I’m not a contrarian, but here’s my optimistic forecast: keep writing and you will win!
I’ve received a lot of emails lately from writers asking if they should continue. These are smart writers, who are approaching this very difficult business with good work ethic, focus, and cool aplomb. But the grind is getting to them. The sound of “one hand clapping” is starting to get unnerving, and Aunt Fern (my mythic relative who always corners me at Thanksgiving to ask “How’s the writing going?” — when in fact that’s really not what she’s asking!) is ever on the periphery, waiting to level her loaded question. We are hardy and resilient folk, but seriously, tick-tock, man, bills to pay, responsibilities to meet, I’m still on it…
But is it worth continuing?
The odds of selling a spec script are long enough to make any reasonable person go pale. How can we continue to compete when the recent headlines from Variety show not only a slowdown in the entertainment sector, but also a tendency to go with projects with brand names. They are putting into production a lot more Tarzans and sequels, and hiring more veteran creatives with track records. If we neither have a brand, nor a track record worthy of veteran status, maybe giving up is the logical choice?
Yet I remain bullish.
Look for instance at this weekend’s #1 at the box office: a fun, friendly, family comedy with a great poster and title, Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Family movies almost always do well and there aren’t enough of them — and I happen to love them. But the same can be said for horror films, a genre I don’t like as a rule. Still, The Strangers was such a hit, they’re making a sequel, and Saw is into its fifth incarnation. Got a snappy comedy? We saw several grabbed up in the past few weeks, a few by first-time writers. And the action movie business is thrilling — is there more of a Dude With A Problem than Eagle Eye, last week’s #1?
Each of these movies started with something any of us is capable of coming up with: an idea they can’t say “no” to. And that is where it all begins — as tried and true a tradition as any entrepreneur must aspire to.
The well-executed, high concept, smartly-targeted screenplay is gold. Do we have to be more clever at finding partners, attaching talent, and building buzz around our project — yes, absolutely! Do we have to work hard at both our writing skills and our political ones to keep making those valuable contacts? Yes 2.
But in troubled times, the need to be taken away from the day to day grind is our job!
People besides Aunt Fern are counting on us: don’t let them down!