Friday, November 5, 2010

It's All About the Craft ... Dumb Ass!

I was listening to an podcast interview the other day with screenwriter, screenwriting consultant and producer Erik Bork, best known for his work on the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" and "From the Earth to the Moon," and he said the most remarkable thing. It came at the end of a lengthy discussion with Pilar Alessandra, host of the weekly podcast, "On The Page." She asked him to give the audience a writing tip, and this is, in essence, what he said was: Concentrate on the craft of screenwriting and forget about marketing yourself. Keep trying to make your writing better. Be open to notes and criticism, and forge onward. Once your writing is good enough to reach a mass audience, Hollywood will come calling on you.
In a town where everyone is hustling a script, and there are consultants poised on every street corner who want to teach you how to break into the business -- for a princely sum -- these sage words struck a chord with me.
Could it be that you really can't expect to make it just because, say, you're related to an industry big shot, or posed as the pizza delivery boy and brought Steven Spielberg his Anchovy Delux with your script on top?
Connections will help get your script read, but if the script doesn't deliver the goods -- strong, proactive, clearly motivated characters, interesting conflicts and an ending that is surprising yet, in retrospect, inevitable, readers will recommend that their bosses pass on your script. And that's how it ends up in the Dumpster out back.
Attending networking parties, for some at least, is a blast. Often, the advice you hear is get out and meet people, make connections, and presumably, get ahead. That may not be a bad idea, but don't confuse attending networking parties with the real work of screenwriting. As yet there's no substitute for sitting before a blank page and working it out, page by page, scene by scene. That's where all the real self-advancement gets done.

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