Friday, June 12, 2015

Part 2 of Now what do I do?


 Okay, here we go again. So why are you guys going to have a hard time getting into the business? 

Well, I'm talking mostly about screenwriting. There are two reasons why it's going to be harder and harder for you. There are two answers;

The easiest is too many graduating screenwriters in a smaller work force, there's only so many jobs writing for movies and TV. Naturally about 80% will slowly drop off and go back to mom and dad's warm home. Only the strong survive, as the song goes.

The second reason is what corporate America is doing to all kinds of jobs; trimming the numbers of writers and agents. Yes, and agents are disappearing too. This began to happen when the big agencies like Paradigm, William Morris, CAA and a few others.

What they did is to buy out the dozens and dozens of smaller agencies and then toss out the talent (writers, directors, actors) that wasn't making enough money. And this time, they also kicked out lots of agents who didn't have actors like Ryan Gosling, etc.

Very similar to the stock market. Except they're even more horrible.

I've mentioned this before, but will repeat it. When I came here in 1990 this is how a writer gets work. I had a movie I wrote and directed behind me and a screenplay that was made and best of all, a friend who referred me to an agent. 

Okay, so I had a better shot.

But already there were dozens and dozens of graduating film writers and directors from UCLA, USC and a handful of others. Remember that, "a handful". It started like I said in last Monday's post - the Movie Brats, Coppola and Lucas and the others.

I built up a bunch of credits, all good and had a good reputation. In 2001 I took a job at UCLA for their extension screenwriting courses. I found it a lot of fun and I learned a lot as well. My book on screenwriting talks about that.

 But I wasn't expecting the volume of people who wanted to write screenplays. The goldrush was going crazy, everyone was writing a screenplay.

I had an online class which I found to be much better than taking an on-site course. In a on-site course at UCLA an instructor shows up for a few hours. He or she talks for an hour then a student reads some of his/her wonderful screenplay and the others try to tear it apart.

Fun, huh?

With online, I handed out assignments that every one of the 15 students had to write and everyone else had to make comments. But here's the catch, rather than students standing up in class and trying to not cry, my classes had to read each other's work and comment on it. If they didn't like it, they had to offer suggestions rather than rip it apart.

I had students from all over the world and about half and half in terms of UCLA students and people who just wanted to take a course in screenwriting.

But after almost three years, I got tired of lying. And what I mean was that I had to face students and try to tell them that they still have to work harder but that much of this business is luck. Pure luck.

And luck has to do with meeting someone who can do things that you can't. You can't do it alone. If you're a writer, find a producer or director, a pro or a guy who's a little smarter than you are.

And while you're looking for a break, get a job as a P.A. (Production assistant) where you meet people and sometimes you tell them you wrote a script. Honest. It worked a few times to me.

 But don't go it alone.

Look at the teams around now,  people like Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg who were childhood friends. That's what I mean. Doesn't mean that it has to be a friend, either, just someone who can do things you can't.

And someone who needs you because he/she can't do what you can.

But again, there are more and more people coming out of film schools and there are more universities and faux film schools that charge thousands of dollars. Then there's also the screenwriting competitions; you don't need to go to school, just write a great script. 

And I'm not kidding. I've seen enough screenplays from supposedly talented students but I've also seen people who never went to college. They just learned how to write scripts.

Just like me.

Okay, I was working in TV for a few years but this is how I learned to write a full 120 page screenplay (scripts now are much shorter, average 95 pages). I got a copy of The Deerhunter which won an oscar. I then took my IBM selectric typewriter and began to rewrite this famous screenplay. I would write maybe as much as 5 pages just rewriting the real script. It took me a month or more but when I finished, I figured I learned everything I needed to in just re-writing The Deerhunter.

Sounds dumb, but it works. And saves you money.

I can save you some money. Come to L.A. and get a job as a P.A. Best way to learn about movies and you're close to everyone on set. It's amazing about the people you meet.

There's a common joke about students who have graduated from film schools. Almost all of them start as a P.A. anyways and are often made jokes. I knew a girl who graduated from U. of Montana and was so excited to get a job on a movie. She got a P.A. job and everyone called her "College" as in "Hey, college, bring us some muffins."

So that's it for now... I might continue on this line for a while, but I've got many more blogs to go. Just for the books, I have around 64,000 page views. Pretty darn good.


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