So a guy on the Shooting People Screenwriters’ Bulletin wonders why he should use a “gimmicky” promotion service like My Visual Pitch and asks if such services should “put their money where their mouth is” and only extract payment on delivery – ie. they should only get paid if the pitch elicits some sort of response, like a meeting with a producer or at least an email response.
I have never met this guy, have never spoken to him – but since he posted these opinions on a public forum I figure his comments are fair game for a post of my own. I should stress at this juncture too that this post is not personal – hence my decision not to post his name here; instead I thought I would use this opportunity to address a scenario that I hear about again and again from (usually new) screenwriters.
Most screenwriters’ efforts will come to nothing. I hate to say that, I’m a great believer in the ethos of “build it and they will come” Field of Dreams style, but let’s face it: you CAN put the work in and get sod all in return. That’s a fact. What’s more, people far less talented than you can trample all over you and get the cream of the crop – and worse, you will see them do this. Argh.
But this is the very worst case scenario: for a lot of us, we can enjoy some modicum of “success”, if only within our own heads. How? By doing all we can to promote ourselves. Leave no stone unturned and if it still comes to nothing, well: at least you tried.
I don’t earn much money as a screenwriter. But I do earn money and I have done jobs that turned out to be fun. My favourite still has to be one of my first, working for the Lego company. Other times I’ve written treatments or pitches, website copy or articles for magazines. I’ve been commissioned on a feature (unmade, but I was still paid) and a couple of paid commissions for shorts. I’ve done virals and I’ve done text message alerts. I don’t have any options on my specs and I’ve never won a script contest, but I get plenty of reads and plenty of meetings. I always have an interesting collaboration or two on the go with someone I respect. In short, I am a typical jobbing writer, the writing equivalent of that bloke your Gran might get to do odd jobs around the house. I hope one day to be more than that and hopefully work in TV, but if I don’t get there, I can still say I did what I wanted to do, rather than have to work in a office on a job I didn’t want to do. Not bad – in my eyes, anyway.
Yet time and time again I hear screenwriters say selling their spec is the be all and end all; that is the “result” for them, how they measure their success. My take, if you think this?
You are destined for disappointment.
I don’t want to be a killjoy; everyone knows on here I applaud the philosophy of being “in it to win it”, but sometimes you have to move sideways to get to where you want to be. Sometimes you end up staying there. This is just the way it is.
The only way to get ahead is to promote yourself. There are many ways to do this. Promotion companies are just one of them, but if you pay your money and they do the work they promise you, where is the problem there? Just imagine if all payment in the film industry was on the basis of “results”: I would think that 99.9% of us would be destitute (instead of about 80%, lol). And how would these “results” be judged, anyway? There are so many factors to consider. A meeting with a producer or a read of a script guarantees nothing. Similarly, as far as the internet goes, testimonials seem to hold no weight with jaded people who say that testimonials are not detailed enough or that they have no idea who those people are.
You can get ahead – and that’s by applying for every job, going for every opportunity, considering avenues that may not have occurred to you before. It’s by making contacts, networking, creating your own circle of people all around you who will keep you “in the loop”. It’s not by being the lone writer who will get through no matter what – there’s already thirteen billion of them. Discount nothing. Some things will work; most will not.
Screenwriting is the triumph of hope over experience I reckon; you keep going because you have to – otherwise what’s the point?