Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Webshow: Total Outsider Screenwriting Success Stories

After my interview with F. Scott Frazier, one viewer wrote in to request that I do an interview with a writer who broke in after being a complete outsider to the industry.  Specifically, they wanted to hear from a guy who had a 9-5 job completely outside the industry and no connections within the industry.  In this video, I explain why finding people like that is incredibly rare.


  1. In other words, no matter how much talent I may have, I am screwed.

    1. Yes, you're right, once you have talent, then the opportunities should just magically appear every morning in a little tin outside your back door. You should be able to go out to the tin after your morning coffee and pop open the lid and find money and jobs inside. Maybe the tin could be emblazoned with I HAVE TALENT in bright red letters, and on the top would be a picture of a soaring bird, representing your soaring talents climbing through the clouds and up up up into the air.

  2. Good post. I think an underlying issue here is that people think that since they're so incredibly talented, the industry should change how it operates just for them. Doesn't happen that way.

  3. Or in less sarcastic terms, if you sit around expecting opportunity without putting yourself out there, you're living in a pipe dream.

    I was pushed out to come here to LA and take some UCLA extension classes, and since I've met various contacts in the industry from those classes and even gotten a job working for a producer. Unfortunately, my contacts haven't gotten me a read or an agent yet, but I keep trying.

    If you want a sell, you have to put yourself out there and sell yourself. And no, not get on your knees or anything. Once people know you as a person, they'll be more inclined to give your stuff a chance. AND if your stuff is any good, you'll make it in.

    But yeah, stuff like the Blacklist is a great way to get in too.

  4. I mean this as no insult to the industry b/c studios make a lot of money within the system they've built, but does anyone else think that - in today's digital world - that it's really short sighted to ignore 99% of writers not living in California or New York? This video's message is true - that if you want to make it you'll adapt to the system and do what you need to do to make it on THEIR terms. And that's totally fair. A lot of industries are like that. And I appreciate Amanda's point - the industry shouldn't have to change. But does anyone think that maybe the industry should think about proactively developing systems that might help foster talent from the thousands of talented writers not living in LA?

    Think about all the amazing ideas out there or talented writers they're missing out on. Just seems like our digital universe these days could bring so much more if the studios found ways to look beyond their inner circle. For proof, consider some of the new generation of talent finding ways to make digital videos work for them via YouTube. There's a lot of creativity out there that could bring some fresh ideas to Hollywood.

  5. There's a reason the entrenched Hollywood movie biz players are incapable of producing anything that they haven't already been producing for the past decade. It's because they don't want to. They think they don't have to.

    But when your entire business model is based on producing hellishly expensive product aimed solely at the youth demographic -- the fastest shrinking demographic in the developed world -- while ignoring the other, rapidly expanding demographics, it may be time to start looking outside the box.

    This is all especially perplexing when it's remembered that most senior executives in every studio and prodco are part of the baby boom generation -- the fastest growing demographic of them all. Yet they choose to turn their back on their own kind, then complain when those people elect to invest their discretionary entertainment dollars in Cable programming, rather than movies.

    Think about it: if you were a 50-something, would the local multiplex be your first port of call? A place overrun by amped-up 14-year-old boys there to see the latest Transformers sequel? There's simply nothing produced nowadays for anyone old enough to shave, or who care about decent story and dialogue. Yet there doesn't seem to be any awareness of the issue within the businesses whose very existence is at stake.

    Hollywood will trundle on as always, demanding that writers come to them, to LA, so Hollywood can continue to ignore all but those with the best connection, and actual talent and ability be-damned. And the Cable company bosses rejoice.

  6. BSR, I'm certainly not in the league of F.Scott Frazier, but wanted to offer a little encouragement to unconnected, non-LA based writers out there, especially those not able to chase their dreams directly in LA.

    I didn't know anyone in the business when I started writing. Every contact I have made is pretty much via cold-call email and polite read requests.

    It takes a long time, thousands of emails and LOTS of no-response rejections, but it can work. I admit it can be a slow, painful process, but then again, so is screenwriting.

    I live near London in the UK and am proud to say, WITHOUT AN INDUSTRY CONTACTS, I managed to land myself a manager in LA and am according to Spec Scout and the Scoggins report, the lucky-as-hell writer of:

    2013 Spec Script Sale #19

    My screenwriting journey has just begun, but I'd be more than willing to speak to BSR.

    Admittedly, it could be a very short interview...

  7. Talent isn't objective, it's subjective.

    While "Great Gatsby" got panned, I loved the set design and costumes, and cannot wait to see it with a friend who does retro fashion shoots here in Houston (on DVD, so we can pause it and she can educate me).

    And I absolutely LOVE "Master and Commander" and will watch it at least once a month if not more. Why? I have no idea, but somehow it speaks to me (maybe because my ancestors were ship captains?)

    I think it's troubling to have people declare what is "successful" and what is not--or just to rely on critics and box office. I write essays, too, and I had one person contact me 2 years later to tell me how much she loved one of my essays---from Florida? I live in Houston? But it's worth it having reached that one person and know that we were on the same wavelength. Much of this business is about just making a living (I know all about this, we're an IATSE 600 household)....but there's also that hope that we'll speak to another person's heart one way or another through our writing, our visuals and our soundtracks. And coordinating all that is so hard to do with budget constraints and other difficult parameters---but it's oh so beautiful when it happens.

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  9. Not sure about this. I started screenwriting six years ago, living outside LA, and now have a reputable manager, option of a feature-length script, a TV pilot option on the way, a well-known director attached to another feature, and another director, less-established but with studio movies under her belt, attached to another pilot. Thanks to the Internet, I don't think you have to live in LA. Probably doesn't hurt, but you don't have to.