Tuesday, May 28, 2013

8 Tips for Making Movies for Fun & Profit.

If you can ignore the cover, there are things worth reading inside
During the writer's strike of 2008, Thomas Lennon & Robert B Garant of RENO 911 fame got to talking about books as they walked the picket line. They realized that all the books about working and succeeding in the Industry have been written by people who had only a fraction of a credit on obscure movies that no one had ever seen. That's when the idea was born to write Making Movies for Fun (crossed out) and Profit -- a book packed with stories and sweet nuggets of wisdom that the two authors have gained from really working with the studios...for years and years.  It's not a "How To" book about writing, but rather an honest look behind the curtain that's not just eye-opening, but also hilarious. I was lucky enough to get a coveted ticket to a recent WGA event where Lennon & Garant got down and dirty, telling all -- without mentioning names. Here, I've picked some bits to share with my fellow broad writers: 

•   Just say "yes" to everything. Even if you don't know if you can pull it off. Say yes and then figure it out later. Also say "yes" to a job that sounds dreadful because it will most likely lead to something great later that you couldn't have imagined happening. 
•   Be delightful. Always.
•   Be tough. You'll have negative experiences. Guaranteed. At the time of the WGA event, the authors had been fired 5 times from a project that they were working on. Each time they looked to see if the new writer who was hired to replace them was being paid more than they were. If he/she was, they were encouraged. They saw it as a positive sign that the studio was still putting money into the project. You have to turn negatives into positives. It's the only way to survive. 
•   If you're a real writer, you should have carpal tunnel. If you don't, you're not writing enough. 
•   Writing specs is never a waste of time. It's like training for the marathon. Keeps you lean and in shape so when an opportunity comes, you're ready. Keep writing. Always be writing. 
•   Take an improve class or acting class so you become ubber comfortable with pitching and thinking on your feet. Pitching well is an essential skill.
•   In studio films, the character arcs are from "awesome" to "awesomer".   So in your scripts, always describe your characters in a positive way. Never describe them as a "loser". No actor wants to play a loser, especially the bankable, top-tier actors that the studios must attach to their projects.
•   To get read at a studio or get work, you MUST have produced work. MAKE SOMETHING. It's a must. No matter how many spec scripts you write, if you don't have something produced, you won't get read. So shoot a short, a web series....something. It's a must these days. 

The authors joked that writing for the studios is like being an interior decorator for someone with really tacky taste. It's their project. It's their money. You have to make the script what they want, yet try to infuse as much of your own good taste as you possibly can. With a 1-in-10 success ratio -- one studio produced script for every ten they've written -- Lennon and Garant are doing things right. In their book, they don't hold back. It's a warts and all look at being a Hollywood writer. It'll either inspire you to forge ahead and face the good (hard) fight or motivate you to head towards that fallback career that's been bouncing around in your head. Either way, it could set you on a better path. It's worth a read.

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