Who’s writing

Look to the person to your left, now your right.  One of these bastards might be plotting to steal your dreams.

It’s an old joke that everyone in Hollywood has a screenplay to sell.  Only problem is it’s not a joke, and it’s not funny.

Everyone seems to think they’re a writer.  It’s not shocking why.  Anyone can sit down at a keyboard and start typing.  It doesn’t mean they know anything about writing.  (Looks in the mirror and sighs heavily)  It’s the simple accessibility.  These days everybody has a computer.

You may be the only one in your circle that wants to be a screenwriter but you’re by no means alone.  And while writing the great American novel might have once been the dream, it’s since been replaced by writing the next blockbuster.  Everyone wants to write a movie.  Why?  The paycheck.  It’s no secret that Hollywood makes tons of money.  I hear they even pay the writer some.  

Some people want fame too.  But that naiveté shows they know nothing about the profession.  Famous screenwriter is an oxymoron.  Ask the common person on the street to name a famous screenwriter and they will name a writer/director every time.  Combos don’t count.  The average person does not know who William Goldman is.

Nevertheless the flood gates have opened.  Here comes the wash of would-be screenwriters.  

Who are these dubious individuals?  Glad you asked.   Here’s a list of types I’ve encountered time and time again.  Let’s call them, your competition.

  • Screenwriting teachers
  • Screenwriting students
  • Paid TV writers
  • Laid-off TV writers
  • Professional screenwriters
  • Professional screenwriters’ assistants
  • Producers
  • Directors (including feature, TV, and music video)
  • Every production assistant
  • Actors (both famous and failed)
  • Cinematographers
  • Set Dressers
  • Script supervisors
  • Comic book writers
  • Novelists
  • Playwrights 
  • The guy who owns his own video production company in Iowa/wherever
  • 1/3 of India
  • Everyone that works for a screenwriting program
  • Your average teenager
  • Retired people
  • A relative or friend of someone already in the business
  • Lawyers
  • Agents
  • Studio executives
  • Stand-up comedians
  • Doctors/Dentists
  • People in the armed services (more often the Army)
  • The studio reader who thinks he knows everything
  • Every screenwriting guru and their assistants

The good news is, most of these people suck.  That’s harsh but true.  Anyone in the business will tell you that 90% of the scripts that come in suck.  In fact 90% is low.  That’s why the gates of Hollywood are so high.  And covered in spikes.  That’s why it’s so razzafracken hard to get an agent: the inundation of bad scripts.

And let’s face it.  Right now you think you’re part of the 10%.  But you’re probably not.

Don’t feel so special anymore do you?

Don’t cry.  It’s okay.  Writing is hard.  Making a career out of it is harder.  But it’s not impossible.  There’s just that much more competition than you ever dreamed of.  

But to end on a pick-me-up, here’s a list of jobs and the screenwriters who once had them – before their millions of dollars and Oscars.

  • Playwright (John Logan)
  • Stripper (Diablo Cody)
  • Journalist (Mark Boal – Hurt Locker)
  • Security Guard (Antwone Fisher)
  • Fisherman (Brian Helgeland)
  • Furniture mover (Joe Carnahan)
  • Video store clerk (Quentin Tarantino)
  • Convenient store clerk (Kevin Smith)
  • Record store clerk (Andrew Kevin Walker)