Saturday, October 08, 2005

Little Lessons

I've been doing alot of different kinds of writing work this week - marketing copy for a website, PR for a new website to be announced soon, PR for a DVD company, pitching a sci-fi feature, rewriting THE SKULL, writing notes for a colleague who's pitching a TV series based on a series of popular horror/mystery novels - a lot of different stuff that nevertheless had common elements that will be of help to those of us writing, pitching, getting notes and rewriting. These are some of the little lessons I've learned this week:

1. Development Executives are not the enemy. When they reject a story - it's for a reason. They actually want you to succeed because it makes them look good when you do.

2. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work.
(and that means you have to go back to the beginning and fix it)

3. A simple story told with a unique style is far better than an overly complex story told with no style.

4. Good notes come from everywhere. Just because you, the writer, didn't think of it doesn't make the idea suspect.

5. When pitching, say what you need to say then listen. Of the two - it's more important that you listen.

6. Don't ever think that just because someone requests your script it means they want to make it. The fact is they don't. They would rather have you work on their idea.

7. Don't respond to ads seeking writers unless you have exactly what they are needing. If they want to look at a sample script in a particular genre - it better be a script in that genre.

8. It doesn't matter at what stage you're asked to come in and write, just be glad you're getting off the bench and into the game. (Right Steve?)

9. There's a fine line between self-confidence and ego. Make sure your query letters come from confidence and don't come off as boastful.
(This particular note goes out to the guy in the OC who sent me a pitch document of all these "blockbuster screenplays" that he has written. The problem is that he said he will "accept bids on these scripts for a limited time" and that the scripts will attract "A-plus talents")

10. Ask questions. Even if they can't answer - their silence is saying something.

11. People know you by the last thing you did that they read or saw.

12. Be dependable. If it comes down to two talented folks, most companies will then look at dependability.

13. It's not a deal until you cash the check - even if it's printed in the trades.

(Per Denis McGrath - make sure the check clears...)

5 comments:

John Donald Carlucci said...

"(This particular note goes out to the guy in the OC who sent me a pitch document of all these "blockbuster screenplays" that he has written. The problem is that he said he will "accept bids on these scripts for a limited time" and that the scripts will attract "A-plus talents")"

Ditto for my scripts Bill, but my scripts will attract "A-plus-plus talent"!

JDC

Fun Joel said...

Amen Bill! Excellent observations, all. Now let's see how many people actually take them to heart! ;-)

Bill Cunningham said...

Like I said, these were the lessons the business taught me this week. It's been a rough week...

Next week doesn't promise to be any easier.

JDC - if your scripts attract "A-plus-plus talent", I'll be sure to flush twice. ;)

Steve Peterson said...

Actually, being in San Antonio, I'll be happy just getting out of the parking lot and onto the bench.

I'll add a bit to points 4 and 5 -- when receiving feedback just nod and say "thank you" no matter how good, bad, stupid, or brilliant it is. First, getting anyone to read your work and hoenstly comment on it is hard and/or costs money -- getting people with real experience costs more money than one can likely afford.

Second, within about 48 hours of receiving the dumbass feedback you'll start thinking "well, it was mostly dumbass feedback, but there was that one good point about the supporting character". Writers agree to bloody pacts by the dark of night for even small improvements to their script.

DMc said...

I was grokkin on the whole post -- then I hit the part about the check.

Oh nelly, that is true. Though I'd probably add:

wait til it actually clears.