After I graduated from film school, I had the same misguided ideas as my fellow scribes – that we’d sell our first spec for a million dollars and build a career only writing specs. I didn’t yet realize that most working screenwriters in Hollywood make their living from assignment jobs – it’s the bread and butter of professionals. Yes, specs are necessary to gain experience writing and to showcase your ability, but the reality is that most of your specs will not sell and you might have to write a half dozen or more before one might secure you a coveted assignment job.This was my personal story as I trudged through Hollywood with my first four specs and hoped for a sale to start my career, but the combination to the lock on Hollywood’s gates remained elusive. It wasn’t until my fifth spec landed in the top 1% of the Academy’s prestigious Nicholl Fellowship entries that my work received notice. The script was later optioned by a new production company, produced into a movie and distributed globally, but seeing my dream come true was a long seven year journey from the first draft to first day of production.
The film was a success and my collaboration with the producers made them feel confident about my abilities and they hired me for my first screenwriting assignment job. I learned their sensibilities, how to give them what they needed, and quickly became a member of a team of writers they hired again and again. These successful working relationships are vital to a screenwriter’s success and that is why it’s vital to build your reputation as a team player and collaborator – not a diva who bristles from every script change. Filmmaking is an art, but also a business with millions of dollars on the line for a project and anything that holds up the forward movement toward production will be eliminated.
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