In the last of this series on screenplay tips, here are my thoughts on sending stuff out, dealing with rejection and making things happen:
DO: Plan ahead. With such a wealth of information at your fingertips, there is no excuse to NOT know what is going on in the writing world, especially things like The Red Planet Prize or The BBC Writers’ Academy. Knowing how your “writing year” works against your “real life year” helps you make decisions on what you CAN and CANNOT do, realistically.
DON’T: Panic or tell yourself it can’t be done. I’m a big believer in the old adage, “if you want something done, ask a busy person”. If I looked too closely at my mega schedule, I’d probably die of fear, so I don’t look too far ahead and take each day as it comes. Do whatever works for you to make sure you don’t succumb to THE FEAR.
DO: Set goals. It doesn’t matter how big or small these goals are. Some of them will work out; others will not. But as long as you’re working towards them, that’s all that counts.
DON’T: Tell yourself you’re a failure if you do not achieve that goal. Sometimes things will happen that are not your fault and prevent you from getting that goal; other times, in working towards that goal you may realise it’s not the be-all and end-all you thought it was at the beginning and you may SWITCH voluntarily to something else.
DO: Enter competitions and schemes. Even if you don’t place, they are good practice — particularly if you won’t have deadlines/specific briefs to write to otherwise, but even if you are a professional or semi-pro, contests can give you a good idea of whether your latest spec has “legs”.
DON’T: Get hung up on competitions and schemes. There is a strong element of chance to them — think of the sometimes thousands of entries, all pouring in at once! Sometimes putting too much on such contests and schemes can destroy new writers’ confidence and for the semi-pros and pros, contests and schemes can be a distraction from their paid or collaborative work.
DO: Research a company or agent — don’t bombard them with material that is not suitable for them. Most websites are quite specific about what they will or will not read, so make sure you know.
DON’T: Complain. I often read scribes on forums and message boards lamenting their scripts have been returned unread from various companies/schemes or that they’ve heard nothing. Get used to it: it might not be right, but it’s the way of the writing world.
DO: Build up a dialogue with producers, agents, other writers, etc. Social networking, especially Twitter, means access to the kind of people who seemed so far off before, so don’t waste your chance to get to *know* these people online.
DON’T:Complain to these agents, producers, writers etc how hard writing/ getting an option/ getting an agent/ getting something made, etc is! It’s the one thing industry people seem unable to forgive because it’s hard for EVERYONE.
DO: Stay away from the negative people. They are always there and just ready to suck you in.
DON’T: Try and justify yourself to the negative people. Sometimes we get caught out by people who offer help, then put us down; other times people who were previously our friends/colleagues get jealous or point fingers. Recognise that things change, don’t get down about it — but block them out your life, literally if necessary. There’s absolutely no reason you HAVE to converse with them anymore.
DO: Get all the help you can. The obvious choice would be to get an agent, but if you can’t — make your circle of friends and colleagues your agents by TELLING EVERYONE what you’re working on. That way, next time a producer says to someone else, “I need a horror script…”, your friend/colleague can recommend YOU (and you would, vice versa, natch).
DON’T: Rely on everyone else to do your work for you, even your agent if you have one. The one who is going to make things happen is YOU.
DO: Have many irons in the fire. I find it really helps to have lots of things going on, it takes the bite off rejection, ie. “Well [they] rejected me, but I still have [this] and [this] going on.”
DON’T: Put all your eggs in one basket. As above, really.
DO: Be realistic. You can only do what you can do — there is an element of Lady Luck in all this. Our specs might be FABULOUS, but they also have to hit the right time and be in the right place, at the right time, in front of the right person. Lining up those ducks is no mean feat and anyone who says it is a either a nutter or has been EXTREMELY lucky.
DON’T: Give up. You never know how close you came.
ON THIS BLOG BEFORE:
Are We There Yet? – A post about perseverance
Blame It On The Reader? – A post about looking at our work and why it gets rejected
When Is A Rejection, A Rejection If I Don’t Hear Anything? – A look at how long it takes to get rejected and how we can speed it up without annoying anyone