes dreaded aspect of the business of being a screenwriter:  the business part.  (I gave it away, didn't I?  I telegraphed it.  And I call myself a "screenwriter.")  Ah... the business of the business.  Can't we just sit in our little ivory towers and write to our hearts' content (or "synopsis" or "premise" or "storyline"), not needing to heed anything beyond our perspective (or POV)? -- which can be very nice, being that towers have a tendency to be built close to gardens and generally verdant and pastoral vistas (locations.  EXT.)?  If you want to actually SELL a screenplay and not just write a bunch of them in order to stack them near the door so people who visit will say, "Wow, that's a lot of screenplays!  Where'd they come from?"  And you can say, "I wrote them."  "All of them?"  "Yes, each and everyone of them."  "Wow.  That's amazing."  "Thank you," you say proudly.  "You really don't have a life, do you?"  And there you go.  (Wait.  That didn't turn out the way you wanted, did it?), then I guess you're actually going to have to take those kind of actions that will bring that very aim about.  I think the problem has to do with the fact that we screenwriters have a tendency to start off in that general direction, but then, somehow, forget to continue along that road and then pull over at the "Waiting Game Rest Stop." (and you get so comfortable there that you find yourself thinking of buying an RV -- God help you.)  You do need to keep that second part of the business in mind if you want to profit from the first part of the business:  screenwriting.  And that part of the business is you continually letting others know about what you have to offer and what you can offer.  And, just as importantly, NOT WAITIN' FOR NOBODY NO HOW.  (Excuse my overly sophisticated speech.  I have a tendency to show off my Harvard education from time to time.)  
So how do you find a way to stay in the business of the second part of the business of the screenwriting business?  (I told you this was deep.)  I've found that the easiest way (and no reason to sneeze at "easiest") is to let the imaginative, creative facet of you come up with the way!  Try not to think of  your "networking" (never liked that word.  It always makes me think of fast-talking, looking-through-and-not-at people, slick, power-suited, aggressive wannabes.  Wait.  That's my agent.) as something to avoid at all costs.  Rather, think of something that could be a vehicle for a tremendous boost in your earning potential or actual financial situation (five or six figures of a change couldn't hurt) of being the way to bring about a major change with all those scripts near your door--such as selling one!  Let that idea, that vision, truly inspire you, and, as with a burgeoning story in your mind, let your creative self come up with a plan, a way to inform others of your existence and what you have to offer.  In other words, as with your writing, PLAY with this part of the business (although I know we don't always feel like we're frolicking while looking for the next moment to write about in our scripts).  If you try this approach, you may very well find (still my tongue)  that you (don't send hate e-mail) actually enjoy the process.  I mean, just think of all the new people and new secretaries (who don't want to meet new people) you'll meet.  Think of all the space you'll save in your digital answering machine where producers haven't called you back.  Truly, many of us writers for the screen (notice that I didn't say, "screenwriters" this time in order to avoid overusing the word "screenwriting") are reluctant to play in this particular sandbox.  And we need to.  We need to make this sandbox our own.  Fellow reluctant sandbox users unite and fight the good fight! (SFX:  TRUMPETS BLARE)  
And who knows?  Maybe you'll meet a producer at the playground or park and something will really happen.



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