Monday, January 10, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 158 - Patience and Expectations

Here's an interesting paradox: new writers tend to think that getting an agent or a manager or a lawyer is the end all and be all first major goal of breaking into Hollywood, that once that is accomplished, everything is smooth sailing ahead. (If I'm the only writer to have ever thought that, I'll need some help picking my jaw up off the floor.) The truth of it is, though, getting an agent or a manager is not a perfect cure. It is not a guarantee.

If you've been reading my posts for a while, you're aware of the fact that it has been over two years - two! - since I've been repped up. Those two years, the hours and rewrites and development calls, have, for our purposes here, all been related to my post-Apocalyptic spec. My second and current manager, who I have been with for over a year and a half now, has helped get the script to some very important and influential people. He's helped further it along to places that still really exist first and foremost in the realm of dreams to me. Producers have come on board, and, through them or with their help, my agent and current lawyer. 

Still, it's been over a year and a half, and there's no sale to show for our work. (This is a point, not a complaint. We're still waiting to hear from a major studio any day now and have a meeting with a production company before this month is out.) Before him, there was four months with my first manager, and two month after him in which I wasn't with anyone. The point in all that is that these things take time. Lots of time. Landing an agent or a manager or a lawyer or a big time producer does not mean your script will necessarily sell tomorrow. Especially with the state of the industry still being the rocky, insecure, ghost of its former self that it is now, buyers are acting with much more hesitation than before. The thinking that, "I got an agent, time to quit my job" is no longer anywhere near logical (not that I'd have advocated such rash behavior before, either). 

The truth of my situation now is that I'm still trying to come up with the project that really tantalizes my agent. I've sent him a few ideas that I thought were slam dunks, and they were both received luke-warmly, at best. He knows the market now; I have to trust that. Still, the difference is that, in the past, I was writing for myself. Now, I'm also writing for him, and if he says something might not fly, or isn't for him (and he's the one who is going to try to sell it), I have to listen to that. Was I wasting time before, when I was writing whatever I wanted to? No, I don't think so. At least, no more than I sometimes feel I might be wasting time trying to develop yet more ideas, when I have pages that I feel equipped to begin working on now. The game has changed for me, and I recognize that. 

I say it time and again, and I'll do it once more here. If you're reading this, I hope it might be because you're looking to break into screenwriting as a career, and are interested in what it takes, what to expect, and how to go about getting your foot in the door. Well, the two biggest things I can advocate for emerging writers are: patience and managed expectations. Be patient with the industry (readers, agents, producers, everyone). It might take them a long time to read your script, to get back to you, to sell material to people who are interested. Put it out of mind and work on something else in the mean time. And, so as to not drive yourself nuts, do enough reading and preparation to have reasonably managed expectations. A meeting does not mean a sale. A sale does not mean a million dollar. Know what to logically expect, and train yourself not to deceive yourself. This is a tough business, and, I've found, patience and managed expectations are two of the most valuable tools you should bring to it.