Script Coverage Chronicles – November 2016: The One Skill You Really Need To Be A Screenwriter

If you plan to be a screenwriter, in a sustained professional “actual” career, then there’s one thing you just have to get really good at.

Coping with the ups and downs.

Every screenwriter goes through it, the moments when you ask yourself, why the #$@&% am I still doing this?  Maybe somebody gives you great coverage on your screenplay, and you’re sure you’ve finally nailed it, but then another reader doesn’t like it at all. Or maybe things are all coming together on a project, and then – whoosh – it all falls apart.

Getting past these moments and back to writing – it’s an essential survival skill for professional scribes.

I remember when I was going for my first “real” assignment (defined as one that actually pays and might actually lead to a movie on screen).  My agent had gotten me a phone call with a “high-profile” producer to pitch an adaptation of a popular book.  I’m guessing it’s easer to schedule ten minutes on the phone with President Obama than with a “high profile” producer, but we eventually spoke. 

The call went as well as I could have hoped, and a few months later this producer walked into a studio with me, and we pitched the project.  The pitch seemed to go over pretty well with the studio exec, so I felt optimistic but incredibly anxious.

In a follow up call with the producer in which I was definitely stressing out, she told me: “Don’t worry, you’re getting the job.” But I still wasn’t sure.

A few weeks later, while at a Knicks game back in New York, I got an email from the producer’s assistant.  It went something like this: “I had a great conversation with the studio exec!  He plans to give you a call tomorrow to hire you!”  Woo-hoo!  Now I was sure. 

I cheered way too loudly for the Knicks that night.  It was one of those ecstatic moments you hope for when you get into this business.

But the next day there was no call – and then another day – and then a week – nada.  I finally reached out to the producer and was told it wasn’t going forward – no real explanation given.  I’ll never know why.  

I had done my best, and I’d literally been told “yes”, but the actual answer was still ultimately NO.

At times like that, it’s easy to give up. 

But you can’t quit on yourself.  And you can’t get bitter.  You just have to fully absorb the truth that this is how this industry works.  And if you love it enough, you won’t let that truth keep you from plugging away.

Since that fateful Knicks game – which they lost by the way – I eventually got my first real assignment and proceeded to the next level of ups and downs.  

There have been plenty of both.