Randy Q., I didn’t know you were screenwriting and
acting. Oh. In case this isn’t the actor, Randy Quaid, then... Let me
start again. Randy, thanks for your
e-mail (and I loved your performance as Doc Holiday... and that other guy you
played who became the employee of the young guy who fell in love with your
daughter... and some other things you’ve done, too).
So a producer offered to pay you some but not a lot of money to write a
script and you want to know if you should accept his offer.
Excellent question. And my
answer: absolutely. Maybe.
Absolutely maybe. There’s a kind of zen quality to that one, don’t
you agree? Reminds me of that
famous koan: “If a screenwriter
died in a forest, would anybody care?” Back
to the question at hand:
The “absolutely” part of my answer refers to the fact that you have
something tangible in front of you, an offer.
Maybe not the most exciting or exotic offer you’ve had, but it’s an
offer, nonetheless (and, speaking of that, let’s not forget the often-quoted
phrase, “Less is None.” (or “more,” depending on what side of the
equator you’re looking at it from). Offers
are good. They give you a chance to
work professionally. As in:
GETTING PAID TO WRITE SOMETHING INSTEAD OF WRITING AND WRITING WITH NO ONE EVER
PAYING ME ONE CENT!
See, Randy – and this is the “maybe”
part -- you have to ask yourself this very important question (and it’s best,
even if you already have, to ask it again from time to time in order to remember
what your answer was or still is or if it has possibly changed.
Here’s the question:
AM I SCREENWRITING
FOR THE JOY OF SCREENWRITING OR FOR THE MONEY?
There’s no wrong answer to this question.
In fact, if you look at the structure of the question, it’s a multiple
choice one, which can be limiting. So,
if you want to include a third answer, say...
I AM A
SCREENWRITER FOR THE ANGST I CAUSE MYSELF FOR STRUGGLING OVER THE QUESTION, “AM I SCREENWRITING FOR THE JOY OF SCREENWRITING OR FOR THE MONEY?"?
... that would be all right, too.
Here’s what I would do while considering a low paying
offer to write a screenplay.
WHAT DCH WOULD DO
WHILE CONSIDERING A LOW PAYING OFFER TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY
1. Ask myself
if I really want to write the script. Will
I have enough “juice” to see the project through to completion?
(Or, at least, to the second page?)
2. Ask myself,
“What is the creative/artistic satisfaction I will gain from writing the
3. Ask myself
why I’m asking myself so many questions instead of just writing the dang thing
and collecting some moola for it.
thirdly (even though this is Number 4 and I don’t like to say,
“fourthly”), ask myself this very important, soul-searching question:
“Am I willing to write the script?”
“Willing” can play a pretty important role on your
climb up the ladder of screenwriting success.
You may not be in love with the offer, the money, even the script.
But are you willing to take a crack at it, to expand your boundaries, to
go where no man has...? (Sorry. Got
carried away). But you know what I mean.
Are you willing to at least “try the project on for size”?
Who knows? Maybe you’ll
even discover you like it. Producers
have a tendency to like that word, “willing” when it comes to budding
screenwriters (by the way, if you do notice little buds and stems growing out of
your person, you’ve taken the concept too literally and you need to get
yourself to a doctor immediately).
And there’s something else you might want to keep in
Offers often lead to more offers.