Category Archives: Screenwriting

Why choosing to be a screenwriter is crazy, plus helpful resources to get you through

At the beginning of April I attended the Toronto Screenwriting Conference (in its 3rd year) thanks to a post I saw the week before on Sandy Braz’s lovely blog . It was a great event with speakers including Graham Yost (Speed, Justified), Jana Sinyor (Being Erica), Lee Aronsohn (Two and a Half Men, Big Bang), Linwood Boomer (Malcolm in the Middle) and so many more.

Every molecule of my body was engaged during the sessions, as I furiously took notes, had light bulb moments and felt energized (despite being exhausted from the work week). Contrast that to when I was in Business School and felt lethargic, bored or anxious/sick during many lectures and tests. I think I’m on the right track now, although I’m sure those business skills will come in handy here.

I think I’m drawn to the industry because of my desire to make sense of humanity and my own experience (the curious kid who asks Why). This motivation was echoed by several speakers, although it was ironic to hear so many of them curse the craft of writing – as in they hate their jobs (even though they admit it is one of the best gigs in the world). Who hates their passion? I don’t want to do what I love and then end up hating it. PS Penelope Trunk recently gave her view on “passionate” careers and what you need to be happy in the workplace.

One of my favourite sessions involved the critique of a real sitcom pilot script from the perspective of a production company exec, a network exec, a director and an actor. It was eye opening because there are so many different motivations your script needs to satisfy and entice. The pilot script needed quite a bit of rewriting and I was comforted by the fact that it was written by a really experienced LA screenwriter. Not everything you write will be gold. In fact many successful people have more misses (pilots that don’t get made, shows they get cancelled or no one hears about) than hits – but they keep on going.

Others began their careers acting or performing stand up/improv, which makes sense since they read tons of scripts and learn through observation (directing, producing, casting, writing). For years as I kid I swore up and down that I wanted to act and I wonder, had I seriously pursued it (agent, auditions, roles), would I have eventually ended up yearning for a role behind the scenes? Would I be in this same position, although better connected and experienced? There are many paths to get to the same end result.  Also makes me wonder if I should hit the stage again.

Carrie Bradshaw typing on her MAC_Sex and the City_A writer's life

Carrie made writing seem easy & fashionable. I couldn’t help but wonder…is this crazy!?

I have 3 pending posts with tips culled from this event, but before posting those I want to tell you why:

7 reasons why screenwriting is totally batsh*t crazy

  1. First of all you have to have some real talent – you can study but you can’t hide behind that forever. Was I born with this gift? Jury is still out…
  2. The competitive pool of aspiring writers is huge and there aren’t that many jobs. It takes 1000’s of people to make a corporation run but most shows only have 1-2 creators, and 3 – 10 writers. That means you have to be ahead of the game, connected, constantly honing your craft. The odds are not in your favour. Do I have the energy, drive and self belief to compete in survival of the fittest?
  3. You have to inject yourself into your work – it is personal. You have to have something to say, always. Do I want to expose my life and the inner workings of my mind/values?
  4. You have to face the rejection of your personal creation. And not give up if you believe it is a worthwhile project. HUSTLE! Once it is made, there will always be people who did not like it.
  5. You don’t make good money for a long time (if ever). The work is inconsistent, with downtime between projects and lots of unpredictability. Relocation is likely and the hours are so very long! Can I handle the uncertainty and stop comparing myself to others who have more?
  6. Work life balance seems like a fairy tale concept. With a tendency to be un-balanced, will I end up single, childless, friendless and unhealthy because of my career?
  7. The industry is more political than the original corporation I worked for. It seems like an old boy’s club still. Can I live according to my own values (be yourself, don’t be fake, play fair and square) and still succeed?

I don’t have those answers yet and I won’t know unless I experience it.  Am I a masochist then?  They say the things in life that are worth it don’t come easy.

PS: if you are an aspiring Toronto area film maker, the Innoversity Creative Summit is in May. I’ll be there, will you? It isn’t as expensive as the TSC and seems interesting. Also Raindance Canada (which has international branches) is a good organization to be a part of. Plus Ink Drinks.

Page Count: 45 pages…my laptop finally crashed this weekend hence no pages this week 🙁 although its been dying for the past 3 months. Prob going to switch to MAC so when people see me they assume I’m creative 😛