I always dread that question at a family reunion or out-of-LA party:
“So,” they’ll begin, having heard some rumor from a friend or relative, “I know you’re out there in Hollywood. What is it that you DO?”
And this is where I PAUSE, and take a moment to decide upon one of two stock answers. The first UNDERPLAYS my hand, but can help deter a longer conversation:
“I’m working on breaking into the film industry. I’m trying to be a screenwriter--that sort of thing.”
The problem with this answer is that EVERYBODY thinks they’re an expert on screenwriting since reading that article on Diablo Cody last summer, and this response opens the door to minute-upon-minute of well-meaning, but energy-sucking advice on what they know about filmmaking, and HOW IT CAN HELP ME.
The second stock reply is more honest, but ultimately walks me down an equally aggravating path:
“I’m a screenwriter.”
And this is where people BUCK THEIR EYES and take a moment to decide upon their OWN reply. There seem to be two responses, which generally go something like this:
“Blah blah blah – and I have the best idea you’ve ever heard for a script.”
Or the even more scary:
“Wow! So what have you written that I’ve seen?”
Each reaction must be handled carefully. I’ll write a longer post later on the “let me tell you my genius screenplay idea” issue, but the short answer is always: “I’m sure it’s amazing—write it up, and I’d love to read it.”
The “what have I seen” response is far more difficult to navigate. For someone like me, a “not-quite-produced” but working screenwriter, any honest response knocks me off the tiny little pedestal I’ve only just perched myself upon. “Nothing yet—but soon. I’m working on it,” is the easiest response, and watch how fast that look of wonderment in your Auntie’s eye turns into one of subtle pity. “He’s really trying,” she’ll tell her bridge buddies later. “But let me tell you about my other nephew in medical school…” You can take plan-b here, and try to explain the subtle inner-workings of the film industry to someone who most likely only wants to know which celebrities you’ve partied with, but either way, the entire line of questioning leaves one feeling like a total douche-nozzle (thank you, Sarah Silverman!)
And THAT is why I have dedicated this blog to “almost-professional” screenwriters -- a category which encompasses the vast majority of hardworking, focused scribes who write screenplays, but have not yet had a movie produced.
I’m in total agreement with film-folk who say you can’t call yourself a professional until you’ve made a feature film. Especially in this day and age, ANYBODY can grab a camcorder or buy a copy of Final Draft, and VOILA – they’re a filmmaker.
The term PROFESSIONAL must be saved for those folks who have BOTH written a produced feature AND been paid to do so. That is a professional screenwriter--and it’s a title I’ll wear proudly when the day comes (Nothing yet. Soon. I’m working on it.)
But I’m no amateur. I’ve written twelve screenplays and dozens of shorts and TV pilots, and have numerous projects in development with television and movie production companies. I’ve also sold TV pilots, and been paid to write for television. I get paid to do this, and spend most of my time each day writing and talking about writing with producers and creative execs.
So what am I? I am a proud SEMI-PROFESSIONAL.
Semi-professionals are people who have written at least one script, and have a serious desire to get that script out into the world, where it will be read, and sold, and eventually show up in a movie theatre or cable box. It’s a large club, and one of which I still get a kick out of being a member.
ScriptFaze is all about the working-life of semi-professional screenwriters. Hopefully, beginning writers and professionals will also get something out of this blog, but its focus will always be on those of us in transition from the guy or gal with the great idea to the guy or gall with the big-time agent and three-picture deal at MGM. The road to “professional” is a bumpy, windy, twisty, curvy, nausea-inducing roller-coaster, but you’ll get there quicker and less-painfully by learning from the experiences of others. And that’s what Eyes On Deck is all about.